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On a person’s death, all property in the decedent’s sole name is protected by Missouri law which defines all the heirs and the respective distributions. To carry out that protection, the law requires use of the Probate Court. If the total value of the property exceeds $40,000.00, an attorney is required, to open up the Probate Case. Then the case is administered, involving at the minimum the collection of the assets, review of claims and any necessary challenges, waiting at least six months for claims to be filed, and the reduction of the total available to heirs by personal representative fees, attorneys fees and court costs.

If the only assets, however, are bank accounts and real estate, AND the person is
prepared to have them distributed to named heirs outright on the person’s death, then the entire probate process and related costs can be avoided as follows:

1. Joint bank accounts. Of course the surviving party becomes owner of the account automatically. On that survivor’s death, probate becomes an issue. Instead the person has the ownership of the account changed to a “TOD” or transfer on death account, naming the beneficiary who is to get ownership on that person’s death. Of course multiple beneficiaries can be named but it is best to name them jointly. And that is regardless of value. On the death of that person, the beneficiaries merely provide proof of identification to the bank and
automatically become the new owners. For multiple accounts at the same or different banks, the same change can be made. This method can be used to provide one beneficiary with a larger
balance than another. No probate is required.

2. The Beneficiary Deed. Like the “TOD” bank account, this particular deed,
authorized by Missouri law, allows similar treatment for real estate, regardless of its value.
An attorney will prepare the deed, naming the beneficiary to be designated by the client, and has the deed recorded. On the client’s death, the beneficiary records the necessary document giving notice of the death, and automatically becomes the new owner No probate is required.


Use of this Web Site and review of this Article does not create an attorney-client
relationship. The law and its application by the courts is constantly evolving and changing.
As with all memoranda in these archives, the discussion of the law is for general
informational purposes, is in general summary form, is not to be taken as a definitive guide,
and should not be relied upon to determine all fact situations. Each set of facts must be
examined separately with the current case and statutory law analyzed and applied accordingly.


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