Probate Lawyer Lake St. Louis, MO

Probate Lawyer Lake St. Louis, MO

probate lawyer Lake St. Louis, MO

If you have been named as an executor in a will that was filed in Missouri, you will in charge of administering an estate after an individual passes away. Estate administration can involve many different responsibilities, including managing any investments owned by the deceased and paying any outstanding debts. An executor also is responsible for distributing the remaining assets in the estate according to the deceased individual’s wishes, which is typically set forth in his or her will. The deceased individual usually names the person whom he or she wants to serve as executor in his or her will. A probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO can guide you through this entire process.  

Preliminary Tasks of an Executor

Perhaps your first task as executor of an estate is to locate the deceased individual’s will. Often, the attorney who prepared the person’s will has kept the original will, although the deceased may have also retained copies of the will. Additionally, you will need to retain certified copies of the individual’s death certificate, which you typically have to furnish to banks, investment companies, and some government agencies.

Not only should you notify creditors, but you should notify anyone who is named as an heir in the will. Finally, there must be a complete inventory of all assets, debts, income, and expenses. Assets include all items of property, such as personal property, real estate, bank accounts, investment accounts, pensions, bonds, stocks, and safety deposit boxes.

Filing a Will in Probate Court

There are circumstances in which it is not necessary to involve the probate court when an individual dies. Whether probate is necessary depends on a number of different factors, including the nature of the assets, how they are titled, and the size of the estate. Typically, however, when an individual leaves behind a substantial estate after his or death, you must file the will with your local probate court so that the court can oversee the process of distributing assets to the beneficiaries of the will. The court also can intervene if there is a dispute between any of the heirs and/or the executor. An heir also may try to challenge the validity of the will if he or she is unhappy with its provisions. The probate court will handle issues such as these, but as executor, you must be a part of all legal proceedings related to the estate. In order to ensure that there are no errors during this process, it can be helpful for an executor to consult with a Lake St. Louis probate lawyer.  

Pay Bills and Distribute Assets

Once you have filed the will with the probate court, you should set up a bank account titled in the name of the estate. This account can be the depository for any income that was still owed to the deceased individual, and also can be the source to pay ongoing expenses and bills, such as a mortgage payment on the deceased’s home. The executor is also entitled to take a fee from the estate for the services that he or she has provided to the estate. However, since the executor is often a close family member, it is common for the executor to waive his or her fee. Finally, the executor must file federal and state income tax returns, as well as estate tax returns, if required.

The duties of being an executor may sound a bit overwhelming, but consulting with a Lake St. Louis probate lawyer from the Legacy Law Center can help make the process smoother.

You might be thinking, do you need a probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO at all? Can you probate a will in Missouri without a lawyer? The simple answer is yes; you can go through the probate process without needing a lawyer. 

However, there are still reasons that you may need a lawyer through this process. Anyone can interact with the court system without a lawyer, but there are times one is required. While you can, it doesn’t mean that you should. If you don’t know the process, it can get complicated quickly, and that is when you could get into hot water. Since most of the process is paperwork, it is crucial to understand when to file, what to file, and how to file. Read on to learn more about the process and see if a lawyer is right for you. 

Things a Probate Lawyer Can Do for You

Assess the Will

If you are named as the executor of a will, you are responsible for handling the affairs of the estate of a deceased person. Hopefully the deceased individual has left a will, which makes the probate process much easier. A probate lawyer can assess a will and determine if it is legal. 

If the will is determined to be legal and valid, the probate attorney can approve the executor appointment. These steps are important because these approvals mean an estate executor will be able to use the will in court. Hiring a probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO, can facilitate the probate process. 

Handle Disagreements

When someone dies, loved ones usually feel grief and suffer. However, if a will is contested, circumstances become even more difficult. Hiring an experienced probate attorney from a firm such as Legacy Law Center can help settle conflicts, whether the problem is between the executor and a beneficiary or among the beneficiaries. 

Often, challenges to a will are based on charges that the testator was not competent. A knowledgeable probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO, can provide support and testimony to resolve quarrels perhaps even prevent lengthy, painful legal cases. 

Offer Financial Advice

If the testator has left debts, the executor can turn to a probate attorney for advice. Usually, if someone leaves debts when they die, these debts become the property of the estate. Occasionally, specific debts may be handed on to other individuals, but usually they become part of the estate. 

