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How to Avoid Probate in Missouri 

David W. Walker Attorney At Law May 23, 2024

Woman Helping Senior Man To Complete Last WillProbate is the judicial process whereby a will is "proved" in a court of law and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased, or wherein the estate is settled according to the laws of intestacy in the absence of a will.

While it can be an essential step in legalizing the distribution of assets following someone's death, many individuals prefer to avoid probate in Missouri due to its potentially lengthy and costly nature. 

As an experienced probate attorney based in Columbia, Missouri, I am well-versed in the strategies that can help Missouri residents sidestep the probate process, ensuring a smoother and faster transfer of assets to your loved ones. 

Strategies to Avoid Probate in Missouri

Avoiding probate can save your beneficiaries time, money, and stress, allowing them to focus on grieving and healing instead of legal proceedings. Here are several effective strategies for bypassing the probate process in Missouri: 

Joint Ownership With Right of Survivorship

Property owned jointly with the right of survivorship passes automatically to the surviving owner(s) without going through probate. This is common for both real estate and bank accounts. Make sure the ownership is clearly titled to reflect this intention. 

Payable-on-Death and Transfer-on-Death Designations

Missouri allows for the use of Payable-on-Death (POD) and Transfer-on-Death (TOD) designations for bank accounts, securities, vehicles, and even real estate. These designations allow you to name beneficiaries who will receive the assets directly upon your death, without the assets having to go through probate. 

Revocable Living Trust

Creating a revocable living trust is one of the most comprehensive ways to avoid probate for nearly any asset you own. You transfer ownership of your assets into the trust, of which you can be the trustee, and upon your death, the successor trustee can transfer the trust's assets to your beneficiaries according to your instructions, bypassing the probate process altogether. 

Gifting Assets During Your Lifetime

Another simple way to avoid probate is by gifting property and assets before death. This reduces the size of the estate potentially subject to probate and can help reduce estate taxes. 

Beneficiary Deeds for Real Estate

Missouri recognizes beneficiary deeds for real estate, which allow property owners to name a beneficiary who will inherit the property directly upon the owner's death, thereby avoiding probate. 

Legal Considerations and Tax Implications

The strategies mentioned above, including gifting assets and the use of trusts, can indeed be effective in avoiding the probate process. However, it's crucial to fully understand and consider the legal and tax implications these strategies may entail.  

For example, while gifting significant assets to heirs during one's lifetime might seem like a straightforward way to bypass probate, such actions can lead to substantial tax consequences. Depending on the size of the gift and the laws of your jurisdiction, there may be gift taxes imposed that could diminish the value of the transferred asset.  

Additionally, the establishment and management of trusts, although a popular method for estate planning, requires careful attention to detail. Trusts must be carefully drafted to ensure they are legally valid and accurately reflect your intentions. Poorly managed trusts can lead to unintended consequences, potentially defeating the purpose of avoiding probate and causing complications for your beneficiaries.  

It’s wise to consult with an estate planning attorney such as myself, David W. Walker Attorney At Law, to navigate these strategies effectively, ensuring they align with your estate planning goals and comply with all relevant laws and regulations. 

Steps to Implement Probate-Avoidance Strategies

Understand your estate: Begin by taking stock of all your assets and how they are titled. 

Consult with an attorney: Estate planning can be complex, and the guidance of an experienced attorney can be invaluable in working through this process. 

Update asset titles and beneficiaries: Ensure your assets are titled correctly and that beneficiary designations are up to date. 

Consider establishing a trust: Determine whether a trust is suitable for your situation and, if so, work with an attorney to set it up. 

Regularly review your estate plan: Life changes, and so too should your estate plan. Regular reviews ensure your plan remains aligned with your current wishes. 

How I Can Assist in Avoiding Probate in Missouri

At my firm, David W. Walker Attorney At Law, my dedication to my clients involves personalized guidance through the maze of estate planning and probate avoidance. I can help you: 

  • Understand the best strategies for your unique situation. 

  • Draft and review legal documents, including trusts, wills, and beneficiary deeds. 

  • Update your estate plan to reflect changes in your life or the law. 

  • Work closely with tax professionals to minimize your estate's tax liabilities. 

Start Planning Today

Avoiding probate in Missouri is a feasible goal with proper planning and guidance. If you're in Columbia, Jefferson City, Fulton, or Boonville, I am here to help you create an effective estate plan that secures your legacy and protects your loved ones. Don’t wait until it’s too late to start planning your estate; reach out today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward peace of mind for you and your family.