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A Will does not avoid probate, but instead states how any assets that are probated are to be distributed after your death.  To be enforceable in Missouri, a Petition to Probate the decedent's Will must be filed within one (1) year of the decedent's death.  If no Petition to Probate the Will is filed within one year, then the Will has no legal effect in Missouri.

A Probate Court proceeding is necessary to distribute those assets of a deceased person (decedent) that are titled in the decedent's name alone, without any designated beneficiary.  A Probate Court proceeding also is required to distribute checks or other assets received in the decedent's name after s/he has died, to file the final tax returns of the decedent (and any past-due tax returns) and to receive any refund checks due to the decedent.  Probate also is necessary to to pursue lawsuits or other claims that the decedent had pending at the time of her/his death, or claims that the decedent's estate has as a result of the circumstances surrounding decedent's death.

There are three types of probate proceedings involving decedent's estates in Missouri:
  • Full probate.
  • An expedited Small Estate proceeding where the value of the total assets in the probate estate is $40,000 or less.
  • An even more expedited proceeding (called a "Refusal of Letters") that can be used in some situations where the value of the probate assets is $15,000 or less. 
There are, however, various techniques for avoiding probate.   These include Trusts and documents to allow for transfer of assets outside of the Probate Court. It is important that any non-probate transfer documents that you sign are consistent with your overall plans.

I handle decedent's probate matters on a case-by-case basis.

Click on the "Estate Planning" link for a list of some estate planning that can by-pass probate, including non-probate transfers.