It is always an extremely difficult time when a friend or loved one passes away, whether it is expected—or not. The emotional challenges, coupled with the recent loss, can make it difficult when trying to settle your friend or loved one's affairs. You may find that your friend or loved one's estate may be subject to the probate process. That process, called estate administration, is a highly personal and often emotional procedure that can be tedious, time consuming, and costly. We have extensive experience with probate administration and working with grieving families to complete the process.
An estate is all property owned by the decedent (the person who died) at death that has not been set up to transfer automatically (like a transfer on death, pay on death, or payment to a named beneficiary). Estate administration is the process of probating the estate of a decedent; that is collecting, inventorying and appraising assets; gathering and paying debts; filing and paying estate taxes; and distributing any remaining assets to beneficiaries. If there is a will, the probate court will determine if the will is valid and then oversee the administration of the estate by the Personal Representative (the person appointed in the will by the decedent to oversee the estate). If there is no will or the will is determined to be invalid, the probate court will appoint an administrator and the decedent’s property will be distributed according to Missouri's intestacy laws.
In Missouri, the paperwork for a decedent’s estate must be filed with the court within one (1) year of the decedent’s death. Otherwise, a different set guidelines are applied.
Types of Probate Administration Processes
Small Estate (Under 40,000)
Some small estates can be handled easily and, sometimes, without the assistance of an attorney! This kind of estate usually includes very small bank accounts, a small amount of jewelry (like a wedding ring), or even checks made payable to a decedent. There is a streamlined process for this kind of estate, depending on your relation to the decedent and the estate. An Affidavit for Collection of Small Estate can is another option. Using an Affidavit for Collection of Small Estate allows persons entitled to the descedents' property to obtain and distribute the property without having to go through the complicated and lengthy process of probating a larger estate.
Full Estate (Over $40,000)
Larger to extremely large Estates (in Missouri, over $40,000.00 in value or much more) are handled though the standard, full probate process. Any and all assets owned by a decedent at death not otherwise distributed by certain non-probate procedures (such as to beneficiaries of life insurance, financial accounts, retirement accounts, etc.) are included. These Estates may follow a decedent's directions set forth in his or her Will, or if there is no Will, state law will direct how the Estate is to be distributed.
Special Circumstances (Did not file within 1 year of death)
A Petition for Determination of Heirship can be used in Missouri for any and all kinds of assets owned by a decedent if the process is started more than one year after the decedent's death and no other form of Estate Administration has taken place. This procedure follows distinct state, statutory rules. A Court Hearing is required, and the final result is a Court Judgment setting forth the persons entitled to specific items of property as heirs.
Trust Administration. The primary purpose of the trust administration process is to makes sure that the terms of a trust are honored. This may include paying the debt, selling or transferring stocks and mutual funds, drafting deeds, and distributing the assets of the estate according to the terms of the trust. The Truitt Law Firm, LLC can assist you with each of these steps to better ensure that the decedent's wishes are properly honored.
Trust & Probate Litigation. At times, during the probate process, disputes and disagreements arise that cannot be readily resolved by agreement of the parties. They usually, though not always, pertain to the transfer of a decedent's assets, the validity or meaning of trust documents and wills, and the proper distribution of the assets in an estate. Should legal disputes and issues occur, The Truitt Law Firm, LLC can help to effectively resolve these issues in a way that honors the wishes of the decedent.