As executor, you would be responsible for paying debts using estate assets. There are numerous laws governing this process, however, and each case is unique. For example, student loans and mortgages have specific regulations. On the other hand, perhaps payments need to be made to beneficiaries from life insurance policies. A probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO, is familiar with legal requirements regarding both debts and beneficiary payments, and trusting a knowledgeable professional for this process can reduce the chances of facing future challenges. 

Ensure Proper Distribution

A probate attorney helps the executor of an estate with fiduciary duties. An estate executor is expected to act in good faith toward all beneficiaries and other parties, such as debtors, and distribute estate assets with integrity.

Sometimes mistakes are made not out of deliberate malfeasance but rather from lack of knowledge about proper procedures. Working with an experienced probate attorney from a firm such as Legacy Law Center reduces the chance of probate mistakes and possible legal ramifications. 

6 Mistakes Executors Make When Probating a Will

Not Starting the Probate Process Soon Enough

Creditors and beneficiaries both want probate to begin so they receive their payouts more quickly. Some states have requirements about how soon after death you have to file for probate, usually between 30 days and three months. If you don’t file the will soon enough, you could be subject to serious penalties, up to, and including, jail time. Your probate lawyer Lake in St. Louis, MO, from Legacy Law Center can help make sure you get the probate process started in a timely manner.

Not Learning About the Probate Process

If you don’t learn about the probate process, you’re more likely to make mistakes when going through it. When you do some research about probate, you’re better able to see situations when you’re in over your head. You may decide it makes sense to hire a Legacy Law Center probate lawyer Lake in St. Louis, MO, to aid you in navigating probate courts.

Not Taking Proper Care of the Assets of the Estate

You have a duty as the executor to take proper care of the estate’s assets. Failure to do so could mean a loss of inheritance for the beneficiaries. For example, if you don’t properly keep up with the family home, you could end up with repairs being needed, break-ins, a loss of curb appeal and even seizure of property for unpaid mortgage payments or taxes.

Not Preparing an Accurate List of Assets

You need to have an accurate list of assets to ensure they are distributed to the beneficiaries. The will should list everything that the departed wanted to go to the heirs, but you need to take inventory to ensure all the assets are as described in the will.

Not Keeping Accurate Records

As the executor of an estate, you need to maintain pristine records of asset distribution, debts paid to creditors, disposition of real estate and more. Your probate lawyer Lake in St. Louis, MO, from Legacy Law Center can help you figure out exactly what kind of records you should be keeping.

Not Staying in Constant Contact With Heirs

The heirs are understandably upset at the loss of their loved one. They would become more upset if they didn’t know what was going on with their loved one’s estate. Make sure the heirs are all on the same page and that you’re keeping them apprised of any setbacks or problems, and any successes, you may have in probating the will.

The Probate Process

Gaining an Understanding of Probate

Whether you are planning your estate or a loved one has recently passed away, our probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO, may be able to provide guidance when you need it the most. Probate is a legal process that validates a person’s will. There are vital components involved within this process, such as approving the identified executor, notifying creditors, settling debts, and dispersing assets to beneficiaries. This process is a common worry for those developing their wills. They will want to ensure that their will is properly executed and that beneficiaries receive as much wealth as possible. There are a variety of misconceptions about probate, as with the proper planning, the probate process can be relatively straightforward. Working with our team from the Legacy Law Center can be pivotal in preparing the appropriate documents for when the time comes and representing the executive when probate is initiated. 

  • Petition the Court to be the Estate Representative 

The court will require the petitioner, you, to fill out specific forms. These are going to be done so you can be the official representative for the estate. You will have to fill out these forms and make sure you have all the information about who, what, when, where, and more. You will need a valid copy of a will or to know for sure there is no will at all. You shouldn’t need a lawyer during this first process most times unless you don’t understand what the will is instructing the executor to do. Another time you might need a lawyer is if someone is fighting you to be the executor. 

  • Notify Heirs and Creditors 

The court will provide you with forms to fill out to notify heirs. These will be listed in a will, or if there is no will, the state law will dictate who the heirs are. Additionally, the representative is also responsible for finding out what debts the deceased had and planning to pay those debts. Only assets that pass through probate are liable to pay debts. You’ll need a clear understanding of who the heirs are and a reasonable attempt to uncover debts. A lawyer can help you determine who heirs are and help you figure out how to find the debts.  

