probate guide

Going through the probate process is typically the last thing you want to go through after your loved one passes away – especially if he or she dies without a will. A Last Will and Testament greatly simplifies the probate process, but what happens if there is no will? Probate looks different for everyone, but there are certain steps to the process that everyone must go through in order to distribute the assets of an estate. Probate law can be confusing and complex, and every case is different depending on factors such as the size of the estate and types of assets.

Before beginning the probate process, it’s important to know that Missouri law enforces strict deadlines regarding filing for probate. You have one year after a person’s death to file for probate in Missouri with no exceptions. Avoiding filing only prolongs the process, so it’s essential that you contact an attorney who can guide you through filing for probate.

Probate With a Will

While each estate is different from the next, the first step is always to file a petition with the court where the decedent resided at the time of his or her death. If there’s a will, the original must be filed and authenticated through the proper court. Next, you must apply for Letters of Testamentary before sending notice to creditors, if any. From there, creditors have a six-month period in which to file claims with the appointed representative and Missouri courts. Depending on the amount of debt, there may or may not be estate assets left over to pay taxes and distribute to beneficiaries. Once debts, taxes, and other expenses are paid, the rest of the estate can be distributed as dictated by the will and the estate is closed.

Probate Without a Will

Going through probate without is a much different process that’s far more complicated, time consuming, and expensive. The first step is to file a Letter of Administration through Missouri courts in order to appoint a representative. What happens next depends on several factors, such as the size of the estate, whether or not there are probate assets, and the size of debt and taxes owed. Probate without a will can take anywhere from six months up to a decade or more because the court needs to decide how the remaining assets are to be distributed. Estates valued under $40,000 can go through a simplified probate process, while larger estates are handed in one of two ways. Supervised probate requires court approval for the representative to take action; independent probate must be agreed upon by everyone set to receive distributions. 

Estate administration is simpler with wills, trusts, and a solid estate plan. If you’ve been through probate for a loved one, you probably understand the importance of estate planning to avoid the costs, stress, and time involved with probate. It’s never too early to form your own estate plan, and an attorney can advise you on the best plan for your situation.

Contact a Missouri Probate Lawyer Today

The reality of probate is that it often can’t be simplified. If you’re going through probate for a loved one or family member’s estate, an experienced attorney can help you through the process. Missouri law requires legal representation in order to administer an estate, and finding the right attorney can make all the difference. At Mark Harford Law, we understand the emotional toll that probate can take on you and your family. We provide compassionate and professional services to clients across Missouri to help them through a difficult time. Contact us today to discuss your situation with Missouri attorney Mark Harford.