When someone passes away, their loved ones are generally responsible for handling their estate. The probate process is the legal proceeding used to administer most of the property in an estate after someone dies. In some cases, probate can add months or years to the time needed to wrap up financial issues and disbursement of assets associated with the estate. This is especially true for individuals who pass away without a will or estate plan. To ensure the estate is properly administered, you should contact a probate attorney who can guide you through the process.

Probate can be planned for even before death. Whether you are planning for the future or need to find out what to do with your deceased loved one’s estate, call Centonzio Law for help: 816-710-9455. We can also be reached via our online contact form.

The Benefit of Having a Probate Lawyer

The probate process can be complex and daunting. However, a lawyer can streamline this process and be a valuable asset to you in many ways.

Attorneys Can Speed Up the Process

Probate is a legal process that involves court and the drafting and filing of complex legal documents. A large amount of time is dedicated to ensuring the documents are:

  • Written appropriately
  • Meet Missouri legal requirements
  • Are filed according to any deadlines

If you miss a deadline, your probate process may be delayed or even terminated.

An attorney expedites the probate process by handling the legal aspects for you. You can explain your situation to us and let the legal team at Centonzio Law take care of the rest.

Our experienced probate attorneys will provide you with complete and accurate information on the progress of your probate case and the steps we take on your behalf to resolve problems or issues that may arise during this complicated and lengthy process. We deal with probate in Missouri routinely, so we have the process down to a science. We take the necessary steps and know how to avoid delays.

We Help You Understand Complex Legal Documents

Part of the reason documents can hold up the process is that they are often hard to understand. Many of the estate documents that your loved one drafted may be old and confusing. They may have even been drafted with outdated or missing information that is required today. A knowledgeable estate planning lawyer at Centonzio Law will look at your documents and explain the next steps.

Ensuring All Assets are Distributed Appropriately

Wills, trusts, and other legal documents explain precisely how assets should be distributed after death. However, sometimes those wishes conflict with state laws, especially if family members have died or have had other significant life changes such as marriage or divorce since the legal documents were drafted. Let us review your loved one’s estate documents and help you ensure assets are distributed appropriately according to the law.

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Javier gets the job done, and done well, no matter the circumstance.

I was in the Marine Corps with Javier Centonzio many moons ago, before 9/11. He was a highly motivated and highly respected leader in his unit. Someone you could depend on to get the job done, and done well, no matter the circumstance. When the balloon goes up, he is a man you want on your side.

- Sam Byrd

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Our Probate Legal Services

Centonzio Law offers an array of probate legal services that can help you during the estate planning stage or probate after your loved one has passed away.

Transferring Assets to Appropriate Beneficiaries

It’s crucial to have all estate planning documents up to date so that your assets are transferred to the appropriate beneficiaries after your death. There are many reasons why you may want to add or remove someone as a beneficiary of your estate. It is important to make these changes as soon as possible because once a person passes away, they can no longer change or control who receives assets from their estate.

If you have a will or other estate documents that specify how to distribute assets, bring them to us, and we will offer a quick review and legal advice based on your specific needs and wishes. Many families of our past estate planning clients have also trusted us to handle the probate process. We are available at each step of the way and work hard to make the probate process as painless as possible.

Preparing Legal Documents for Probate Court

Many Probate Forms and other documents must be filed with the court when a person passes away. If you have never handled such a situation, you shouldn’t have to do it alone. Our experienced probate lawyers will gather the proper information and prepare the necessary legal documents for you when you come to us. We will file them and make sure you don’t have to face the stress alone.

Common Probate Forms

Some common probate forms that must be filed with the court include the following:

Obtaining Appraisals for Property

Property appraisal is an essential step in the probate process. It determines if the estate is eligible for the simplified probate process (if it’s valued at $40,000 or less). Property appraisal also determines if the property is subject to estate taxes and helps distribute assets among beneficiaries fairly.

What Property Requires an Appraisal?

Appraisals are required of all property of significant value, such as real estate, valuable antiques, and other objects found to be assets of the estate. Anyone who conducts an appraisal must be familiar with the property values in the subject property area.

