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Wills and Probate FAQ

Under Missouri law, a Personal Representative of a decedent Estate can be compensated for their services. A Will can provide the method and amount of such compensation.
If there is no Will, or if there is no guidance under a Will, then Missouri law controls the compensation and one of two methods will apply. Missouri statute provides for a minimum amount of compensation based upon the value of the Estate. If such minimum compensation is not sufficient, a Personal Representative can record the time spent in carrying out services for the Estate and then petition the Probate Court for an order allowing the additional compensation.
Although partial compensation may be awarded before the Estate administration is completed, the usual practice is to pay compensation at the time the Estate administration is concluded.
This compensation only applies if assets are to be passed through a Probate Estate. If assets are passed via a Trust, generally the trust instrument will set out the manner of compensation of the trustee (if any).
If assets are passed under the Non-Probate Transfer laws, there may be no fees associated with the transfer other than perhaps fees to record deeds, etc.
You should never attempt to make handwritten amendments or alterations to an original Will, Trust or any other estate plan document. Such an attempt may invoke legal presumptions arising from the original document, and cause a wholly unintended result.
Instead, you should talk with a Missouri estate plan attorney when there is a need to amend or revise any estate plan document.
There really is no “default” distribution method in Missouri, particularly given that many distributions can be accomplished outside probate.
If someone dies with an estate plan that is designed to pass assets through probate (as opposed to use of the Non-Probate Transfer laws), the estate plan will set out the details of the distribution.
If someone dies without an estate plan, their estate is distributed pursuant through probate to the Missouri intestate succession statutes. In general, an intestate distribution is made to the surviving spouse and children of the decedent or, if there is no surviving spouse or children, to the other close relatives of the decedent.
Creating a comprehensive estate plan remains the best way to ensure that your distribution wishes will be observed (instead of the distribution mandated by Missouri statutes), and in many instances your assets can be passed outside probate under the Non-Probate Transfer laws.
Although partial compensation may be awarded before the Estate administration is completed, the usual practice is to pay compensation at the time the Estate administration is concluded.Only when assets exist which require Probate Court action to pass clear title. Most often, this occurs when no estate plan was made and an asset remains titled solely in the name of a decedent without any beneficiary designation.
The Missouri Non-Probate Transfer laws provide a number of ways that different assets can be passed (with clear title) to the designated person – without going through Probate Court. Use of Non-Probate Transfer laws is one of the tools commonly used by estate plan attorneys when constructing a comprehensive estate plan.
Under Missouri law, a Will must be presented to the Probate Court for admission not later than one year from the date of death. A Missouri Probate attorney will be able to prepare the appropriate Petition seeking such admission of the Will to Probate.
Admitting a Will to Probate does not automatically cause a Probate Estate to be opened. For example if a decedent transferred all assets outside of probate using the Non-Probate Transfer laws, and only had a Will just in case an asset was overlooked, the Will would still have to be admitted to Probate --- yet no Probate Estate would be opened because there were no assets to make up the estate.
In some instances, a Trust agreement can impose time limits on the distribution of a Trust Estate. Otherwise, a Trustee is generally required to complete the Trust Estate administration (identifying and valuing Trust Estate assets, complying with notice and information requirements, paying lawful obligations of the Trust) before any distribution is made to the Trust beneficiaries. Each case will be different.In general terms, the process of Probate Estate administration surrounds identifying and gathering all the assets of the Estate, paying the obligations of the Estate, and distributing the remaining assets to the correct person. However, under Missouri law the specific process in Probate and estate administration depends on the method of administration being utilized in Probate Court -- in that particular case.
The simplest and least expensive way to administer an estate is through "independent administration". If you make an estate plan, you can authorize “independent administration” through your estate plan documents. Without an estate plan, all of the heirs of a decedent must agree, in writing, to “independent administration”.
Otherwise, lacking “independent administration”, a more expensive and time-consuming "supervised administration" is required, in which the Probate Court generally must grant prior permission before the Personal Representative or Administrator can take any given action.
A beneficiary has few responsibilities other than keeping the executor, Personal Representative or Trustee of the Trust advised of their current address and other contact information. That said, a beneficiary is advised to seek counsel from their chosen CPA or other tax professional concerning the tax consequences of any distribution to be received by the beneficiary. Each case will be different.

FAQs are presented by Williams, Robinson, Rigler & Buschjost, PC as a public information service only.  None of the information contained herein is intended to be taken as legal advice.  Each matter depends on unique facts which attorneys must consider in forming an opinion, and may depend on laws unique to a particular jurisdiction.  No two cases are the same.  If you want to know more about this subject, contact Williams, Robinson, Rigler & Buschjost, PC, or the attorney of your choice, and seek a formal opinion about your particular case.

  
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