Probate is defined as a legal process through which a person's estate is settled after death. It includes validating the will, inventorying the deceased's property and appraising it, paying debts and taxes, and finally making sure the remaining property in the estate is distributed as designated in the will. In situations where there is no will, the estate will ultimately be distributed according to dictates of state law. Probate is required in Missouri in certain circumstances.

A probate lawyer is an asset when aspects of a deceased person's estate distribution require help with estate administration. The following factors that should influence your decision to hire a probate lawyer to help in handling estate distribution below. Call us with questions about your Missouri probate matter, including:

1. Estate Administration

2. Personal Representative Assistance

3. Breach of Fiduciary Duty Litigation

4. Wills and Trusts

5. Probate Litigation and Dispute Resolution

6. Small Estate Affidavits

Apart from situations when the will is challenged, the estate pays for the costs of probate and handles such expenses as mortgage payments, property taxes, maintenance fees, etc. through the process. If the estate is unable to pay for these costs, the court can order the sale of the property to cover expenses. The cost of hiring an attorney to help you through the probate process can depend on a number of factors including your state laws, the value of the estate, the presence of a will, type of property to be inherited, and the amount if discord in the family.

At West County Family Law we understand the confusion people face when confronted with the probate process. There are several questions that arise and attorneys Case & Rajnoha are here to help you understand the complex Missouri probate laws. Our first approach when working with perspective clients is to determine whether probate is necessary.Our first objective is to avoid probate when possible. When a loved one passes on, it's a difficult time to have to think about winding up his or her financial affairs. However, completing this task ahead of time can help you and your loved ones achieve peace of mind and confidence that their wishes will be honored.

Full Estate

If the value of the decedent's estate is more than $40,000.00, a full estate must be opened for a minimum of 6 months in order to give the decedent's creditors an opportunity to file a claim. If the decedent left a valid Last Will and Testament, it must be filed with the Probate Court within one year from the date of death. Otherwise, a different proceeding must be filed called a Determination of Heirs. If there is a Will, it likely waived the necessity of the filing of a probate bond which is based on the value of the assets in the estate.

Refusal of Letters to Creditor

When the property of the decedent is less than $15,000.00 and there is no surviving spouse or unmarried minor children, a creditor of the decedent may apply for payment from the estate. No attorney is required. The Probate Clerk will assist in the filing of the paperwork.

Small Estate Affidavit

If the value of a decedent's estate is less than $40,000.00 , in some instances you can avoid opening a full probate estate and instead file a Small Estate Affidavit. This requires that an interested party file a list your assets along with their values and the names of the heirs who are to receive it. The person filing the affidavit, called the Affiant, promises to pay all debts up to the amount in the small estate. The Affiant may need to post a bond to guarantee payment. Any balance must then be distributed to those named in the Will, if there is one, otherwise to the decedent's heirs at law. This avoids the 6-month waiting period for creditors to file their claims and is much less expensive than the full estate.


Without a will, Missouri law dictates how your real and personal property will be divided. A will makes clear your intentions about how remaining assets should be distributed, and it works to eliminate tension among your family members.

Whether you have a moderate number of assets or multi-million dollar estate, our attorneys work efficiently to help you achieve your unique goals. West County Family Law works with you to make the process as simple as possible for you. We will guide you through:

1. Review all assets/property to be included in the will​

2. Selecting a personal representative to handle distribution

3. Plan for advanced health care directives in case you become incapacitated

4. Choose a health care power of attorney to make health care decisions if in a medical emergency

5. Establish a guardianship or conservatorship for minor children or dependents with special needs

6. Work to ensure your wishes are carried out throughout the probate process


Missouri Trust Administration Attorneys.

Many people seek to avoid the probate process for many reasons, not the least of which is to save their families from the hassle. If you wish to avoid probate, a knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you explore your options. Attorneys Case & Rajnoha have more than 65 years of experience helping clients in and around Ballwin, Missouri, with estate planning and administration. Whether setting up a trust or gifting large assets, we seek to help clients choose the best option for their unique situation.

Avoiding Probate Through Trust Agreements

Trusts and living trusts are similar to wills in that they dictate how your property will be distributed upon your passing. Instead of going through probate, however, you select a trustee to distribute the property outside of court. There are many different types of trusts, depending on your unique situation. We work in close consultation with you to help you make informed decisions about:

1. How best to distribute property

2. Choosing an honest and fair-minded trustee

3. Your options for setting up a guardianship or conservatorship for dependents

4. Possible tax advantages of different trusts

Other concerns you may have about your estate

A trust often lets you keep control of your finances and assets throughout your lifetime. It also keeps your estate transactions private, as all probate proceedings are made public once they are finalized. They also often save on probate court fees.

Other Non-Probate Transfers

Our lawyers can also help you transfer property through other measures, such as pay or transfer on death designations for financial accounts, cars, boats and other possessions with titles. We also have experience handling beneficiary deeds for real estate you wish to bestow.

Whatever your needs, we advise you on what would best to financially benefit you and your intended beneficiaries. Our firm is known for the thorough, efficient and personal dedication we bring to each case we handle. In the event of a will contest, we work quickly to resolve issues using our knowledge of estate planning laws. We will consult with family members and the courts to determine the best possible outcome.

Experienced Service and Legal Counsel

Our goal at West County Family Law is to provide the highest quality of experience, service and legal counsel. With more than 65 years of experience, attorneys Case & Rajnoha are capable of handling many types of legal matters. Founded in 1975, West County Family Law's trademark has been prompt, personal attention. Our success has been our dedication to our clients and protecting their best interests and rights. Our clients deserve to be well-represented, with quality legal services provided by a dedicated team of attorneys and paralegals. We pride ourselves in our personal service by making sure we are available for our client throughout the legal process.

We're Here to Help You

We seek to help you through the legal problem confronting you. The first step is an easy one: call us for a free telephone consultation at (636) 861-1111 to speak with our Ballwin family and criminal law attorneys. You can also contact us online.

We accept Visa and MasterCard.

West County Family Law is located in Ballwin, Missouri, and serves the cities of St. Louis, Chesterfield, Fenton, Valley Park, Clayton, Creve Coeur, Kirkwood, Des Peres, Webster Groves, Manchester, Eureka, Hillsboro, Maryland Heights, Town and Country, Ellisville, Frontenac, Wildwood, Ladue and Crestwood. We also serve other communities in St. Louis County, Jefferson County, St. Charles County, West County and South County.