St. Louis Inheritance Attorney
It’s never too early to prepare for what happens to your estate if you were to pass or become incapacitated. You want to be sure your family is taken care of, and your assets pass to them in the manner that you want them to. To ensure this happens, many people will go through estate planning with experienced advisors and estate lawyers. The estate planning process involves the creation of a will or trust that is executed after a person dies.
In these documents, there are explicit instructions that an executor or other designated party is responsible for upholding as they are acting in the best interests of the person who has passed. Executing the final wishes of someone who has passed can be a demanding job, but it needs to be done in accordance with those wishes and the law. When a will or trust is improperly managed or is manipulated in some way, there are legal ramifications that heirs and beneficiaries can take to right the wrongs. With the help of a knowledgeable and experienced probate attorney like the attorneys at Stange Law Firm, you can trust that your final wishes are carried out as you intended.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Inheritance?
The difficulty of losing a loved one is already a difficult process, and the expense of hiring a probate attorney to assist with settling the estate may seem debatable. For many, it is a questionable expense because the estate planning process has already bound the wishes of your loved one into law. However, that is a common misconception that leads many to make the crucial mistake of trying to navigate the probate system on their own. The benefits of an attorney far outweigh the complications that can arise without one.
Whether you are the loved one of the deceased, a beneficiary of the estate, or the designated person responsible for the final wishes, you are legally tasked with distributing the benefits that were bestowed in accordance with the law. If you fail to do so appropriately, you can be held liable for the mistakes. While the estate process may seem simple enough, there can be a number of reasons a probate attorney can be beneficial.
Common situations that could arise where the benefits of an attorney include:
- Asset distribution. This is the literal distribution of the deceased’s assets as outlined by the details of their planning documents. Even though the wishes of the deceased are legally bound, the individual tasked with overseeing the estate could improperly distribute assets or fail to distribute the assets in a timely manner. As a beneficiary, you then have the option of filing a claim against the individual and litigating the matter in probate court. One of the major questions that will be answered in this process is if the personal representative of the estate properly distributes all assets.
- Estate taxes. As with most parts of life, there are taxes associated with a person’s estate. This situation can be complicated and confusing. The state of Missouri is one of the few that do not impose taxes on estates and inheritances. However, there may be federal tax requirements that apply to the estate in question. The person charged with overseeing the estate is responsible for ensuring all taxes are paid, documented, and on time. Failure to do so could bring further complications to the settlement process.
- Paying or denying claims. Debts, as well as assets of the deceased, need to be addressed. There are certain debts that need to be paid from the estate and others that do not. If the person responsible for the estate fails to settle debts or improperly pays debts, it could impact the distribution to beneficiaries. This could also open the door for creditors to file claims against the estate.
- Proper documentation and accounting. The personal representative of the estate is required to record and file all documentation, disbursements, and activities associated with the estate. If they fail to do so, the heirs and beneficiaries can hold them legally responsible.
Not only can probate attorneys assist with overseeing the person responsible for the estate, but they can also protect against other beneficiaries as well. In some estate settlements, multiple beneficiaries believe they received an improper distribution or wish to contest the assets left to another. However, it is more than just saying the distributions are “unfair.” There must also be proof that grounds exist which will invalidate the wishes of the estate. In either a will or a trust, a beneficiary can contest its contents for any of the following reasons:
- Fraud. In some situations, a beneficiary could make false claims to the testator, the individual who created their final wishes for their death, which caused them to change their estate documentation to benefit the person who made the false statements.
- Undue influence. While making false claims could be considered an undue influence because it motivates the testator to change their final wishes, this is more about the circumstances that are created around the testator. For example, if a potential beneficiary or a person on their behalf isolates the testator in the months prior to their death, they could use that time to coerce or encourage the testator to change the parameters of their estate.
- Lack of testamentary capacity. A person who is estate planning must be of sound mind when they execute their estate planning. To do so, the testator must be aware of their assets and the value of their assets and have an understanding of how the assets will be divided upon their death.
If there are any improprieties against the estate that are caused by the person responsible for overseeing it or fraudulent or coercive influence by others, then there is a duty to hold them accountable for those errors. While receiving the benefits left by a loved one seems an easy process, there are many complications that can arise, and having an experienced probate attorney look through the documents of the estate can ensure that all assets are distributed fairly and according to the will.
How Much Does It Cost to Contest a Will in Missouri?
If you have made the decision to contest a will based on the above criteria, then you should speak with your attorney about the next steps. The process of contesting a will can take months. Your attorney will determine if you should proceed or not.
If you do proceed with the challenge, then the costs involved should be considered. On average, the retainer fees for an attorney range between $5,000 and $10,000. The additional costs involved are determined by the circumstances of your particular situation.
When you file a claim, the responsible party in charge of the will is going to represent the deceased. The fees for your representation are often paid out of pocket by you, which furthers the cost vs. benefit in your case. However, you may ask for reimbursement of fees from the estate if you are able to prove that your claim benefited the estate as a whole.
The dynamics of challenging a will mean that there are many moving parts and considerations. Your probate lawyer will best advise you on not only if you should proceed but what the best options are to do so.
How Much Do Lawyers Charge to Settle an Estate in Missouri?
There are four categories of fees to settle an estate in Missouri.
- Bond premium. This is a bond that is set aside for the person who will become the executor of the will. The costs of the bond can vary, and the executor can waive this as well.
- Publication. This is a formal notice to creditors that an estate has been opened and the amount of time in which they have to file a claim against the estate should they so choose.
- Court costs. Each type of probate case has a different cost associated with it. It is also variable depending on the size of the estate.
- Attorney fees. This is calculated on a percentage basis. These are the minimum amounts an attorney can receive. However, anything over these amounts must be approved by the court.
- 5 percent of the first $5,000
- 4 percent of the next $20,000
- 3 percent of the next $75,000
- 75 percent of the next $300,000
- 5 percent of the next $600,000
- 2 percent of everything more than a million
It is best to speak with an attorney to understand the fees associated with your situation.
St. Louis Probate Attorney
Reconciling the death of a loved one can be difficult for anyone. Honoring and remembering that person is always important to keep their memories alive. Helping those left behind by honoring their final wishes is an important part of the process. Whether you are in the planning phases of an estate, the executor of an estate, or you wish to challenge an estate, working with an experienced probate lawyer can make a huge difference to those dealing with the loss of a loved one. The talented team at Stange Law Firm has years of experience getting results. Contact our offices today, and we can schedule a consultation to help get you started with your case.
Greene County, St. Louis Office : 901 E. St. Louis, Suite 404, Springfield, Missouri 65806