Most people have probably heard of probate in the context of it being something they should avoid at all costs. However, not everyone is able to keep their end-of-life estate out of this legal process. Missouri residents who want to avoid probate should talk to their estate planning attorneys about how to accomplish their estate planning goals. This post though, will offer a brief explanation of what probate really is.

When a person dies all of their property is amassed into what is considered their estate. When a person has trusts, a will and other testamentary devices in place it may be very easy for their heirs and estate administrators to understand their intent for how their property should be distributed. Without these tools a probate court may be left to step in and see the decedent’s estate closed out.

Many things happen during the probate process. The decedent’s debts may be paid from the proceeds of their estate and any pending legal or financial claims that they may have will be resolved. The decedent’s property will be identified and distributed to their heirs, and any conflicts that those heirs may have over the distribution of the decedent’s assets may be resolved by the probate judge. At the end of the probate process all of a decedent’s liabilities are taken care of, their assets are given out and their estate is effectively closed.

Probate is a necessary element of the estate distribution process but it can also be time consuming and expensive. Most people do not want their estates to go into probate and therefore they make their own estate plans to provide clear instructions for how their end-of-life assets and wealth should be managed.