If your intention is to avoid probate completely, you must either:

1. Name a co-owner on the asset, who will then receive it by survivorship when you die; or

2. Put the property in a revocable or irrevocable trust; or

3. Name a beneficiary (and it should not be a minor child). Naming a minor as beneficiary DOES NOT avoid probate since it requires an extra step. The Probate Court must appoint a Conservator to receive property on behalf of the child until they reach adulthood, which is currently 18 years of age in Missouri. This can be expensive and cumbersome and is probably not what you intended.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the above. Consult an attorney for more detailed information.

There is a common misconception that if you write a Will in Missouri, you avoid probate court. This is simply not true.

Your Last Will and Testament must be filed and probated when you die unless your assets are in joint names with right of survivorship, in a trust, or are properly designated to be paid to a beneficiary or paid to someone upon your death. If your assets are solely in your name (no beneficiary or co-owner and not in a trust), a probate court must be involved.

Your Will is a document setting forth your wishes. It directs where you want your property to go when you die, (if there are no co-owners or beneficiaries to receive it and if it is not in a trust). It can also request the appointment of a guardian or trustee for your children, as well as many other things. Sometimes your Will MUST be probated in order to put into play these types of appointments.

So, if a guardianship or conservatorship is not needed and you simply are directing who is to receive your property upon your death, must the Will have to be administered by a court? It all comes down to how your assets are titled. Review the designation of ownership of all assets periodically, and whether that asset is designated to a new owner upon your death (POD, TOD for example). Doing this may avoid probate.

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.