Probate is the legal process of settling a decedent’s estate and distributing his or her property to those entitled by the decedent’s will or by laws of intestate succession to receive it. In Missouri, the laws governing probate proceedings are codified at Chapters 472-475 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. The Probate Division of the Circuit Court in the county in which the decedent resided at the time of death has jurisdiction in the decedent’s estate.
Probate of a decedent’s will begins with delivery to the Circuit Court and application for grant of letters. The Court issues letters to the personal representative (PR), sometimes referred to as an executor or an administrator, depending on the testacy status of the decedent; testacy refers to whether the decedent left a valid will. This individual is personally in charge of administering the estate. Priority of appointment is given to the PR named in the will, and then to persons in descending order established by § 473.110, RSMo. Following the issue of letters, the Court publishes public notice to creditors to file their claims in the Court (§ 473.033, RSMo).
Generally, all property owned individually in the decedent’s name is subject to probate. Property held with a survivorship interest, in a trust, or with a beneficiary designation avoids probate. By law, a decedent’s property devolves upon death to the rightful heirs, though it is not immune to possession by the PR to fulfill his or her duties as the estate’s fiduciary (see §§ 473.260, 473.263, RSMo). The PR requires a court order to take possession, unless otherwise authorized by the decedent’s will.
The two options for probate in Missouri are supervised or independent administration. Independent administration must be granted by the decedent’s will. If not, all distributees must give consent to independent administration. An independent personal representative may act on the powers under § 473.810, RSMo without direct court supervision. Supervised administration, as the name suggests, requires court authorization of the PR’s actions, with more extensive requirements for giving notice to interested persons.
In the course of a PR’s duties of administration, he or she may need to sell or convey the decedent’s real property. In each case, the PR executes a personal representative’s deed, a type of fiduciary instrument named after the specific position of the grantor, as opposed to the warranty of title transferred to the grantee.
The PR has the authority to sell real property when a power of sale is conferred upon him or her by the decedent’s will (§ 473.457, RSMo). A personal representative’s deed pursuant to a power of sale requires a statement that the PR is authorized by virtue of independent administration, unless petition for supervised administration has been granted.
Alternately, § 473.460, RSMo addresses the purposes for which the PR may petition the Court for sale of real property. Deeds pursuant to an order for sale under § 473.460, RSMo require specific information regarding the PR’s appointment, publication of notice, and the order for sale.
Finally, once all claims on the estate are closed, the PR may make distributions of real property. The deed of distribution (under § 473.844, RSMo) is evidence of a distributee’s title to real estate. The deed of distribution is a quitclaim deed acting as evidence of the distributee’s title only, as the distributee, by function of law, succeeds to the decedent’s interest upon death.
All conveyances of real property require the granting party’s signature, made in the presence of a notary public. The deed should be recorded in the office of the recorder of deeds in the county or independent city where the subject property is located. PR deeds may require supporting documentation (such as a will, death certificate, order to sell real property, etc.) to complete the transaction. As stipulated by § 474.500, RSMo, for any real property devised by will, a copy of the will must be recorded in the office of the recorder wherein the property is situated. For applicable transfers, PRs must also file a report of sale of real estate in compliance with § 473.513, RSMo.
Related Missouri Probate Documents:
- Missouri Personal Representative Deed
- Missouri Personal Representative Deed of Sale Form
- Missouri Personal Representative Deed of Distribution Form
Consult an attorney licensed in the State of Missouri for completion of any legal forms, and with questions on Missouri probate procedures.