Almost everyone is involved in the probate of an estate at some time during their lifetime. If you recently found out that you are going to be involved in the probate process as the Executor of an estate you may be a bit intimidated by the position if this is the first time you have served as an Executor. The probate process can be lengthy for even a relatively modest estate. In order to ensure that the probate of the estate that you are administering does not take longer than necessary, consider the following tips for shortening the probate process.
What Is Probate and Why Is It Necessary?
When someone dies, the individual leaves behind an estate. Some estates consist of numerous complex and valuable assets while others include only relatively inexpensive personal property. Regardless of how large or small an estate may be, the assets that do make up the estate need to be accounted for and eventually passed down to the new owners. In addition, creditors of the estate need to be able to file claims against the estate and taxes owed by the estate need to be paid before those assets are transferred. In order to ensure that all of those things occur in an orderly fashion, most estates are required to go through the legal process known as probate. During probate, estate assets are identified, located and valued, claims against the estate are reviewed and paid if approved, and any taxes owed by the decedent and/or the estate are paid.
How Can You Shorten the Probate Process?
It is not unusual for even a modest estate to take over a year to probate. The more complicated the estate assets are the longer it typically takes to probate the estate. As the Executor of the estate, one of your duties and responsibilities is to make sure that the probate process moves along efficiently. To make sure that occurs, try implementing the following tips:
- Check to see if the estate qualifies for an alternative to formal probate. Missouri offers a streamlined alternative to formal probate for estates that qualify and are valued at less than $40,000.
- Retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney to help you. Probate is a legal As such, legal issues will come up throughout the process. In addition, the Executor must prepare and file a number of legal documents. Most Executors retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that mistakes are avoided and that the process moves along as efficiently as possible.
- Use independent administration if possible. In the State of Missouri, two types of probate administration are allowed — supervised or independent. If supervised administration is required it will be closely monitored by the court and, therefore, tends to take considerably more time to complete than independent administration. An estate may qualify for independent administration because the decedent’s Last Will and Testament specifically allows it or because the distributes all agree that independent administration is acceptable.
- Move quickly to secure estate assets. Once you are made aware that you are the Executor of an estate you should move quickly to secure estate assets because trying to do so down the road can be problematic and time consuming.
- Hire professionals to obtain date of death values. A date of death value is required for all estate assets. Do not waste time trying to figure these out yourself. Hire professional real estate and/or estate appraisers to obtain the values for you.
- Notify creditor that probate is underway as soon as possible. Creditors have six months from the time of notification to file claims against the estate, meaning the probate process cannot conclude until that time period has run. Therefore, it is important to complete the notification of creditors as soon as possible so the clock can start ticking down.
For more information, please join us for one of our upcoming free seminars. If you have additional questions or concerns about the Missouri probate process, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.