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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.