A probate estate must be opened in the county of the decedent’s domicile within one (1) year after the decedent’s death. This usually means that an applicant must apply for Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration within that time and administer the estate consistent with the Will’s directives and/or with the statutory intestacy scheme.
What happens when a probate estate is not opened up within this one (1) year period? Is the property just forever owned by the decedent? In such cases, a Petition to determine heirship is the appropriate procedure per 473.663, RSMo:
If a person has died leaving property or any interest in property in this state and if no administration has been commenced on the estate of such decedent in this state within one year after the date of decedent’s death [and if no will has been timely presented for probate] any person claiming an interest in such property as heir or through an heir may file a petition in the probate division of the circuit court which would be of proper venue for the administration of the estate of such decedent to determine the heirs of the decedent at the date of the decedent’s death and their respective interests or interests as heirs in the estate.
The Petition needs to contain a number of things: (1) the name and last address of the decedent (Courts will also generally require a certified copy of the death certificate) ; (2) the names, addresses, and relationships of all heirs of the decedent; and (3) a description of the property of the decedent which is the subject of the action.
Unlike a traditional estate administration, the Court is required to immediately set the matter for hearing. At the hearing the Court determines who the heirs are and what their ownership interest is in the estate. As such, this process is faster from start to finish than a typical probate proceeding.
Perfecting title to the property is then the next step. Typically, a certified copy of the Court’s heirship determination is required to show third-parties that title is to be transferred. For instance, the judgment would need to be presented to the county recover of deeds to successfully transfer/deed title of real estate owned by the decedent to heir(s).
Contact us with questions relating to probate administration, petitions to determine heirship, or probate questions generally.