Probate and Trust Administration

It is always an extremely difficult time for everyone involved when a loved one passes away. Not only do grief and overwhelm make it difficult to function, there are also many emotional challenges when trying to settle your loved one’s life affairs, which only heightens the stress associated with their death.

At Bolinger Law Firm in St. Louis, our caring team understands 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.

The avoidance of probate is a major goal of estate planning – at an already emotional and trying time, the probate process can be very time-consuming, confusing, inconvenient, and costly. A caring Bolinger Law Firm probate attorney will administer your loved one’s affairs and distribute property to the beneficiaries efficiently, while handling any legal issues that may arise.

How Property is Settled at Death

Upon death, property with valid beneficiary designations, or held in limited forms of property ownership or in a trust, or other non-probate transfer techniques, avoids probate proceedings and is transferred to your beneficiaries according to the decedent's documented terms.

Property that's not part of an executed estate plan is typically transferred through a probate proceeding in the court system and becomes public record. A major goal of estate planning is the avoidance of probate proceeding due to the associated time, expense, and public exposure.

What is Administering Probate?

The administration of an individual’s estate is considered “probate” and 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, especially if there is no legally documented estate plan. That’s one benefit of hiring a St. Louis probate attorney with the Bolinger Law Firm – we can assist you or the decedent’s personal representative with the process or completely administer your loved one’s estate.

Why Hire a Probate Lawyer?

The administration of an individual’s probate requires tasks that need to be handled legally, often in probate, so when an estate is “settled,” creditors or other family members can’t come back later and try to take income, property, or items that belong to the beneficiaries.

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 one’s passing, it is important to immediately think about filing his or her will in the appropriate court so that all legal documents are filed timely.

It’s also important to note, the steps involved can be complicated and go on for months or even years – that’s where we can help! A St. Louis probate attorney with the Bolinger Law Firm can help make this challenging time a little less stressful.

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Steps in Administering an Estate

It is crucial that all the necessary steps or what’s considered “administering an estate” are legally complied with to ensure that your loved one’s affairs are concluded without any adverse consequences. If you’re loved one has chosen to have an estate plan that includes a will and a trust, those documents will be the starting point for settling the estate and administering the trust.

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.

Steps to Administer an Estate Include:

  • The identification and gathering of assets, including tangible and non-tangible assets, like homes, heirlooms, business assets, stocks, and investments.
  • Notification and payment to creditors, including all credit cards, loans, mortgages, autos, and business expenses.
  • Filing of tax returns.
  • Liquidating and/or retitling property.
  • Settling personal and business affairs.
  • Distributing assets to the beneficiaries in the manner with which the will and/or trust proclaims.
  • If a will or trust is contested and the decedent’s estate goes to court, you will need a probate attorney to get the estate legally settled as quickly as possible.

Death Without a Will

If the decedent died 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 Missouri courts, and his or her assets will require the probate process.

If no will or trust was established, the State of Missouri can tie up every bit of your loved one’s assets and income for months to years, making it essential to have an estate attorney with experience on your side.

Determining Gross Estate Value

An individual’s gross estate includes the value of property, real and personal, tangible and intangible, 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 by 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 upon between a willing buyer and a willing seller. Therefore, the fair market value of all your assets at death is your “gross estate” and is subject to federal estate taxes.

Determining Probate Estate Value

An individual’s probate estate differs from their gross estate. The probate estate encompasses property not included in beneficiary designations, property titled in 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 court costs and fees associated with the administration of the probate estate.

Avoiding Probate

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

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Contact Us to Help with Probate Today

If you’re in the terribly unfortunate situation of having had a loved one recently die and need legal assistance with probate, contact us today. We offer a free consultation and can help get you on the right path. We are here for you and can be your trusted voice now and with your own estate plan in the future. 636-386-8322