Following the death of a loved one, the probate and administrative details of the estate can become overwhelming. Trying to handle the final estate valuation, taxes, creditor issues and distribution of assets can be frustrating and confusing.

Probate is defined as a legal process through which a person's estate is settled after death. It includes validating the will, inventorying the deceased's property and appraising it, paying debts and taxes, and finally making sure the remaining property in the estate is distributed as designated in the will. In situations where there is no will, the estate will ultimately be distributed according to dictates of state law. Probate is required in Missouri in certain circumstances.

A probate lawyer is an asset when aspects of a deceased person's estate distribution require help with estate administration. The following factors that should influence your decision to hire a probate lawyer to help in handling estate distribution below. Call us with questions about your Missouri probate matter, including:

  1. Estate Administration
  2. Personal Representative Assistance
  3. Breach of Fiduciary Duty Litigation
  4. Wills and Trusts
  5. Probate Litigation and Dispute Resolution
  6. Small Estate Affidavits

Apart from situations when the will is challenged, the estate pays for the costs of probate and handles such expenses as mortgage payments, property taxes, maintenance fees, etc. through the process. If the estate is unable to pay for these costs, the court can order the sale of the property to cover expenses. The cost of hiring an attorney to help you through the probate process can depend on a number of factors including your state laws, the value of the estate, the presence of a will, type of property to be inherited, and the amount if discord in the family.

At West County Family Law we understand the confusion people face when confronted with the probate process. There are several questions that arise and attorneys Case & Rajnoha are here to help you understand the complex Missouri probate laws. Our first approach when working with perspective clients is to determine whether probate is necessary.Our first objective is to avoid probate when possible. When a loved one passes on, it's a difficult time to have to think about winding up his or her financial affairs. However, completing this task ahead of time can help you and your loved ones achieve peace of mind and confidence that their wishes will be honored.

Ways to Transfer the Title of Property Upon Someone's Death:

First you must look at how the property is titled. If it is titled in joint names with a husband and wife, the property belongs to the surviving spouse. This property does not need to be probated. Property which names a beneficiary/ies belongs to the beneficiaries. They must show a death certificate or fill out an Affidavit of Death. Examples of property which typically have a beneficiary designation are life insurance, investment accounts, and real estate which was deeded to a beneficiary. If any property was owned by the decedent in his or her own name without any beneficiaries designated, that property must be transferred to the rightful heirs via court order from the Probate Division of the Circuit Court.

There are different levels of Probate Estates, depending on the value of the assets.

Full Estate

If the value of the decedent's estate is more than $40,000.00, a full estate must be opened for a minimum of 6 months in order to give the decedent's creditors an opportunity to file a claim. If the decedent left a valid Last Will and Testament, it must be filed with the Probate Court within one year from the date of death. Otherwise, a different proceeding must be filed called a Determination of Heirs. If there is a Will, it likely waived the necessity of the filing of a probate bond which is based on the value of the assets in the estate.

Refusal of Letters to Creditor

When the property of the decedent is less than $15,000.00 and there is no surviving spouse or unmarried minor children, a creditor of the decedent may apply for payment from the estate. No attorney is required. The Probate Clerk will assist in the filing of the paperwork.

Small Estate Affidavit

If the value of a decedent's estate is less than $40,000.00 , in some instances you can avoid opening a full probate estate and instead file a Small Estate Affidavit. This requires that an interested party file a list your assets along with their values and the names of the heirs who are to receive it. The person filing the affidavit, called the Affiant, promises to pay all debts up to the amount in the small estate. The Affiant may need to post a bond to guarantee payment. Any balance must then be distributed to those named in the Will, if there is one, otherwise to the decedent's heirs at law. This avoids the 6-month waiting period for creditors to file their claims and is much less expensive than the full estate.

Experienced Service and Legal Counsel

Our goal at West County Family Law is to provide the highest quality of experience, service and legal counsel. With more than 65 years of experience, attorneys Case & Rajnoha are capable of handling many types of legal matters. Founded in 1975, West County Family Law's trademark has been prompt, personal attention. Our success has been our dedication to our clients and protecting their best interests and rights. Our clients deserve to be well-represented, with quality legal services provided by a dedicated team of attorneys and paralegals. We pride ourselves in our personal service by making sure we are available for our client throughout the legal process.

We're Here to Help You

We seek to help you through the legal problem confronting you. The first step is an easy one: call us for a free telephone consultation at (636) 861-1111 to speak with our Ballwin family and criminal law attorneys. You can also contact us online.

We accept Visa and MasterCard.

West County Family Law is located in Ballwin, Missouri, and serves the cities of St. Louis, Chesterfield, Fenton, Valley Park, Clayton, Creve Coeur, Kirkwood, Des Peres, Webster Groves, Manchester, Eureka, Hillsboro, Maryland Heights, Town and Country, Ellisville, Frontenac, Wildwood, Ladue and Crestwood. We also serve other communities in St. Louis County, Jefferson County, St. Charles County, West County and South County.