  • Change Legal Ownership of Assets 

This is often the most straightforward part of the process. With the court appointment, you will now be able to change assets owned by the deceased. You’ll need the court appointment and the knowledge of what the deceased owned to alter over the legal ownership. If the assets have complicated ownership, businesses, royalties, or anything else, you may need a lawyer. If you don’t know how to transfer the ownership, then a lawyer is vital. You should be able to do most common assets without a lawyer, like bank accounts, but others can get complicated quickly. 

  • Paying Funeral Expenses, Taxes, Debts, and Transferring Assets

You should note that you will need to prioritize payments before there is any transfer to heirs. You will have to pay for the funeral, taxes, and any debts that the deceased had. You will need a good accounting system for all the assets, debts, and tax liability. You, the executor, are responsible for ensuring that all attempts are made to pay funeral expenses and taxes. If you don’t have enough money to pay for all of these, you are strongly encouraged to talk to a lawyer. Taxes is where most people have the most trouble. 

Knowing if you need a probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, Missouri, can be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. If you are going through the probate process, consider the Legacy Law Center to help you with your needs. 



probate infographic

Common Misconceptions About Probate

As a family or an estate executor, probate can feel like an additional hurdle to overcome. While this added layer can certainly be complicated, it doesn’t have to be as feared as many make it out to be. There are a variety of misconceptions about probate; it’s important to demystify the process. When the proper steps are taken, and you have a clear understanding of the process, it’s possible to manage probate easily. The following are common misconceptions about probate that you should know: 

 Misconception #1: Probate is Very Expensive

Many people are concerned that probate will completely deplete a person’s estate and assets. While the cost of probate typically varies depending upon the size of the estate, it’s essential to know that to mitigate the potential exorbitant expenses with probate- the testator must take the time to develop a will and even an estate plan. In most cases, probate typically takes a percentage of the total estate. But when a person has worked with a Lake St. Louis, Missouri probate lawyer, it’s possible to avoid passing some assets through probate and mitigate the overall cost. 

Misconception #2: Probate Can Only be Avoided with a Living Trust

Typically, putting assets into a living trust can circumvent probate. However, know that there are other actions that a person can take. Different strategies to avoid putting some assets through probate include:

  • Jointly Owned Real Estate
  • Payable on Death Accounts
  • Giving Assets Away Before Your Passing
  • Transfer on Death Securities

Misconception #3: Settling an Estate Through Probate Takes Years

On average, probate takes anywhere from 6 months to over a year to resolve. When clear plans are in place, the probate process shouldn’t take much longer than that. However, it’s essential to know that probate can take longer if complications arise, such as a person passing away without a will or someone contests the will. 

3 Reasons You Should Get a Lawyer for Probate

If you are named as an executor in a will, you will be responsible for overseeing the administration of the estate through the probate process. This process may be confusing or outside of your comfort zone. Here are three reasons you may want to hire a lawyer to assist you.

1. Interpretation of the Will

When a person is making a will, they know how they want their assets distributed. When the wishes are reduced to writing, the text might not be entirely clear. Document drafting leads to wording that can be interpreted in multiple ways. As the will’s executor, you may read one sentence and think it could mean two different things. A probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO, can review the will and assist you in determining the testator’s intention. 

2. Challenges to the Bequests

An executor may face challenges to the will during the probate process. An heir or potential heir may question the meaning of a specific provision or directive. Often, if family members are left out of the bequests made in a will, they will want to pursue some recovery. An estranged spouse may claim an elective share. In addition, someone could challenge the validity of the document.

A probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO, can advise you as the executor on dealing with various challenges. If a spouse claims an elective share, your attorney can advise you on adjusting the distributions to the other beneficiaries. Some contests may be able to be resolved outside of legal proceedings. Other issues may end up in litigation. If someone files suit against the estate, the executor will need legal representation in court.

3. Distributions to Creditors

The executor of a will has a responsibility to pay creditors who were owed money before the decedent’s death from the assets of the probate estate. The process requires creditors to file claims with the probate court. As executor, you may want to seek the advice of a probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO, to assist with the review of the creditor’s claims. Some of the claims may need to be challenged. In addition, you may need to determine how to properly distribute the assets so that all creditors are treated equally. An executor can be held personally liable for debts of the estate in some situations. You want to ensure you are making the proper payments so this does not happen to you.

