Dealing with probate can be a long and frustrating process. In our latest post, learn how to avoid probate court in St Louis!
Do you want your assets going to your loved ones, or do you want a good portion to go to the courts? Nobody wants to go through the probate process. By planning ahead, people are able to avoid probate, giving their families the peace of mind they need when dealing with a sad and difficult situation.
Keep scrolling to read more or click the links below to skip to the quick tips:
- Testate – Plan ahead by having a will or alternative in place before death
- Intestate – Avoid probate when there is no will for the decedent
Why Avoid Probate?
There are a number of reasons why people want to avoid probate in St Louis. First of all, there are the fees. Attorney fees (do you see how much they often charge just for responding to an email!?), appraisal fees, court costs, and executor fees can all add up fast. In Missouri, the law even allows the personal representative to take an amount equal to the attorney’s fees. While the executor will sometimes waive their fee in an effort to maintain fairness amongst the family, it will still be a costly process. As an example, an estate of $150,000 can expect around $9,000 (or even more) in probate expenses.
In addition, the probate process can often be very time-consuming. All of the assets and heirs will need to be accounted for, with proper notice being provided. Debts will need to be paid and settled before any inheritances are passed on to the beneficiaries. All in all, going through the probate process isn’t something anyone wants to deal with if they don’t have to.
When possible it’s better to plan ahead (testate, or dying with a will or other planning instrument) to avoid probate, but we understand this is sometimes overlooked or simply isn’t possible. We’ve included 4 ways to avoid probate by planning ahead, before death. Because it’s commonplace to not have these plans in place and to have probate looming (intestate, or dying without a will or alternative planning instrument), we’ve also included 2 ways to avoid probate AFTER the death has happened, when there was no plan in place (intestate).
Testate: Avoid Probate Before Death
Using A Trust
A person can set up a trust to ensure their assets will not be subject to the probate process. While there are other trusts that can be used, the most common is a revocable living trust. All items held in the trust are exempt from the probate process and associated costs. The trust will need to be set up while the person is of sound mind and able to decide for themselves what will go into the trust. The trust can be thought of like a bucket, all assets the individual wants to place in the trust will then be set aside and managed accordingly.
When a person buys a home with someone else, they can enter a joint ownership agreement. With the right of survivorship. the property is passed to the surviving owner, without having to go through the probate process. It’s important to set this up when purchasing a property as adding someone to the deed after the fact may cost money.
Many times when setting up a bank account or life insurance policy, you will assign a beneficiary. By doing this, these items will not be subject to the probate process. A few states, Missouri included, will allow a beneficiary deed (aka transfer-on-death certificate) for real estate you own. The beneficiary deed allows you to transfer the property after you die. Be sure that you keep your beneficiary designations up to date. Many people fail to make these changes after a divorce or after someone passes. This can lead to your ex getting everything or the asset having to go through the probate process.
Giving It All Away
Before you die, you can consciously “give away” the majority of your assets to family members or other beneficiaries. If you don’t own the asset when you pass away, it won’t have to go through the probate process. Many assets, specifically items worth 11k or less can be given away without any federal tax penalty (consult a CPA or financial planner). You can gift a person this amount once per year and in doing so, you can significantly reduce the value of your assets that go through the probate process.
Intestate: Avoid Probate After Death
In certain states, it can be easier to avoid probate if the person passing away has only a small estate. To be considered small, the amount of the estate will vary based on where you live. In Missouri, in order to use a Small Estate Affidavit to avoid probate, the entire estate, less liens and encumbrances, must be $40,000 or less.
Affidavit of Heirship
This is an often overlooked, yet very powerful way to avoid probate. In some states, an Affidavit of Heirship (also known as deed of heirship or deed by heirs) can be used to avoid the time and expense of probate court. It’s important to note that this only applies to real estate. In Missouri, this can only be used after one year has passed since the decedent (the deceased) passed away. Another requirement for the use of an Affidavit of Heirship is that all legal heirs are in agreement.
It can be very beneficial for heirs to avoid the probate process in St Louis. Between the fees, costs, and stress, the process can be daunting and overwhelming. If you want to learn more about how to avoid probate in St Louis, reach out to us today.
We understand that dealing with an estate, probate, and everything else after already coping with the loss of a loved one is a difficult situation. We know how stressing it is from personal experience. Whether you want to sell an inherited house or not, we’re more than happy to provide information and connect with someone to help with your needs.
If you decide selling the house is what’s best, whether from the expense or the emotional tie, we can help. We will handle the paperwork and legalities so you don’t have to spend the time and money trying to figure out the process.