Probate & Trust Administration
At Martha C. Brown & Associates, LLC, we can determine whether a deceased person’s estate must be resolved in the Probate Court and, if so, handle the process on your behalf.
What types of cases are probate cases?
- Decedent’s estates (people that have passed away)
- Trust issues
- Guardianship and conservatorship matters
- Disputes and concerns over the use of a power of attorney
There are four ways that ownership of property is transferred at death
- Will – Item(s) are transferred to beneficiaries named in Will through the probate process.
- Joint Ownership – Typical examples of ownership being transferred are to a spouse, parent/child, grandparent/grandchild, or among siblings.
- Contract – Also called Beneficiary Forms:examples include life insurance policies, IRA accounts, annuities, retirement programs and Transfer on Death (TOD) or Paid on Death (POD) types of ownership. An example of a POD asset is a U.S. savings bond where a successor beneficiary is named to take ownership at death. In most states, real estate, bank accounts, and closely held corporate stock and other types of property can be transferred by POD. The obvious advantage of this type of ownership is that the property transfers without probate, yet the beneficiaries have no ownership rights to the property until the death of the owner. The disadvantage is that not every contingency is covered under this type of planning. A Trust can be created and can also be named as the beneficiary of the asset at the time of death, offering the greatest protection against potential contingencies.
- Trust – A legal entity that is similar to a family corporation and is usually used to transfer ownership to children or grandchildren. When a Trust is created, a new entity is created, and the majority of property is transferred into the Trust. Although some transfers would occur as part of estate planning, other property would be transferred at the time of death by the use of POD or TOP, and other beneficiary forms of conveyance.
Legal Terminology Related to Probate
Petition for Letters Testamentary (Probate Process with Will) – Having a will or not having a will does not determine whether the person’s assets must go through the Probate Process. The determination is made base upon how a person’s assets are titled. If an asset is found that is solely owned by the decedent and has no beneficiary designation, then the Will is probated and the assets distributed according to the terms of the Will.
Petition for Letters Administration (Probate Process without a Will) – If a person dies without a Will, and assets are found owned solely by the decedent with no beneficiary designation, then an estate is opened and the assets distributed according to Missouri Probate Law.
Personal Representative – Person or persons named in a Will to administer the decedent’s estate. This Personal Representative is responsible for carrying out the terms of the Will including payment of any and all final debts and distribution of the estate to the named beneficiaries.
We encourage you to contact our St. Louis attorneys to get the advice you need. Together, we can discuss your long-term goals and advise you on planning that will allow you to reach those goals.