Many people know they need a will, but not everyone knows what a will is or what it does. A will, which is often called a "last will and testament" is a legal document that leaves your assets to the people you have designated in the document. Many people believe having a will avoids probate, however, in order to be valid, all wills in Missouri must be admitted to the probate court within one year from the date of death. Once the will is admitted to probate, the personal representative, with the assistance of his or her attorney, will begin the process of probating the will.
Most people believe that the primary purpose of a will is to provide instructions regarding the distribution of their assets to their beneficiaries. Individuals typically execute wills in order to make sure their assets go to the individuals or charities they have selected. Some wills, known as pour-over wills, function as a safety-net and name your living trust as the beneficiary in case you have neglected to title assets in your trust during your lifetime. Pour-over wills, like all wills go to probate.
There are many other provisions that are typically found in a will. Some common provisions typically found in a will include, but are not limited to:
- Naming the person responsible for carrying out the instructions contained in your will, which is your personal representative;
- Whether your personal representative can be compensated for his or her time;
- Whether your personal representative can serve independently and without probate court supervision;
- Naming guardians for minor children; and
- Instructions on paying debts and taxes.
Wills and Probate Court
It is important to understand that a will must be presented to the probate court within one year from the date of death of the decedent. The probate court judge will either admit the will to probate court or reject the will. The probate court judge will determine the validity of the document.
If you do not have a will and you pass away with assets titled in your name, the probate court will distribute your assets to your heirs as directed by the laws of intestate succession in State of Missouri.
If you have any questions regarding the probate process or wills, feel free to view one of our videos. Please feel free to contact one of our experience attorneys at Gregory E. Robinson, P.C., at 636 532-9500 to assist you with your estate planning needs.