When a family member or loved one passes away, the loved one’s estate passes through a court-managed legal process known as probate. In a nutshell, probate refers to the legal process by which a decedent’s assets are ascertained, managed, and ultimately distributed to creditors and heirs. In Missouri, it is governed by the state probate code and depending upon the circumstances, the process can be extremely confusing, lengthy, and time-consuming.
Overview of the Probate Process
The probate process begins by filing a petition with the court, after which written notice is provided to the decedent’s heirs. The decedent’s heirs are typically spouses and family members, including children and grandchildren. An executor to the estate is then appointed, and all of the decedent’s assets are appraised. Following the appraisal, the estate’s debts (i.e. amounts owed to creditors) are paid off. The estate’s assets are then sold and estate taxes are paid. Finally, the remaining assets are distributed to the decedent’s heirs.
Disputes that Arise During Probate
Will contests and disputes often occur when individuals who are named in the will (oftentimes siblings) believe that they are being treated unfairly under the terms of the decedent’s will. This usually happens under the following circumstances:
- When the decedent’s children receive unequal shares under the terms of a decedent’s will
- When the asset distribution scheme changes from one will (a previous will) to another will (a later or modified will).
- When a will beneficiary has a suspicion that the terms of the will were the result of the undue influence of another party
Objecting to a will may be costly and can ultimately cause serious delays in the probate process, so it is not a decision to be entered into lightly. When a will is being contested, all persons with an interest in the estate must be served within ninety (90) days after the will contest is filed. If a will is successfully contested, the estate is then distributed equitably – as if no will ever existed.
Contact a St. Louis Estate Planning Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation
If you are involved in a will contest, it is essential that you contact an experienced probate lawyer. To schedule a case evaluation with an attorney, call the Law Offices of Kenneth P. Carp today at 636-947-3600 or send us an email through our online contact form.