Probate court is the venue by which disputes over the administration of an estate are resolved. When two or more sides cannot resolve the dispute, the probate judge will enter an order and judgment consistent with Missouri probate law after reviewing all evidence. One party will always be disappointed with the decision — and sometimes both parties are disappointed. Such disputes can be extremely costly because of the due diligence that is required for the litigation. In light of this, settlements are often reach to avoid the aggravation and expense of a drawn out fight.
Missouri law provides a statutory procedure wherein a private agreement between the parties can be approved by the probate court in RSMo 473.085:
(1) The terms of the compromise shall be set forth in an agreement in writing which shall be executed by all competent persons and parents acting for any minor child having beneficial interests or having claims which will or may be affected by the compromise. Execution is not required by any person whose identity cannot be ascertained or whose whereabouts are unknown and cannot reasonably be ascertained;
(2) Any interested person, including a personal representative or trustee, may then submit the agreement to the court for its approval and for execution by the personal representative, the trustee of every affected testamentary trust, and other fiduciaries and representatives;
(3) After notice to all interested persons or their representatives, including the personal representative of the estate and all affected trustees of trusts, the court in which the controversy is pending, if it finds that the contest or controversy is in good faith and that the effect of the agreement upon the interests of persons represented by fiduciaries or other representatives is just and reasonable, shall make an order approving the agreement and directing all fiduciaries over which it has jurisdiction to execute the agreement. Minor children represented only by their parents may be bound only if their parents join with other competent persons in execution of the compromise. Upon the making of the order and the execution of the agreement, all further disposition of the estate is in accordance with the terms of the agreement.
Experience suggests that Judges are extremely receptive to these types of agreements, so long as they are reasonable and executed in good faith. Most litigants and individuals often prefer reaching a decision in which you have control, rather than leaving the decision entirely in the hands of a third-party Judge. As such, it is important to discuss with the other side whether a compromise can be reached before proceeding in a contested fashion.
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