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Probate is the process by which a will is legally recognized, and an executor is appointed. In the state of Missouri, probate comes into play specifically when the deceased person has assets that are titled in their name with no designated beneficiary. Although the probate process can be confusing and burdensome, knowing the basics about probate can help alleviate much of the worry and can help you when it comes to protecting wealth.
When is Probate Required?
When a person dies, if they have left a will, then that document will be subject to probate. Probate is designed to ensure that the process of transferring the decedent’s assets to their beneficiaries is carried out according to strict legal procedure. It is intended to ensure that all assets find their rightful beneficiaries, that all debts are properly paid, and that nothing fraudulent has occurred.
In Missouri, the probate process applies when the decedent has titled property that does not have a beneficiary named on it. These titled properties may include bank accounts, real estate, stocks and bonds, and tangible possessions. These items will be divided according to the instructions in the decedent’s will, or, if they died without a will, the court will divide them according to state law.
How Does the Probate Process Work?
When an individual dies, the probate process begins when the personal representative (or executor) files an application with the court. The personal representative must then notify all beneficiaries and creditors, as well as providing the court with a complete inventory and appraisal of all relevant property. Once the court has reviewed the documents and assets, the personal representative will determine and pay only valid debts. If anything is left over, he will distribute the assets to their intended beneficiaries. Due to the length of time involved in handling creditor’s claims, the probate process may take twelve to eighteen months.
How Can I Avoid Probate?
Because the process can be both burdensome and time-consuming, you may choose an alternative arrangement that can prevent your heirs having to go through the process after you pass on. One of the most common ways to avoid probate is to set up a living trust. In such an arrangement, you place your assets into a trust, which is then overseen by a trustee who will distribute your assets after your death according to your wishes. In contrast to a will, the transfer of assets by the trustee is not subject to probate.
Another way to avoid the probate process is to give property away during your life or to use beneficiary designations. If you give away your property or designate a beneficiary for assets such as life insurance and retirement counts, this property will pass directly to the beneficiary without going through probate. However, that is the only benefit the beneficiary receives. If a beneficiary is having a troubled marriage, creditor problems, or facing a catastrophic illness, these assets may pass easily to the beneficiary…and then easily on to the creditor or predator.
Contact The Law Firm of Christopher W. Dumm
To learn more about ensuring your assets pass smoothly to your intended beneficiaries, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Law Firm of Christopher W. Dumm We have many years of experience protecting wealth, and we’re here to help. Give us a call at 417-623-2062 or fill out the contact form below.