Why You Should Hire an Experienced Probate Lawyer

If you have been named as the executor of someone’s estate, you may not realize the seriousness of this duty. Some people agree to be an executor without fully understanding all the work involved, not to mention the expense and risk of personal liability. One of the biggest mistakes executors can make is not hiring a probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO at all. Do not make the mistake of assuming that you are qualified to handle the duties of an executor on your own. Even if you have served as an executor before, every estate is different. You might end up making more mistakes if you assume you know everything to do based on the previous one.

Some of the duties an executor is tasked with include:

  •     Verifying the validity of the will
  •     Taking an inventory of the estate’s assets
  •     Notifying creditors and paying off all outstanding debts
  •     Locating all potential heirs
  •     Selling estate property
  •     Distributing the estate’s property per the decedent’s final wishes
  •     Providing the Illinois probate court with the final accounting
  •     Ensuring that all tax filings are submitted and resolving any final federal and state income and estate taxes

Avoid Procrastinating as an Executor

One of the first mistakes you can make as an executor is not starting the probate process because you feel overwhelmed. This can cost the estate money, and in some cases, it can open you up to personal liability. As soon as you are aware you have been named the executor after a person has died, it is time to reach out to a knowledgeable Lake St. Louis, MO probate lawyer. By retaining an attorney from the start, you can eliminate any risks associated with delaying the probate process.

Taking too long to hire an attorney can also result in additional expenses, as a delay may require your attorney to spend time and resources correcting any mistakes that were made. Had they been involved from the start, you could have avoided the additional expense along with the stress of trying to handle these duties alone.

Make Sure You Hire the Right Attorney

Probate matters are where many people will look to hire the wrong type of attorney, thinking it can save some money. There is a reason that attorneys focus on certain types of cases. It is recommended that you speak with a Lake St. Louis, MO probate lawyer and ask important questions. These questions may include:

  •     How many probate administration cases have you handled?
  •     How are attorney fees charged?
  •     What are the steps needed for the probate process? How much do you estimate the charges might be?
  •     Is it possible to work with your experienced paralegals to help reduce expected costs?
  •     Will you be the one to prepare the final tax returns for the estate?

Speaking with a Professional

There are a variety of reasons to at least consult with a professional. Whether you are developing your estate plan or have been the named executor of someone’s estate, it’s critical to seek guidance from a probate lawyer. When you speak with a lawyer, you can take advantage of several benefits: 

  • Answer questions
  • Help to move through probate in a timely manner
  • Reduce pressure on the executor
  • Ensure that assets aren’t distributed too early
  • Resolve any possible disputes before they become costly issues

The Legacy Law Center knows that probate can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Let our Lake St. Louis, Missouri probate lawyer help you; reach out today.

St. Louis Probate Law Statistics

According to national statistics, more than $2 billion is spent each year on probate, and about half of that amount is spent on attorney fees. With more than 55 percent of Americans not having wills, it’s no surprise that these many estates end up in the probate courts, leaving beneficiaries to wait anywhere between one and three years—sometimes longer—before they receive their inheritance.

Don’t risk your estate being eaten up by legal fees and court battles. Contact a probate lawyer today to see what estate planning tools are available to benefit your family’s future.

Probate Law FAQs

At Legacy Law Center, a probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO knows that some people may be okay with their assets going through probate, and others may want to avoid it at all costs. Most people don’t appeal to the idea that their estate could be handled by the court system after passing on, so they make preparations now so their legacy is distributed to future generations how they prefer.

What is Probate?

The legal process of passing title to someone’s property is called probate. If an individual has the property that is not distributed through non-probate measures, then it must go through probate where the court oversees its transfer to rightful heirs. Probate court proceedings are public record, so it is viewable to the general public. Probate may conclude within a few months or take a year or longer to complete. 

Because of how long it can take, many people prefer to make preparations through writing an estate plan before passing away, so their assets don’t undergo probate. Probate may cause beneficiaries to wait much longer for their inheritance compared to if a proper estate plan was established beforehand. Examples of assets that may go through probate are listed as follows:

  • Vacation residence
  • Home residence
  • Motor vehicles
  • Boats
  • Art
  • Collections
  • Furniture
  • Household goods
  • Other tangible belongings

What Documents Are Needed For Probate?

