Any property owned by a decedent upon and after his/her death is generally subject to probate. The simplest ways to avoid probate is to create beneficiary designations or contractual assignments to all of your property. Though it is a bit of a “blunt instrument” that can cause undesirable consequences, it has the effect of changing ownership of the property from the decedent to the beneficiary upon the decedent’s death. A more desirable way to avoid probate, however, is to create a Revocable Living Trust. In the long run, it is less costly than a probate proceeding.
But, supposing that these things are not done and a probate case needs to be taken, how long will it take? It depends on the size of the estate. A small estate can take a few weeks or few months (See — Probate: Small Estate Administration Exception). However, should the assets of a probate proceeding exceed $40,000.00 in value, the case will take anywhere from a few months to in excess of a year. Much of this has to do with the slow pace in which the courts operate in general, but a lot of it also has to do with the fact that compliance with the Missouri Probate Code can be no small chore, particularly if things get contested (See — Missouri Will Contests) or there multiple creditors involved.
If you are in need of assistance with a probate matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.