Updated on September 16th, 2023
A Missouri last will and testament specifies how the testator’s estate should be divided following their death. Through the document, they may name the estate’s beneficiaries and appoint a personal representative who will distribute the estate to them. A will may also establish other provisions to take effect after the testator’s death, such as instructions regarding the care of their family or funeral arrangements.
In Missouri, individuals over 18 years old and of sound mind may execute a will.
Holographic Wills – Handwritten wills must meet the same requirements as standard wills and be signed by two witnesses.
Revocation – A will is revoked if destroyed or if replaced by a new will.
Signing Requirements – A will is valid if signed by the testator and two competent witnesses. An interested witness may not inherit more than what they would receive if the testator had no will, unless there are two disinterested witnesses.
Probate Process in Missouri (8 steps)
If the personal representative does not file for probate within 20 days of the testator’s death, any interested party may petition the court to administer the estate. Furthermore, if an application for probate is not filed within one year of the testator’s death, it will be barred forever from probate.
- Court Filing
- Post Bond (If Applicable)
- Publish Notices
- Prepare Inventory and Settlements
- Notify Parties of Estate’s Closing
- Distribute to Beneficiaries
- Request Order of Discharge (If Applicable)
- Transfer Real Estate (If Applicable)
The following is meant to be a general overview of the probate process. It is recommended that executors/personal representatives consult with an attorney if they’re unsure of any step.
In Missouri, wills are probated through independent or supervised administration; this guide is only for independent administration, as it is more often used. In most cases, probate is carried out by the personal representative appointed by the testator.
Unless the personal representative is a member of the Missouri Bar, an attorney must be hired before filing for probate. To begin probate, the following must be submitted online or to the court clerk of the county where the decedent last resided:
- Application for Letters Testamentary – The document must include information regarding the decedent, their spouse, beneficiaries, estate, and the personal representative.
- Petition to Admit Will – This document petitions the court to admit the will into probate.
- Death Certificate – A copy of the decedent’s death certificate must be submitted.
- Last Will and Testament – The decedent’s will must be filed with the court.
- Filing Fee – All probate filings are subject to various fees.
Once the court approves the filings and admits the will into probate, they will issue a certificate of probate to the personal representative.
The personal representative must post bond before being issued Letters Testamentary, unless the requirement is waived by the will or the court. If applicable, a bond may be obtained via the following providers:
The bond must be signed by the personal representative and the surety, and presented to a court officer for acknowledgment.
Once the court issues the Letters of Testamentary, the clerk will publish a Notice of Letters and Notice to Creditors in a newspaper circulating in the county, as well as mail copies of the notices to beneficiaries., Publication costs must be covered by the personal representative with funds from the estate. Though not required, they may also deliver a copy of the Notice to the estate’s creditors.
The personal representative must prepare and file an Inventory within 30 days of their appointment. If necessary, an appraiser may be hired to ascertain the values of the decedent’s assets or property. Copies of the Inventory should be sent to interested persons at their request.
Additionally, the personal representative must file a Statement of Account with the court annually on the date the Letters Testamentary were issued until the administration is completed.
Within one year of being issued Letters Testamentary, the personal representative may close the estate by either filing a Statement of Account and schedule of proposed distribution or petitioning the court for an order of complete settlement.
At least 29 days before filing the Statement of Account, the personal representative must publish a Notice of Filing Petition for Complete Settlement for four weeks in a newspaper circulating in the county. The Notice, Inventory, Statement of Account, settlements, and distribution schedule must be sent to interested parties whose information is in the court filings.
The Notice informs that objections to the proposed distribution must be submitted within 20 days after the Statement of Account’s filing, and that the personal representative will be discharged six months after the fact. Proof of mailing the Notice and accompanying documents must also be filed with the court.
If six months and ten days from the personal representative’s appointment have passed and the estate’s expenses and claims have been settled, the Statement of Account may then be filed. The estate may then be distributed by the proposed schedule. A final settlement must be filed on the following court day after six months and ten days from the Notice of Letter’s first publication or as soon as practical after the administration’s completion.
If there is an objection, or if the personal representative petitions for an order of complete settlement, the court will audit the settlement, approve or direct distribution, and issue a Decree of Distribution. The estate may then be distributed, and the personal representative is discharged from any obligations and duties.
If the court audits the settlement, the personal representative must file receipts showing that the beneficiaries received property as outlined in the decree of distribution. The court will issue an order of discharge, and the personal representative will be released from their duties. However, suits may still be brought against the personal representative up until one year from their discharge, after which they will be barred.
If the estate includes real property, the personal representative must record a certified copy of the decree of distribution (if applicable), the will, and the deed (if any) in the recorder’s office in the county where the property is situated., The deed must then be delivered to the beneficiaries.
- § 474.310
- § 474.360
- § 474.400
- § 474.320
- § 474.330
- § 473.020
- § 473.050
- § 473.097(1)(1)
- § 473.787
- § 473.010
- § 473.017
- § 473.050
- Missouri eFiling
- § 473.043
- § 473.047
- § 473.157
- § 473.167
- § 473.783
- § 473.033
- § 483.580
- § 473.233
- § 473.793
- § 473.540
- § 473.843
- § 473.840
- § 473.837
- § 473.660
- Probate Procedures Manual
- § 473.617