Probate is the court process that your property and possessions go through after you pass away. It includes distributing these assets per your will. In Missouri, probate cases can remain open for up to 12 months. As a result, loved ones cannot access the assets until the court confirms that you legally owned them. Having a will is not enough to avoid probate, and this time-consuming, tedious process can become more tangled if your beneficiaries contest the will. Fortunately, some estate planning tools that can help you avoid probate, expediting the distribution of property to your heirs.

  1. According to Nerd Wallet, you can gift property while you are still alive if structured properly. Therefore, it does not go to probate. This is particularly helpful if you have a large estate, as the federal government only taxes estates worth more the $5.45 million. By reducing the value of your estate before your death, the more your family saves on probate costs.
  2. You can convert personal accounts and IRAs to pay-on-death accounts by completing a form that designates your beneficiary. You may also complete the same process for vehicles. Missouri also has transfer on death deeds for real estate holdings.
  3. A revocable living trust allows for property distribution by your trustee to family members. Not only does it make the transfer of assets faster than probate would allow, but it can also help your beneficiaries save on inheritance taxes.
  4. Establish joint ownership of property. When you die, it automatically goes to the surviving owner. There are several ways you can do this:
    • Community property
    • Joint tenancy
    • Tenancy by the entirety
  1. Small estate laws established by the state may help you avoid a complex probate process. What you can and cannot do may depend on the size of your estate and type of property.

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