The term probate can be a bit unclear, but it refers to a set of important processes. Generally speaking, it involves all the steps associated with establishing the validity of a will. Local probate courts have the sole authority to undertake this process and oversee the administration of a decedent’s assets. A legal body, during probate, might authenticate a decedent’s will, authorize a personal representative to take temporary control over estate assets, and evaluate the actions of personal representatives.
Probate can be expense, time consuming, and frustrating for any family. However, if one dies without a proper estate plan, it is vitally important that the probate process be started in the courts and followed through. This is one of the only ways to ensure that assets are passed legally and that the title to such property is protected from further creditors.
A number of people might want to seek out the guidance of a St. Charles County probate lawyer, including someone nominated as a personal representative, an individual who recently learned of a relative’s death, or a person who was named as an heir in a will. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney could help explain the laws that govern the probate process, evaluate your legal obligations, and protect your rights during every stage of probate.
How to Initiate Probate
Many people wrongfully assume that the probate process begins on its own. However, this is not necessarily true. Instead, state law says that the branch of the probate court where the decedent lived prior to death has the sole legal authority to hear the case. An interested party or family must file a formal application to begin their probate process.
According to Missouri Revised Statute § 473.017, this initial petition must include:
- Identifying information concerning the decedent
- The names and addresses of all living family members and heirs of the decedent
- The probable value of the decedent’s property
- A copy of the will
- Information concerning the nominated executor of the estate
If a family is confused about this application, a knowledgeable St. Charles County attorney could elaborate on how to file this document and initiate probate.
The Different Stages of Probate
In most situations, the probate process involves three distinct stages. The first step refers to the authentication of the decedent’s will, if a will exists. A correctly drafted will is assumed to be valid, but any interested party can argue that one of these documents was created fraudulently, which might result in a court invalidating the will.
Afterwards, the main portion of probate begins. This phase involves the court empowering an executor to take control of assets through issuing letters testamentary. This executor must take an inventory of estate assets, pay all legitimate creditors, and distribute the remaining property according to the will.
The final phase of probate refers to the closing of the estate. Here, an executor confirms, in front of the relevant court, that all property has been redistributed to the correct heirs and that the case should close.
At each stage of probate, heirs and potential beneficiaries need to be aware of both their legal rights and their obligations. An intelligent St. Charles County Lawyer could explain these obligations and outline how they change across the probate process.
Call a St. Charles County Probate Attorney to Learn More
The probate process is essential part of deciding which heirs or beneficiaries deserve to inherit each of a decedent’s assets. It is essential to approach this endeavor with an understanding of the law and the ability to stand up for your rights. Whether you have been nominated to serve as an executor of an estate or are interested in evaluating your family’s options, a St. Charles County probate lawyer could likely be the ally you need.
They can provide support every step of the way. From initiating probate, filing an application with the court, contesting the validity of a will, or evaluating the actions of executors, our attorneys could help you stand up for your legal rights. Give them a call now to learn more.