Merely having a Will may not suffice to avoid probate. In Missouri, if you possess real estate solely titled in your name, or if the total value of your assets surpasses $40,000 (as of 2023), your estate becomes subject to probate. In those situations, Missouri requires a probate even if you have a Will.
However, if assets such as life insurance, bank accounts, or retirement accounts include “transfer-upon-death” or “payable-on-death” designations, they will avoid probate. The designated beneficiary becomes the owner upon death, and only assets with no beneficiary designation will necessitate probate proceedings.
Is Probate Ever a Good Thing?
Probate serves the crucial function of preventing fraud following a person’s death. Imagine a King of a castle passes, and all the peasants lay claim to the castle after the King’s death. Some sort of intervention would be needed to determine whose claim is legitimate and whose is invalid.
Probate acts as a mechanism to temporarily freeze the estate until a judge validates several key aspects:
- A Will’s validity.
- Notification to all relevant parties.
- Identification and appraisal of all estate properties.
- Payment of creditors.
- Settlement of taxes.
Upon completing these steps, the court issues an Order for property distribution, marking the closure of the estate.
While a Will plays a significant role in articulating where you want your assets to go after you pass away, it does not circumvent probate if your assets exceed $40,000 or include real property in your name. A Will represents one aspect in estate planning, and while it may address many of your needs when complemented by additional measures, you should always speak with an attorney for recommendations.
Our Estate Planning Attorneys provide free initial consultations to explore whether a Will-centered estate plan addresses your needs, or if another option will be best. Contact us today to set up a meeting!