Bolinger Law Firm, LLC – St. Louis Probate Attorney

It is always an extremely difficult time for everyone involved when a loved one passes away. Not only are the emotions running high, but also the challenge of trying to wrap up one’s life affairs can only heighten the stress associated with the death. At Bolinger Law Firm, LLC we understand the heartache resulting from the death of a loved one, and we accommodate you to ensure a smooth transition from the grieving process to the winding up of the decedent’s affairs. A St. Louis probate attorney with the Bolinger Law Firm, LLC will make sure that your loved ones affairs are properly wrapped up and that the property is distributed to the beneficiaries.

The administration of an individual’s probate requires the identification and gathering of assets, notification and payment to creditors, filing of tax returns, liquidating property, retitling property and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries. This can be a time consuming and overwhelming process for the personal representative, so a St. Louis probate attorney with the Bolinger Law Firm, LLC can assist the personal representative or completely administer your loved ones estate. It is crucial that all of the necessary steps are complied with to ensure that your loved ones affairs are concluded without any adverse consequences. Call us today at (636) 386-8322 to speak with a St. Louis probate attorney or schedule an appointment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who administers the probate estate?

The party responsible for administering the decedent’s estate is called the Personal Representative or Executor. The personal representative is typically nominated within the decedent’s will and must carry out the affairs of the estate as a fiduciary to the beneficiary. Thus, it is imperative for a personal representative to seek the advice and counsel of a probate attorney to ensure that they fulfill their fiduciary duties and do not have any legal repercussions for the failure to do so.

When must the probate proceeding be commenced?

In Missouri, the probate proceeding for a decedent’s estate must be filed with the court within one (1) year of the decedent’s death. Therefore, upon your loved ones passing, it is important to immediately think about filing the decedent’s will in the appropriate court so that the filing is timely.

What are the steps in the probate proceeding?

In order to successfully complete a probate proceeding it is necessary to apply for Letters
Testamentary if there is a will or Letters of Administration if there is not a will; publish notice to creditors; inventory and appraise the assets; administer and sell property if necessary; pay debts, claims, taxes and expenses; retitle property; prepare a settlement and distribute the assets.

What if the decedent died without a will?

If the decedent died without a will, the decedent’s assets still require the probate process. When the decedent dies without a will, the decedent is said to have died “intestate.” If the decedent died intestate, it is necessary to file Letters of Administration with the court. The process of administering an estate where the decedent did not have a will is similar to a proceeding where the decedent died with a will.

What property is included in my gross estate?

An individual’s gross estate includes the value of property, real and personal, tangible and intangible, and wherever situated, that you have an interest in or control over.  Therefore, an individual’s gross estate includes assets such as real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, business ownership interests, vehicles and personal property.  The valuation of the property included in your gross estate is determined in accordance with the fair market value of those assets at the time of death.  The fair market value of an asset is the price that would be agreed on between a willing buyer and a willing seller, with neither being required to act, and both having reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.  Therefore, the fair market value of all your assets at death is your “gross estate” and is subject to the imposition of federal estate taxes.

What property is included in my probate estate?

An individual’s probate estate differs from their gross estate in that the probate estate only encompasses property that passes through a probate proceeding in a court of the individual’s domicile.  Therefore, an individual’s probate estate does not include property with beneficiary designations, property titled a trust, or property passed via another non probate transfer, all of which pass outside of probate.  Typically, an individual’s probate estate is smaller than their gross estate.  Additionally, the individual’s probate estate is subject to the imposition of court costs and fees associated with the administration of the probate estate.

How does my property pass at my death?

Upon death, your property is either transferred through a probate proceeding or according to the terms of a non probate transfer.  Property that does not have an effective beneficiary designation, is not held in limited forms of property ownership or is not held in trust is distributed to your beneficiaries through a probate proceeding.  On the other hand, property with valid beneficiary designations, held in limited forms of property ownership, held in trust, or utilizing another non probate transfer technique avoids the probate proceeding and is transferred to your beneficiaries according the instruments terms.  A major goal of estate planning is the avoidance of probate proceeding due to the associated time, expense and public exposure.

Why do I need an estate plan?

Estate Planning is a broad topic that includes the planning, transferring and sheltering of your assets as well as your well-being.  Since thinking about our own mortality can be an unpleasant experience, people often overlook or postpone estate planning.  However, the failure to execute an estate plan during your life can be detrimental to your loved ones by increasing the time, cost and emotional burden.  Additionally, if you were to become incapacitated and unable to make medical or financial decisions, the effective use of estate planning maintains your affairs without delay or interruption.

Why do I want to avoid probate?

The avoidance of probate is one of the major goals of estate planning for good reason.  The probate process can be time consuming and costly to properly administer an estate.  Additionally, the probate proceeding becomes a matter of public record and people often prefer to keep their affairs private.  Therefore, it is important to plan ahead so that the your loved ones do not have to bear unnecessary burdens.