Understanding Probate in Missouri

What is Probate?

Probate is a legal proceeding to administer certain kinds of property (called probate property) owned by someone who has died (the decedent), and to see that claims, expenses, and taxes are properly paid, and that the remaining estate is distributed to those entitled to receive it under the decedent's will or pursuant to Missouri law. Probate property is all property titled in the decedent's name alone. It is distributed only under the decedent's will or according to Missouri law.  A probate proceeding takes place in the probate court of the county where the deceased property owner lived. If the deceased also owned real estate in another state, additional proceedings may be necessary in that state.

What property is not included in probate?

Property that is not probate property, and therefore is not part of the probate proceeding, includes property held by the decedent and another as husband and wife or joint tenants with right of survivorship and property registered with a beneficiary designation.

Why is probate necessary?

Probate is necessary to give the personal representative legal authority to deal with the decedent's probate assets. The personal representative has the authority and duty to take control of and safeguard the assets of the decedent's estate. Probate then provides a process for the payment of outstanding debts, claims, taxes and the expenses of administration, and for the distribution of the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries and heirs.

How much does probate cost? The personal representative and attorney are paid a fee set by Missouri law based on a percentage of the value of the estate assets administered. Below is a list of the Missouri probate fees for the personal representative and attorney. These fees do not include court costs for filing documents and other third-party fees such an accountant, real estate agent, or other advisors.

$100,000 $3,300 $3,300 $6,600
$500,000 $14,050 $14,050 $28,100
$1,000,000 $26,550 $26,550 $53,100
$2,000,000 $46,550 $46,550 $93,100
$5,000,000 $106,550 $106,550 $213,000

How long does probate take?

In St. Louis County, the probate process can last anywhere between 9 and 18 months depending on the complexity involved.

Should I have a will?

A carefully considered, well-drafted will can reduce expenses and simplify probate proceedings. A valid will controls the distribution of a decedent's property according to that person's wishes. It enables the decedent to appoint a personal representative who can then settle the estate efficiently and cost-effectively. Without a valid will, the probate estate needs greater court supervision and will be distributed according to an explicit formula under the Missouri laws of descent and distribution.

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Contact your estate planning attorneys at The Kaiser Law Firm, P.C. today at (314) 966-7766 for a free initial consultation.