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Probate Lawyer in Columbia, Missouri

Settling a decedent's final affairs and distributing assets and property to inheritors involves many complex procedures. When a person dies in Missouri, settling the deceased person's estate may require the surviving loved ones to trudge through the probate process. The Missouri probate court will appoint an executor to oversee the process, gather assets, pay debts and taxes, and ultimately distribute the estate's assets to rightful beneficiaries per the will's provisions or Missouri's intestate succession laws.

Here at my firm, David W. Walker Attorney At Law, I'm committed to providing outstanding legal services and guiding individuals, families, and fiduciaries through the complexities of Missouri probate proceedings. As an experienced Missouri estate planning attorney, I can evaluate your unique situation and help you understand what to expect during the probate process. Also, I can enlighten you about your duties and responsibilities as an executor and guide you through every stage of the probate administration process.

My firm – David W. Walker Attorney At Law – proudly serves clients across Columbia, Missouri, and the neighboring areas of Jefferson City, Boonville, and Fulton.

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What is Probate?

Probate can is a court-supervised process that usually occurs following the death of a person. The probate process involves collecting and evaluating the decedent's assets, paying taxes and debts, and distributing the remaining assets to rightful inheritors.

If the person died with an estate plan or will, the estate assets may be distributed under the provisions of the will. Conversely, if the decedent died intestate – without a will – the estate assets will be distributed using Missouri intestate succession laws.

Which Assets Generally Go Through Probate?

Below are some of the most common assets that go through the probate process in Missouri:

  • Assets owned exclusively in the decedent's name, such as real estate properties and motor vehicles.

  • Personal belongings, for example, jewelry, clothing, household items, and collections.

  • A share of property that is owned as "tenants in common."

However, assets that have valid beneficiary designations, as well as trust assets, will not go through probate. Similarly, jointly owned assets and property will be transferred to the surviving owner.

How Probate Affects Your Surviving Family Members

Probate is often necessary to determine the validity of a will and settle the decedent's final affairs. Unfortunately, probate may affect your surviving loved ones in different ways. These include:

  • Probate is costly and may likely reduce the amount or size of estate assets available to be inherited by loved ones.

  • Probate is lengthy and time-consuming. It may take time transferring assets to the rightful inheritors.

  • During the probate process, the deceased person's assets and bank accounts will be frozen. Hence, your surviving family members may not have access to your assets and funds until the finalization of the probate process.

  • Your estate and other probate assets will be subject to federal, state, inheritance, and estate taxes.

  • Probate is a matter of public record. Hence, it may affect the privacy of your family members.

  • You do not have control over how some assets or debts will be managed during probate.

An experienced estate planning attorney can enlighten you about the types of probate administration in Missouri and determine the best course of action.

Probate Administration in Missouri

Under Missouri probate law, two types of probate administration are permitted. These include:

Supervised Probate Administration – In supervised probate administration, the executor or administrator depends on the court to oversee the whole probate administration process. The executor's actions will be closely monitored by the Missouri probate court.

Independent Probate Administration – In independent probate administration, the court only appoints the executor or administrator. Once appointed, the executor will work independently to administer the estate without the court's supervision.

Additionally, there are simplified probate procedures in Missouri that administer small estates with a value of $40,000 or less. This can help save money, time, and hassle. A knowledgeable lawyer can guide you through the Missouri probate process and help you navigate vital decisions.

The Probate Process

The probate process in Missouri begins when the named executor in the will files a petition with the county court (where the decedent lived) to open probate. Next, the probate court will schedule a hearing before the probate judge. The Missouri court can approve the executor named in the will or appoint another person if no one was named.

Role of the Executor or Administrator

Once appointed, the executor or administrator will do the following:

  • Identify and evaluate the deceased person's assets

  • Take inventory and have the assets appraised

  • Inform beneficiaries and heirs named in the will

  • Notify creditors of the probate proceedings

  • Collect all decedent's income, including interests, dividends, claims, rents, and debts owed

  • Pay the valid claims to creditors and recognize the rights of others

  • Settle all debts with creditors

  • File any tax returns and pay estate taxes

  • Prepare and file the deceased person's final income tax returns

  • Distribute remaining estate assets to rightful heirs and beneficiaries

If you've been appointed as an executor of an estate, you need to speak with an experienced probate attorney right away. Your lawyer can guide you through the whole probate process from start to finish and offer insights into how long it may take to complete probate.

Work With a Knowledgeable Estate Planning Attorney

The Missouri probate process usually involves a lot of complex procedures. Additionally, acting diligently and ethically when appointed as an executor requires understanding your roles, duties, financial and legal responsibilities. Therefore, if you want to understand how probate works or if you've been appointed as an executor, consulting with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney is paramount for proper guidance and to help you make intelligent decisions.

At David W. Walker Attorney At Law, I have the diligence, skill, and expertise to advise and guide clients in estate planning and probate-related matters. Using my extensive knowledge, I can review the details of the estate plan and enlighten you about your responsibilities as an executor. I will also craft a well-detailed checklist to guide you through every step in the probate administration process.

Probate Attorney Serving Columbia, Missouri

If you need detailed guidance understanding the Missouri probate process, contact me at David W. Walker Attorney At Law today to schedule a simple consultation. I have the experienced legal counsel, support, and brilliant advocacy you need to navigate vital decisions during the probate administration process. My firm is proud to serve clients across Columbia, Jefferson City, Boonville, and Fulton, Missouri.