STARTING THE PROBATE PROCESS – ARTICLE 2 OF 3
In the last article we talked about the initial steps of probate and starting to administer the decedent’s estate and start the probate process.
As a probate lawyer Creve Coeur, Missouri, I can tell you that the next important step is to determine if the decedent had a last will and testament, a trust and/or passed away without a trust or will.
For this article, we will assume that the decedent had a valid will and trust.
Reviewing The Will And Trust Documents
Once the decedent’s trust and will have been found, the next step is to read the documents carefully to determine who are the trust beneficiaries, who is / are the successor trustee or trustees and are the documents legally valid.
Generally speaking, finding who’s in charge of the estate and who the beneficiaries are is not very difficult, as the document will usually clearly say who is each. For this example, you are in charge of the trust and the will (the successor trustee and executor).
Does A Probate Have To Be Opened?
This is a critical question and will determine how complex the administration of the estate will be. For this example, let’s assume that the decedent owned a house at his death and had one bank account. The bank account is titled in the name of the trust, the house is not. In that case, the house will end up in probate, which will be opened by the named executor in the will.
Opening A Probate / Obtaining Letters Testamentary
Since the house needs to be probated and assuming the value is over $40,000, the executor will file probate documents in the county in which the decedent was residing at his death. Generally, the documents that would need to be filed in this case would be an Affidavit of Death and Application For Probate of Will, a death certificate, the will itself and each of the beneficiaries dates of birth, addresses, phone numbers / email and their Social Security numbers. Filing fees range from $100 to almost $300.
Once the probate has been opened by the court, a document known as Letters Testamentary will be issued in the name of the executor. This document will be accepted by, in this case, a realtor to begin the process of selling the house (if that has been decided).
After Letters Testamentary have been obtained the executor may begin conducting business on behalf of the estate. Among the many things to be done would be to close out utility accounts, freezing bank accounts, notifying Social Security of the passing, filing final tax returns and, in general, conducting the affairs of the estate.
Opening An Estate Bank Account
One of the first duties for the executor after opening the probate is to open an estate account at the bank. To open this type of account, an executor will typically need a death certificate, the original Letters Testamentary (with raised seal from court), a copy of the will and an EIN number (Employer Identification Number. The EIN can be obtained from the IRS and is the number used for the estate to open accounts and to report taxes owed by the estate, if any. That’s necessary because once a person has passed, their Social Security number is no longer valid.
Once an estate bank account Missouri has been opened, the executor is making progress with the estate. In the next article, I will discuss the steps to finish estate business, to distribute assets and, finally, to close out the probate estate.
Legacy Law Center assists executors and trustees throughout St. Charles County, St. Louis County, Warren County and Lincoln County with probate matters. If you’re an executor or trustee and need some assistance with administering an estate or a trust estate, call our firm for a FREE CONSULTATION to learn how we can help. Call us today at (636) 486-2669!