Probate is an important process that must occur whenever a person dies in St. Charles or elsewhere in the state. This process exists to authenticate testamentary documents, ensure the proper administration of an estate, and allow heirs to collect the assets they deserve. Probate begins when an authorized party petitions a probate court to initiate proceedings. However, according to state law, only certain people have the power to do this. In addition, only certain probate courts have jurisdiction to open proceedings after a testator’s death.
A skilled attorney could provide more information about opening an estate in probate in St. Charles County and what this process entails. Our knowledgeable probate advocates could guide named personal representatives and other parties on how to submit a will to the court.
Initiating a Probate Case and Submitting Wills
The primary purpose of a probate matter is to deal with property that a person owns when they die. Whether a person has a will or not, if they own property that does not transfer outside of probate on their death a probate proceeding will have to be opened in the appropriate court.
Many times, this will be in the county that the person lived in when they passed away. According to MO Rev. Stat. § 473.010, only the probate court in the county where the testator resided upon death has the authority to rule in these cases.
In most cases, the named personal representative (what Missouri laws use in place of the term executory) will be the person submitting the case and will to the probate court, there may be a situation where other parties decide to pursue a probate matter. These interested parties can include heirs, creditors to the decedent, or an approved temporary representative.
Another purpose of the probate court is to authenticate a decedent’s will if they had one. Remember, a last will and testament is only valid once the probate court has authenticated it, so it has no effect until it has been submitted to the probate court. If you are in possession of a person’s will after they have passed away, according to MO Rev. Stat. § 473.043 you are obligated to deliver such will to the probate courts.
A lawyer in St. Charles County can help named personal representatives and other interested parties understand their roles in the process and select the right probate court.
What to Expect Following the Opening of Probate
Probate consists of three main stages, with the first concerning the authentication of a will. By law, only the most recent version of a will carries any legal effect. During this first phase, interested parties can argue whether a will is genuine or whether the testator was the victim of undue influence. This stage is only necessary if the person who died had a will. If not, the Courts will move to appointing a personal representative.
Once a court authenticates a will, it appoints a personal representative to oversee the estate. This representative is usually the person named in the will who submitted the will to the court. After accepting this representative, the relevant probate court will issue them testamentary letters. These documents give a representative the formal authority to act on behalf of the decedent.
In the final stage of probate, the personal representative must act to fulfill the decedent’s expressed wishes. Common mandatory actions include paying debts, gathering property, and distributing assets to the named heirs. If a representative has additional questions about their role or the various stages of the probate process, they should consult a dedicated and experienced lawyer in St. Charles County.
Contact an Attorney About Opening an Estate in Probate in St. Charles County
Opening an estate in probate in St. Charles is necessary for properly administrating a decedent’s estate. Probate enables a court to authenticate a will and empower personal representatives to serve in their roles and distribute property to heirs correctly.
Contact an attorney in St. Charles today if you have more questions about probate and its relevant stages. They can explain the probate process in detail, determine whether you have the authority to submit a will to the court, and help you understand what to expect moving forward.