Unless you are directly involved with the legal system in your career, there is little reason for you to learn any more than the basics about most areas of the law. If you are a resident of the State of Missouri, however, Missouri probate law may be an exception to that general rule. Why would you need to have more than a basic understanding of Missouri probate law? Because there is a very good chance that you will be involved in the Missouri probate process at some point in your life. Even if you manage to avoid direct involvement in the probate process, a knowledge of
What Is Probate
Probate is the name given to the legal process that follows the death of an individual. When someone dies, he or she leaves behind an estate consisting of all the assets the individual owned, or had a legal interest in, at the time of his/her death. The probate process ensures that those assets are properly identified, located, and valued following the decedent’s death. It also serves as an opportunity for creditors of the estate to files claims against the estate and to make sure that any state and/or federal taxes owed on the estate are paid. Finally, probate facilitates the legal transfer of assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate.
Formal probate typically takes months, even years, to complete given all the steps required in the process. Most states, including Missouri, do offer alternatives to formal probate but only for small estates that qualify. Because of the cost of probate, both in terms of time and in terms of money, it is generally advantageous to limit an estate’s exposure to the probate process to the extent possible.
The Law of Wills, Trusts, and Estates
Although there are some federal laws that apply to probate related issues, the majority of the issues related to wills, trusts, and estates, as well as the probate process in general, are governed by state laws. Therefore, the laws in the State of Missouri that govern the probate process may be different than the corresponding laws in another state. If you are a resident of the State of Missouri, therefore, you need to understand the Missouri probate laws if you are involved in the probate of an estate and/or you are creating your own estate plan.
How Would You Be Involved in the Probate of an Estate?
Most people find themselves involved in the probate of the estate of another individual at some point in their life. You might be involved in the probate process because a decedent named you as the Executor of the estate or because you volunteer to oversee the probate of an estate as a Personal Representative if the decedent died intestate, or without leaving behind a valid Last Will and Testament. You could also find yourself in the middle of the probate process as a beneficiary or heir of an estate or even as a creditor of an estate.
Missouri Probate Law and Your Own Estate Plan
Even if you manage to make it through your lifetime without becoming directly involved in the probate of the estate of another person, you will still need an understanding of Missouri probate law in order to ensure that your own estate plan accounts for your estate’s inevitable exposure to the probate process when you are gone. Better yet, with a thorough understanding of Missouri probate law, your estate plan can plan to avoid the probate process altogether – or at least decrease your estate’s exposure to probate.
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding Missouri probate law, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.