In Missouri the Circuit Court’s Probate Division oversees the distribution of assets after a death. If there is a will, assets are distributed accordingly, after debts are paid. If there is no will, Missouri’s intestacy laws are applied. Generally, a personal representative is appointed to administer the estate—and needs to be bonded. Here’s a helpful breakdown on probate, personal representatives and bonds.
Personal Representatives and Bonds Explained
It’s often incorrectly assumed that when there is a will, probate can be avoided. As
Parks & Jones explain: “Probate is a court-driven process, and you must go through probate whether or not there is a will.” Via letters of administration (alternatively referred to as letters testamentary), the probate court appoints a Personal Representative. The Elster Law Office explains:
The Personal Representative is the individual charged with administering a probate estate…The Personal Representative owes a fiduciary duty to the individuals interested in the estate. In light of that fiduciary duty, the Personal Representative has several responsibilities, including, without limitation, to render an accurate accounting of the estate and to diligently evaluate all claims made against the estate. A Personal Representative can be removed from office when, among other things, he/she fails to discharge his/her official duties or wastes or mismanages the estate.
Typically, for the protection of heirs and creditors of the estate, a Personal Representative is required to post a bond “with sufficient security, in an amount fixed by the judge or clerk for the protection of interested parties.” The Elster Law Office notes: “More often than not, in the City of Saint Louis and surrounding counties, the amount of the bond is usually equivalent to the amount of the personal property in the estate. Real estate is often not considered because there is little risk that real property can be mismanaged. The bond can usually be either cash or surety and, as the statute states, can be paid for out of the estate’s funds.”
You can learn more about the role of personal representative bonds in protecting the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries right here. Although obtaining a personal representative bond can sometimes be time consuming, Colonial Surety makes it easy and speedy for court appointed fiduciaries in Missouri and every state. As a direct, national provider of personal representative bonds, Colonial writes bonds that meet the specific requirements of probate courts in each state. Uniquely, Colonial offers instant and digital personal representative bonds (which are also sometimes referred to as estate or probate bonds).
The steps to obtaining a personal representative bond with Colonial are easy: get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even from your phone while in probate court.
Obtain a Personal Representative Bond Here.
Good To Know: Avoiding Probate?
Probate can take time, depending on the size and complexity of the estate, claims to be settled and so on. Since assets cannot be distributed until the probate process is complete, avoiding probate is sometimes a priority of families during estate planning. Parks & Jones offer these examples of ways to plan for assets to be more expediently passed on to loved ones:
- Living trust. A living trust is a trust you set up while you’re alive. The assets contained in the trust go to your beneficiaries on your death, without having to go through probate.
- Jointly owned property. When property is jointly owned, and one of the joint owners dies, the other joint owner or owners get ownership of the property. This is done automatically, so you don’t have to put jointly owned property through the probate process in order to transfer ownership.
- Transfer-on-death (TOD) or payable-on-death (POD). TOD or POD documents let you transfer certain types of property to a named beneficiary on your death. For example, with the proper forms or deeds, such as a beneficiary deed for real estate, you can name a TOD or POD beneficiary for real property, stocks and bonds, and your motor vehicle.
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Founded in 1930, Colonial Surety Company is a direct writer of surety bonds and insurance products. Colonial is rated “A Excellent” by A.M. Best Company, U.S. Treasury listed, and licensed for business everywhere in the USA.