Missouri Probate Court Procedures

By Heather Frances J.D.

Missouri’s probate courts are divisions of the circuit courts; they handle probate issues including the administration of a deceased person’s estate. They also handle guardianships and conservatorships even when those issues are not connected to an estate administration case. Each county has a probate court division.

Will Contests

When a testator – a person who makes a will – dies in Missouri, his will may be admitted to the appropriate probate court, and the court will determine whether the will is valid. For example, if the will was improperly signed or if the testator was forced to give valuable property to certain beneficiaries, the court could determine that it isn’t a valid will. Sometimes, determining if the will is valid requires the probate court to hear will contests, so the court may hold a hearing where the challenger of the will can present evidence about why the will is invalid. Once the court has heard all the evidence, it will decide the validity of the will.


If the will is valid, the probate court will usually appoint the executor nominated in the will. The executor is the person who administers the deceased person's estate by gathering his assets, paying his final debts and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the will. However, the probate court has authority to appoint someone other than the executor named in the will, especially if there is some reason why that executor should not serve. For example, if the named executor is now incapacitated, the court will appoint someone else as executor.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Intestate Succession

Even if a Missouri resident dies without a will, his estate will usually have to be administered by the probate court. The court will appoint someone to administer the estate, such as a spouse or close family member, and will apply Missouri’s laws of intestate succession to determine who inherits the deceased person’s property. The intestate succession laws apply only when someone dies without a valid will; they provide a hierarchy of heirs to inherit the deceased person's property, starting with close relatives like a spouse and continuing to more distant relatives. Missouri allows property to pass without going through probate when the value of the estate is less than $40,000, but the probate court is still involved in this "small estate" process. The court can require the administrator to post a bond and provide proof that he published a notice to creditors in the newspaper.


Missouri’s probate courts also hear guardianship cases. Guardianship is the process where a guardian is appointed to care for another person, called a ward, when the ward is judged to be incapacitated. Minors are deemed incapacitated because they are too young to be considered legally competent, but adults can be judged incapacitated, too. For example, an elderly adult with severe dementia may be judged by the probate court as incapacitated. Usually, these cases are brought to the court by the person who wishes to be appointed as that adult's guardian. After a hearing, if the person is indeed determined to be incapacitated, the probate court will appoint a guardian to care for that adult. The appointed guardian might not physically care for the ward, but he is responsible for providing care, such as hiring home care nurses for the incapacitated adult.


Conservatorship is similar to guardianship and it is also administered by the probate courts. As with guardianship cases, the court must first determine the person is incapacitated or unable to care for his finances before appointing a conservator. However, unlike guardianship, conservatorship only gives the conservator authority over the incapacitated person’s finances whereas a guardian can have authority over both the incapacitated person's care and finances.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
New York Estate Law When the Executor Dies


Related articles

Duties of the Executor of a Will in Texas

Wills often nominate an executor to administer the deceased’s estate after he dies. Once officially appointed by a Texas court, the executor must gather the assets of the deceased, notify his creditors and pay his debts and taxes. After all this is done, the executor distributes the deceased’s remaining assets to those entitled to receive them under the terms of the will.

When to Notify the Executor of a Will

Called a personal representative in some states, the executor named in a will assumes responsibility for administering the decedent's estate after formal appointment by the probate court. The executor should be notified as soon as possible after the death of the decedent. The role of executor entails great responsibility, as this person is entrusted with paying the decedent's debts and taxes, managing assets and ensuring those assets eventually pass to the rightful beneficiaries.

Do You Have to Probate a Will According to the Laws in the State of Texas?

When someone dies, Texas law requires that his probate assets be distributed to his heirs or beneficiaries, so probate — the court-supervised process of distributing a deceased person's assets — is required for most estates in Texas. Some assets, such as life insurance or jointly owned assets, are considered nonprobate assets that do not have to go through the probate process, but other assets like personal property and vehicles usually require probate.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help. Wills & Trusts

Related articles

Can a Non Lawyer Probate a Will?

The probate process usually does two things: it checks the validity of a will, and makes sure the instructions in the ...

Who Enforces the Execution of a Will?

In drafting your will, you may appoint a person to serve as your executor, also known as a personal representative. ...

The Difference in Probate & Family Court Guardianship

Probate court handles issues relating to estate administration and the distribution of assets after death. Under ...

How to Be the Executor of a Deceased Estate

When a person dies, someone must take on the responsibility of managing the decedent’s estate through the probate ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED