When it comes to planning for the future, no time is better than the present. Death is one of life's few certainties, and when the time comes, it's important to have a plan in place to make sure your wishes are carried out. Whether you're single or married with children, setting up an estate plan can help ensure that every last detail is taken care of when you're gone. That's why I've been working with clients across Jackson County and western Missouri to help them prepare for the future with estate plans that fit their unique needs. Having a professional working for you that understands the various laws surrounding estate taxes, wills, probate, and trusts can help tremendously when the time comes to handle your estate.

If you don't set up a will or estate plan, then your estate could be subjected to the process of probate. Probate is the legal process that occurs after a person dies without a valid will. Typically, if a person has a valid will, then their property will be distributed according to the terms stipulated by the will. If no valid will exists, then Missouri probate laws will dictate how the decedent's assets will be distributed. Probate may not always be required, as it will often depend on what assets are in the estate of the deceased at the time of death.

What happens during the probate process?

In the state of Missouri, probate cases are handled by the local county circuit court's probate division. The process of administering the estate can vary depending on the details of the deceased individual's estate. For example, if the decedent's estate is small enough, Missouri probate laws may allow you to skip probate altogether and use a simplified process. If not, you'll likely be required to go through the probate process in court. Generally speaking, small estates are defined as an estate of $40,000 or less.



What assets go through probate?

Probate will be necessary to distribute various assets when a person dies with property in their name, or with rights to receive property. Some examples of assets that are required to go through probate include:

  • Bank accounts in the decedent's name with no co-owner and no beneficiary designation.

  • Stocks and bonds in the decedent's name.

  • A home or property that is individually owned by the decedent.

  • Tangible possessions such as clothing, furniture, jewelry, and cars registered in the decedent's name only.

Many of these items can skip the process of probate entirely if they are jointly owned by the decedent and another living individual. For example, any home or property with multiple names on the title in Missouri are presumed to be jointly owned with rights of survivorship, and as such, will pass to the other owner upon death.

Don't Wait. Set up your own estate plan today.

At the end of the day, many of these complexities can be avoided if you take the time to outline a valid will with specific directives on how your estate should be handled after your death. Missouri will laws require you to simply be of 18 years of age and of sound mind when you draft your will. The will must also be attested by two or more competent witnesses, who will be required to subscribe their names to the will. Once these requirements are met, you will be able to select the beneficiaries, executor, and trustees of your estate. You can even designate the guardians for your children, should the children be left without a parent.

All of these decisions can prove vital when it comes to executing your last wishes. It's never too late to set up an estate plan, and the process can be made relatively simple with an experienced estate planning attorney working for you. If you are looking for help with the process of probate, or you simply wish to set up an estate plan, contact the Michael W. Hanna Law Office today. We'll help you plan for a better future.


It’s never too early or too late to begin making plans for your future. If you or someone you know is in need of an experienced probate and estate planning attorney, call the Michael W. Hanna Law Office today. I’ll gladly walk you through the process and make sure the needs of you and your family are taken care of. Call today for a free consultation.