There are many misconceptions about the Missouri probate process that often result in clients having the wrong estate planning goals. The main goal of your estate plan should be to preserve your estate for your family. Each state has its own procedures when it comes to probating an estate. For that reason, it is important for Missouri residents to be familiar with the probate process. That includes knowing the truth about many of the common myths surrounding probate. Here, our Kansas City Probate Attorneys will dispel some of the common myths about the process.
Myth No. 1: The Missouri probate process can take years to finish
A very common concern many clients have is that their estate will be “tied up in probate” for years, making their families wait to receive their inheritances. While the Missouri probate process usually takes several months to complete, the length of time depends on the size and complexity of the assets involved. Regardless, there are certain steps that must be taken in every situation, so probate typically takes about 6 months to finish.
Myth No. 2: Probate is always so expensive
Regardless of the size of your estate or the complexity of your assets, there will always be certain expenses associated with probate. However, not every estate will be extremely expensive. Some of the basic expenses you can expect include attorney’s fees, court filing fees, appraisal fees and mailing expenses. As all Kansas City Probate Attorneys will tell you, many of the alternatives to probate also cost money. So, the real issue becomes whether you would rather spend that money now or allow it to reduce the value of your estate after your death.
Myth No. 3: Probate will be significantly delayed in order to appoint an executor
The appointment of an executor does not necessarily take a long time. In many cases, it only takes a week or two. Appointing an executor can cause a delay when family members disagree about who should serve as executor. In fact, family disputes are a common cause of delay when it comes to probate. Our Kansas City Probate Attorneys can help you to avoid delays in estate administration by careful estate planning.
Myth No. 4: If I don’t have a will the state of Missouri will take my property
Another misconception that people have is that, without a will or trust, the state will take all of the property of your estate when you die. This is not the case. The truth is, the laws are designed to ensure that your property goes to your relatives, even the most remote ones if necessary if you happen to die without a will or estate plan.
The only time a person’s property goes to the state is when there are no surviving relatives, which is very rare. By having a will or trust, you can avoid this situation, though, and ensure that your loved ones receive your property, pursuant to your wishes.
Myth No. 5: Estate taxes will take half of my estate
First, if your estate actually incurs any estate taxes, the percentage is currently less than 50%. However, most estates are not even charged an estate tax because of the estate tax exemption which is currently $5.45 million. What that means is, unless the value of your estate exceeds $5.45 million (which most estates do not), then your estate will not owe any taxes.
Our Kansas City Probate Attorneys explain the basic steps of probate
In order to initiate the Missouri probate process, a petition needs to be filed in the county where the deceased resided at the time of death. After the petition is filed, the court will set a hearing and notice of that hearing must be published and mailed to all named heirs or beneficiaries. The person who is chosen to be the personal representative (executor or administrator) of the estate will take possession of the property included in the estate and create an inventory.
After notice of the death has been made, creditors with legitimate debts will be given time to submit a claim for payment. Valid claims will be paid from the estate before any other distributions can be made. The personal representative is also responsible for ensuring that all estate taxes are paid (if any are due) before any distributions can be made to heirs and beneficiaries. In order to complete the final step of the Missouri probate process, which is closing the estate, the personal representative will provide to the court an accounting of all transactions relating to the estate.
If you have questions regarding trusts, or any other estate planning matters, contact Gaughan & Connealy for a consultation either online or by calling us at (816) 974-3030.