In Missouri, when a person dies, all of their property must be “put through” the probate process with the court in the county where they were living. This includes everything the person owned that didn’t avoid the probate process legally through the use of trusts or beneficiary designations. The court process can be expedited if the value of the estate is less than $40,000.00. The process is called a small estate affidavit. If the value of the estate is more than $40,000.00, you will be required to open a full estate.
Missouri Small Estate Affidavits
If the value of an estate is less than $40,000.00, it qualifies for a streamlined procedure called a small estate affidavit. The person filing the small estate affidavit tells the court basic facts about the estate including the date a person died, the value and type of their remaining assets, whether they had a will, and who is entitled to receive their property. The court checks the affidavit and often asks various questions and requires various corrections or additional details to be included on the affidavit. Once the court approves the affidavit, the person who filed it is given a court order allowing them to collect and distribute the assets to the people listed on the form within a certain timeframe.
Small estate affidavits cannot be filed until 30 days after a person has passed away and do make the person who files the affidavit legally responsible for any debts of the deceased person that make a claim against the estate within one year of the date of death (up to the value of the entire estate). Depending on the value of the estate, the person filing might be required to post a bond with the court or to publish a notice of the estate to creditors in the newspaper.
Full Estate Administration
When a person passes away and has property with a value of more than $40,000.00, a full probate administration is necessary. The necessary forms vary depending on whether the person who died had a will and how soon after death the court process is started. In most cases, someone seeking to open a new estate must file the appropriate petition with the court, post bond, and be appointed to administer the estate. After a personal representative is appointed, they must file an inventory of all of the property of the person who passed away and have it approved by the court. The estate is required to stay open at least six months and to publish notices to creditors in a legal newspaper. A complicated estate may stay open much more than six months. During the time the estate is open, the personal representative must collect and maintain or sell the estate assets. Before the estate closes, a final inventory showing the expenses of the estate and the sale proceeds from any non-retained assets must be approved by the court.
Will Contests and Other Contested Cases
Many estate administrations become contested. In some situations, multiple family members or close friends petition the court to be appointed the personal representative for the estate. The personal representative can control many aspects of an estate including the price to accept when selling estate property and the timing and method of distributions of estate property. Some wills even allow the personal representative to make decisions on who gets their personal property.
In other situations, a relative who is either disinherited by a will or who receives a smaller inheritance than they may have expected may contest a will. Wills can be contested if the person making them lacked the ability to understand the will when they made it or if the will was made while the person making it was under the influence of a third party.
If you are dealing with a contested estate administration, our attorneys will investigate the allegations, find documents and witnesses that support your position, and fight for your rights in court.
Contact Our Probate Administration Lawyers
Our experienced probate attorneys are available to guide you through the administration of your loved one’s estate. Contact the St. Charles lawyers of Flesner Wentzel. Call us at 636-442-4529. We offer flexible payment plans. Se habla Español.