Probate is the legal proceeding to pay outstanding debt and manage property distribution after a person dies. All property with the decedent having sole ownership and title must go through one of the court probate processes.
The probate court validates the will and oversees the process to ensure the estate representative carries out the decedent’s final wishes and that all parties with interest receive the money or property. Various requirements throughout the probate process in O’Fallon make it important to work with legal counsel. A seasoned attorney could help you comply with state laws and navigate the proceedings.
The Purpose of Probating an Estate
Probate is the formal process of recognizing and validating the will, appointing a personal representative, paying off debt, and distributing property to heirs. When someone dies without an estate plan or valid will, the property goes through an alternate process called intestate succession.
The purpose of the legal procedure is to protect estate beneficiaries and debtors and ensure the individual’s property goes to the people or organizations they choose. While the probate process can be overwhelming, an O’Fallon attorney can provide guidance and protection for the will-maker and beneficiaries.
Estate Probate Requirements in O’Fallon
While probate is almost always necessary for distributing an estate, there is also property that will not require it. The following types of property passing to heirs through a will require probate:
- Funds in accounts without designated beneficiaries
- Real estate owned solely by the decedent
- Assets, property, and bonds not naming beneficiaries at death
Those who create living trusts and pass property title and ownership to beneficiaries during life will skip probate.
Through careful estate planning, it is possible to avoid probate even for the above documents. A local attorney experienced in probate proceedings could help prepare the estate plan and fulfill the decedent’s final wishes.
The Legal Requirements to Initiate and Carry Out Probate in Missouri
After a person dies, the estate’s representative must complete the requirements to initiate and settle the estate. The steps are as follows:
- File for Letters of Testamentary to validate the will and receive permission to proceed
- Publish a notice to creditors
- Inventory assets, including appraisals if necessary
- Pay debt, including taxes and creditors, in full
- Gather evidence of payments and zero balances
- Petition to the court for permission to distribute assets and property to beneficiaries
An attorney in O’Fallon could help the representative through the probate process.
Debt Collection and the Rights of Creditors
The Missouri probate court assists creditors with outstanding balances to recover payments to protect their interests. According to Missouri Revised Statute § 473.263, the procedure also protects the decedent’s estate interest by allowing the personal representative to take hold of assets, including collecting payment for outstanding debt. Once the administrator pays all debt and outstanding balances owed to the estate are received, the personal representative has the legal authority to distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.
Payment of Outstanding Taxes
The representative must also pay outstanding federal and state tax balances.
The Cost to Probate an Estate
There are also fees and costs to probate estates. The personal representative must use estate funds to pay court costs, recording fees, bonds, title, legal fees, etc.
Consult a Knowledgeable Attorney on the O’Fallon Probate Process
According to Missouri Revised Statute § 473.787, an independent personal representative “shall secure the advice and services of an attorney.” Even if the law did not require a personal representative to hire an attorney, an attorney would offer valuable legal guidance and ensure the estate executor carries out the procedure as the laws require.
A lawyer knowledgeable about the probate process in O’Fallon could provide critical advice and handle the legal work throughout the proceedings. Call to schedule an appointment for help with probating an estate.