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Estate Administration in Missouri: What to Expect as an Executor or Beneficiary

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What is an Executor of an Estate?

An executor is sometimes referred to as the personal representative or the administrator of the estate. Their role is important as they are bound by law to carry out aspects of their position after the death occurs. If the decedent did not have a Trust; did not properly fund Trust; or only had a Will in place or nothing at all the first step is for the Personal Representative or Executor to hire an attorney in Missouri.  In Missouri, a personal representative must have legal representation or an attorney for the Probate process. One of the first steps the attorney takes is filing the will with the court and publishing a notice through local news sources that the decedent has passed so creditors can file a claim against the estate for a certain period. 

For example, as Missouri law states, “Every executor or administrator has the right to and shall take possession of all personal property of the decedent except exempt property of the surviving spouse and unmarried minor children, and administer it in accordance with this law.”

Executors are also tasked with managing property that will be transferred, such as maintenance or upkeep, paying taxes on the property, or collecting any rent that the asset may be bringing in. If the asset needs to go through the probate process, this can mean that the executor obtains ownership for a significant amount of time, depending on how clear the estate plans are for the decedent. 

Other Duties of an Executor

The executor must gather a comprehensive list of all the assets and their updated values. The executor then gathers a list of all debts that may be owed by the decedent and forms a strategy to pay them. Debts may include credit cards, medical bills, funeral expenses, and more. If the estate doesn’t have enough liquid assets to cover the debt, it may need to sell assets to cover the debts owed and distribute the remainder of the assets to the appropriate parties.

If beneficiaries are in conflict or refuse to participate in the transfer of assets, the executor may need to petition the court for guidance. As much as we would like to think that beneficiaries won’t enter into disputes after we are gone, it can happen. The executor may need to rely on the courts to make a determination, which typically involves selling assets and distributing the proceeds fairly amongst the beneficiaries. Whatever option is in the estate’s best interest is the general rule that courts will follow when settling disputes.

What is a Beneficiary Deed?

A beneficiary deed is an estate planning resource that is available in Missouri. By setting up a beneficiary deed, the heir can avoid waiting for the asset in question to go through the probate process, and instead, the asset transfers to them upon death.

By doing so, the beneficiary can likely save time and money by avoiding the probate process. The probate process typically involves costly fees and time to complete. If a typical probate process takes six months or more, that is a crucial time that your heirs would go without access to the assets that were given to them.

Who Can Be a Beneficiary?

Beneficiaries can be anyone you want them to be. They don’t have to be immediate family or relatives; they can be friends or organizations to whom you wish to gift your assets. While alive, you maintain control of the assets; the beneficiary is not an owner until your death occurs. Multiple beneficiaries can also be listed, whether they be contingent on the primary beneficiary’s death or as a joint beneficiary, so the asset is split between them.

It’s important to note that revisions can be made relatively easily to the beneficiary deed. This option may affect an inheritance you are anticipating. Hence, keeping in regular contact with the asset’s owner is essential so any changes are clearly communicated and not a surprise upon death.

How Does a Beneficiary Access the Assets?

Typically, the beneficiary will simply need to supply the holder of the assets with the death certificate. The holder can be the banking institution where the account lies, the life insurance company, or other relative parties.

When properly created, a beneficiary deed can reduce taxes that the beneficiaries are subject to and contain few risks. The beneficiary will need to keep in mind that the assets are not transferred to them without the attached debts being taken care of. For example, if there is a mortgage on a home and the asset is transferred, the beneficiary will be responsible for the mortgage associated with that asset.

Why Work With an Estate Planning Attorney?

While it may seem counterintuitive to spend money to save money by avoiding probate in the future, by working with an experienced attorney, you can likely save significant money while also saving time and reducing the tax implications for your heirs.

Discussing your estate plan with your trusted attorney ensures that you have thought of everything and planned accordingly. While we can’t see into the future, we can arm ourselves with multiple estate planning resources for any size estate and continue to care for our families or organizations that we care about long after we are gone.

Our team is compassionate, responsive, and dedicated. We created a reasonable fee schedule to allow anyone to take advantage of professional guidance when navigating their estate. We allow for peace of mind, knowing that you didn’t leave anything out or overlook important aspects that can save you and your heirs time, frustration, and, in many cases, money.

Call our office today at (314) 347-3567 to learn more about how we can best assist you and your family.

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