Title to a decedent’s property transfers immediately to the heirs upon death — subject to the administration of the decedent’s estate. The personal representative, by the grant of letters testamentary or letters of administration, is authorized to take possession and control of all property owned by the decedent and distribute it accordingly.
The #1 question people have with respect to probate is when are the assets distributed — that is, when can the heirs take full possessory interest of the property without the probate court’s supervision. The answer to that question is complicated. It could take a few months to in excess of a year.
Missouri does, however, allow partial distributions of a probate estate. A partial distribution is for all intents and purposes an advance distribution. An heir/distributee must usually petition the court for such distribution. Under supervised administration, a partial distribution requires an order of the court. Notice and a hearing may or may not be required by the court.
Although partial distribution may be made, it is not without its risks. If a partial distribution is made in error, then the personal representative will be liable to the person who should have been entitled to the property. Moreover, if the partial distribution is made during the period in which creditors may make a claim on the estate, then the property distributed may be subject to creditor rights.