probate and non-probate transfers

Probate is a legal process that oversees the administration and distribution of a deceased individual’s assets and settles their outstanding debts. In Missouri, probate plays a crucial role in ensuring a fair and orderly transfer of property and honoring the wishes of the deceased. A primary purpose of a good estate plan is to ensure that the deceased’s family does not have to go through the expensive and time consuming process of litigation in the Probate Court.

Understanding Probate in Missouri:
Probate is initiated when an individual passes away, and their assets need to be transferred to beneficiaries or heirs. In Missouri, probate is primarily governed by the Missouri Probate Code, which outlines the rules and procedures for administering estates.

Non-probate transfers:
In many instances people can transfer their real property to their family by using what is called a beneficiary deed. When properly written and recorded, it allows property to be transferred at death by filing an affidavit with the recorder of deeds. It still allows the owner the freedom to sell or refinance his property before death without needing permission of one’s heirs. Let Jim Knappenberger explain this process to you.

Opening Probate:
The first step in the probate process is opening the estate. The deceased individual’s will, if one exists, is submitted to the appropriate probate court in the county where they resided. If there is no will, the court will oversee the administration of the estate according to the state’s laws of intestacy. There are strict time limits to file paperwork to begin each process.

Appointment of Personal Representative:
The court appoints a personal representative, also known as an executor or administrator, to manage the estate. If the deceased individual named an executor in their will, the court generally honors that nomination. In the absence of a will or a validly nominated executor, the court will appoint an administrator.

Inventory and Appraisal of Assets:
The personal representative is responsible for identifying, gathering, and appraising the deceased individual’s assets. This includes real estate, bank accounts, investments, personal property, and other valuable items. A thorough inventory and appraisal help determine the value of the estate and facilitate the distribution process.

Notice to Creditors and Debts:
During the probate process, the personal representative must provide notice to creditors, allowing them a specific period to submit claims against the estate. The personal representative reviews these claims and pays valid debts from the estate’s assets. This ensures that the deceased individual’s financial obligations are properly addressed.

Distribution of Assets:
Once debts and expenses have been settled, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries or heirs according to the deceased individual’s will or the state’s laws of intestacy. The personal representative is responsible for ensuring a fair and accurate distribution, following the court’s approval.

Supervised and Independent Administration:
In Missouri, probate proceedings can be supervised or independent. Supervised administration involves court oversight at various stages of the process, while independent administration provides more flexibility and limited court involvement. The availability of independent administration may depend on the provisions outlined in the deceased individual’s will.