Identifying and Securing Estate Assets

It’s essential to identify all estate assets as quickly as possible. These assets would include the following:

  • Real estate
  • Financial accounts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Motor vehicles
  • Anything else of value of the estate

Assets should be secured and included in the inventory of the estate when filed with the court. If a complete and accurate list isn’t made, beneficiaries may bring issues to light far down the road and cause problems for everyone involved.

Examining All Legal Documents

Estate planning and probate documents are filled with complicated legal language. An attorney understands these documents and can determine whether they are valid and were properly executed. Furthermore, it is not unheard of for beneficiaries to fake legal documents, especially when dealing with money or a large estate.

A probate lawyer should sift through all legal documents and help you understand them before proceeding with the probate process.

Overview of The Probate Process in Kansas City, MO

The probate process in Missouri involves many steps. In addition to the actions that loved ones or the estate administrator must take, you may be required to appear in court hearings. It’s always best to attend conferences and hearings with an attorney. Your attorney can help you understand what the court is requesting and comply with all legal requirements.

Taking Inventory of Assets

An estate representative must account for all assets and determine their value. This involves making lists of the following:

  • All Real property
  • Personal property
  • Bank accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Non-probate assets

The court will want to know about all assets that the deceased owned. Your attorney can help you complete the appropriate Missouri forms and file them with the court.

Notifying Creditors

In Missouri, creditors must be notified when someone dies. Known creditors can be served via mail, and unknown creditors are automatically notified through a newspaper publication. Creditors have six months from the first publication date or when they receive their notice to respond and make a claim.

Paying All Claims and Expenses Against the Estate

If creditors respond with outstanding debts that the court orders must be paid, then the estate must first use assets to pay those debts.

Determining the Remaining Assets in Estate After Payments

Any assets remaining after paying creditors will be distributed according to estate documents or Missouri decedent’s estate law.

Creating Final Account of Claims and Closing the Probate Process

To close the probate process, the court ensures all claims have been paid, and then the personal representative can distribute the remaining property. The personal representative must file an accounting with the court annually and at the loss of the estate. That accounting must verify that debts and taxes have been paid and indicate when the distribution has occurred.

When Can You Avoid Probate in Missouri?

The probate process in Missouri can be lengthy and costly. Without an attorney, the process can be even more complicated. To avoid the hassle, you can take steps to avoid or minimize the probate process after you pass away.

Create a Living Trust

A living trust can be created for any asset you own, including but not limited to:

  • Real estate
  • Bank accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Life insurance policies

A living trust requires creating a trust agreement that explains how the assets titled in the trust are to be handled and distributed by the trustee. A trustee must be appointed by the person establishing the trust. Because this individual will be responsible for all tasks related to the administration of the trust, he or she should be someone known and trusted by the person setting up the trust.

In most living trusts, the person creating the trust will also serve as the initial trustee and name a successor trustee who will take over when that person passes away or is unable to act.

How Will Ownership Be Transferred Before and After Death?

You must transfer ownership of your property to the trustee of the trust, and the property will be controlled by terms established in the trust documents. Upon death, the successor trustee will take control, administer the trust, and transfer assets to the beneficiaries as directed by the trust agreement.

Joint Ownership

Two people may own property jointly with the “right of survivorship,” and the possession of that property will transfer to the survivor when one of them dies. When a person who is a joint owner of a property with rights of survivorship dies, probate is not necessary if the other joint owner is still alive.

For example, suppose a husband and a wife own a home together as joint owners with rights of survivorship. When one of them dies, the house will be solely owned by the surviving spouse without the need for probate.

Two Types of Joint Ownership

There are two types of joint ownership in Missouri: joint tenancy and tenancy by the entirety.

Joint tenancy – The joint ownership of property automatically passes to the surviving owners when one owner dies.

Joint tenancy works well for couples, whether they are married or not, who own real estate, motor vehicles, bank accounts, and other valuable property. All joint tenants must own an equal share.

Tenancy by the entirety – Only allowed for married couples in Missouri; this enables couples to hold equal ownership in a property and survivorship rights. Each spouse owns 100%.

Simplified Probate Procedures

Even if probate must occur, if your loved one had a “small estate,” then it might qualify for simplified probate procedures in Missouri. Estates worth $40,000 or less may be eligible. To go through the simplified probate process, you must submit a written request to the court. All debts must still be paid, and other beneficiaries must be notified.