Many Missouri residents die with either just a will or without any estate planning documents at all. When this happens, their estates must go through the probate process. Probate is handled publicly through the applicable court, and the proceedings can be very expensive and drawn-out.
There are simple steps people can take in order to avoid probate for their estates. They can set up a revocable living trust. With this type of trust, the assets held by the trust can then be passed directly to the named trust beneficiaries outside of the probate process. Establishing transfer on death provisions for accounts such as bank and retirement accounts is another good idea. With this, people fill out a form naming the beneficiary of them, and after they die, the balances are then distributed to them.
People can pass their real property directly to others by establishing joint ownership. This can be accomplished by changing the deed to real property to either a joint tenancy or a tenancy by the entirety with the party with whom it is to be shared. If the estate is anticipated to be larger than the federal estate tax exclusion amount, which for 2016 is $5.45 million, it may be advisable to take advantage of the $14,000 individual annual gift exclusion in order to reduce the size of the estate.
Estate planning attorneys can often suggest additional methods of probate avoidance. People may then help save their families the costs of the probate process and can help ensure that their families receive their inheritances in a much more expeditious manner.