Probate can be a time-consuming process, but depending on the size of the deceased person’s estate, an alternate, more streamlined process might be available for the distribution of the estate’s assets to the deceased’s heirs.
What is Probate?
Probate is the process that must be undertaken in order to transfer the rights to a deceased’s assets over to their heirs. The process itself is supervised by the courts and is usually required whether or not the deceased left a will.
During the probate process, the deceased’s estate pays off any debts or encumbrances of the deceased. The remaining assets in the estate are then distributed to the heirs.
Probate is necessary unless the deceased’s estate doesn’t have any property or assets to be distributed. An estate might hold no assets if the deceased went through the estate planning process prior to death. The term for this is “avoiding probate”, and involves estate planning techniques such as giving away property and setting up living trusts while the deceased was still alive.
The probate process can be time-consuming, as the court’s approval is required before assets can be distributed. It can often take over a year to complete the probate of an estate.
A Simplified Probate Process
If there’s property in the deceased’s estate, probate can’t be avoided. However, Missouri does offer a simplified or streamlined probate process for smaller estates. The process is initiated through the filing of a small estate affidavit.
To qualify for this simplified probate process, the value of the estate can’t be greater than $40,000 (less any liens, debts, or encumbrances). You can apply for this streamlined process whether or not the deceased left a will.
Going through this process allows an heir or personal representative to distribute the deceased’s estate without having to go through the full probate process.
Here’s what you need to know to apply for simplified probate:
- Assess the value of the estate. Prepare a list of all of the estate’s assets. You’ll need this list to see if you qualify for the simplified procedure and whether you’ll need to meet the publication requirements.
- 30-day waiting period. You must wait 30 days after the deceased’s death before you can apply.
- Formal assessment of estate’s value. One way to obtain an official assessment of the estate’s value is through an appraiser.
- Publication. If the estate has a value of more than $15,000, you must publish a notice of your request for simplified probate in a local newspaper.
- Bond. You’ll also be required to obtain a probate, or fiduciary, bond equal to the value of the estate’s personal property. This bond acts as an insurance policy, and its purpose is to ensure that the person filing the affidavit pays the estate’s debts and funeral and burial costs, and properly distributes the assets of the estate to the other heirs.
Consult with a Branson Estate Planning Lawyer
When you’re grieving, it can be stressful to go through the probate process, whether you’re going through the full probate process or will be filing a small estate affidavit. The experienced Branson estate planning lawyers at Parks & Jones can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.