Probate is the legal process through which your outstanding bills are paid and your property is distributed when you die based upon what your will says (if you have one) or what the law says (if you don’t).  Probate is the only way to legally transfer property that is solely titled in the name of a person who died (such as real estate, a car, bank accounts, etc.).

Generally, if a person dies and owns property in his or her individual name, the probate process requires that a personal representative (sometimes referred to as an executor or executrix) be appointed to open an estate in the probate court - usually in the county in which the deceased permanently resided at the time of death.  The personal representative must provide published notification of an individual’s death, file the deceased’s Will in court, make sure the deceased’s debts are paid, and ultimately determine who should receive any of the deceased’s remaining assets.  Probate allows a deceased’s beneficiaries to ultimately receive good and clear title to the deceased’s property.

Probate is a time consuming, expensive and public process.   Probate can also be avoided with proper legal planning.  If you are a current client for whom we provided estate planning services, we should have already planned for you to avoid probate.  However, if you or a loved one does not have an estate plan or a loved one of yours recently died with an estate plan that does not insulate them from probate, then it will be necessary to open and administer a probate estate. 

We welcome the opportunity to talk with you about the ways you can reduce or avoid probate and the time, cost and expense associated with probate.  We can assist you in determining whether your current estate plan will avoid the probate process.  Many people believe that by having a Will probate will be avoided.  This is not true.  Other people believe that a Revocable Living Trust avoids probate.  This is true IF the trust is funded, meaning your assets or property has been titled in the name of the trust.  Countless times we have talked to clients who have implemented a Revocable Living Trust, but have completely failed to fund the trust.  In a football analogy, this is the equivalent of moving the ball 99 yards only to fumble it on your opponent’s one yard line.

We can assist you and provide legal services to allow you to navigate the processes and procedures involved with probating an estate.  If a loved one of yours died, we can also make probate and estate administration easy for you and your family during this difficult time.

For more information on the probate process, please contact us for a free initial consultation or ask for our brochure, “Understanding the Basics of Probate.”


The Law Office of Richard C. Petrofsky assists clients with Estate and Gift Planning, Wills, Trusts, Charitable Planning, Special Needs Planning, Elder Law and Medicaid Planning, Estate and Family Planning for Same-Sex Couples and LGBT Individuals, Asset Protection Planning, Corporate and Business Planning and Tax Law and Planning in St. Louis, Missouri and surrounding areas.