There are numerous documents that may exist within an estate plan. Firstly, a will is one of the most standard documents that a testator will write, as it designates what assets and to whom they will go to upon death. Secondly, a trust provides a similar function but enables more control and customization over assets. Other documents that your Missouri probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis may need for probate include:

  • Probate Petition
  • Power of Attorney (POA)
  • Beneficiary Deed
  • Death Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Copy of Will
  • List of Assets
  • And more+

What if the Deceased Didn’t Write an Estate Plan?

If someone passes away without an estate plan, then the property will fall under the legalities of intestacy laws. These are laws for how property is to be divided and distributed. The order of descent goes from those most closely related, to those more distant. For example, the court may prioritize the spouse and children or grandchildren of the deceased. But if the decedent had no spouse or close descendants, then the property may be divided between living parents and siblings. If the person doesn’t have relation to anyone living within nine degrees, property may be absorbed by the state.

If you have more questions about probate or other estate planning related matters, contact Legacy Law Center so a probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, Missouri can start addressing your needs right away.

What Exactly is Probate?

For those out of the loop, probate can be summed up easily: It’s the process through which the estate of the deceased is divided across their beneficiaries in accordance to their best wishes. In plain English, it’s how the possessions of a deceased person get split up and given away as they requested in their will. It sounds simple, but don’t let it fool you: Most people have a frustrating experience with probate because of the number of hoops they have to jump through before they see a single cent of what was left behind for them.

What Counts as an Estate?

Your estate is everything you’ve built up or accrued over the course of your lifetime. It can include physical property such as collections and heirlooms, but it can also extend to investments. Estates also include your debts and anything you might owe to creditors. If you leave behind a will, you’re leaving behind instructions regarding what should be done with all of your assets – all the more reason to work with an estate planning lawyer to iron out any questions that might surface after your death.

What Happens if I don’t Make a Will?

It’s possible to go through your entire life without taking the time to draft a will. However, it can lead to lots of drama and infighting amongst your loved ones after your death. Your estate will still be divided and distributed, but usually only to whoever has the best lawyer. If you don’t create a will, the state will choose a close relative to handle your estate after your death, and this representative will typically be a direct relative or a spouse. This may be for the best, or (if you have any estranged relatives or bitter exes) it could cause even more problems for those you care about the most.

How Can a Probate Lawyer Help Me?

Probate is frustrating for everyone. Fortunately, if you contact a qualified probate lawyer, you’re taking steps to learn more about the entire process – as well as a second set of eyes that can keep a look out for any kind of underhanded dealings. It’s important to honor the best wishes of the deceased, and a probate lawyer can help you fulfill the last wishes of your close friend or family member as they would have liked.

Don’t hesitate, and don’t force yourself through probate without legal assistance. Contact a probate lawyer today, and see how Legacy Law Center can help.

What makes up my estate?

Your estate will include all the property, intangible tiems, and other assets you possess at the time of your passing. Such assets may include real estate, securities, cash, personal property, business interest, retirement plans, art collections, life insurance benefits, and more. 

Do I even need an estate plan?

Most people are focused on planning their long-term goals, such as education for their children and saving for retirement. But unfortunately, many people take too long to write an estate plan, or choose to not establish one altogether. Regardless of how much money or assets you have, estate planning is essential to passing on your legacy how you wish.

What happens if I dont write one?

If you die without having a will or other estate planning documents, then the court may intervene and handle your estate for you. During probate, a will is validated, creditors are paid from the estate, and assets are distributed to heirs based on terms of the will or state intestacy law. If there is a dispute, a third-party mediator may be needed to amend the situation. Probate can be a lengthy, and costly process, that may take several months or a year or longet to complete. 

Why do people avoid probate?

Not everyone wants to avoid probate, however, most people don’t trust the way the court may handle their estate. For instance, the court won’t have insight into the inner dynamic of families and other people you care about the most. So your assets may be given to individuals you would not have chosen to receive them. By writing an estate plan, you can leave instructions for what and to whom you want assets distributed. 

Contact Legacy Law Center Today

At our law firm, we priortize the future of our client’s legacies. What you have built over the course of your lifetime deserves attention and planning. We can talk with you about your estate and give advice on how to protect it so your assets don’t succumb to probate. Call a Missouri probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis from Legacy Law Center today to get started and have your questions answered. 

Legacy Law Center, Lake St. Louis Probate Lawyer

3401 Technology Dr, Lake St Louis, MO 63367


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