In Missouri, the person who is responsible for managing the estate of a deceased person during probate and estate administration is called the personal representative. Other terms for the role of the personal representative are executor and administrator. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 472.010(26)
Estate administration is often referred to as the process during which a decedent’s affairs are settled. This amounts to using estate assets to resolve debts that the decedent left behind and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries and heirs. To manage the process, a personal representative is appointed by the Probate Division of the Circuit Court which serves as the probate court.
Executor Appointment in Missouri
There are rules as to whom the court will consider for the role of personal representative. If the testator identified in their will who they want to be the personal representative (executor) of their estate, then that is the person who typically petitions the court and the person who has first priority. Otherwise, the court will consider others who petition the court for the job based on a statutory order of priority. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.110. Whether the personal representative was named by the decedent in their will or not, before they have the authority to act on behalf of the estate, they must be formally appointed by the probate court and receive a document called “letters testamentary” or “letters of administration.” Letters are a document issued by the court that gives the person named therein authority as personal representative to stand in the place of the testator and manage their estate. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.123. The personal representative may have to post a bond.
Executor Duties and Responsibilities in Missouri
Once appointed, the personal representative has overall responsibility for completing tasks necessary to manage the decedent’s estate, pay estate debt and expenses, and distribute assets.
Take control of assets. While the personal representative has the right to take control of assets, they are generally limited to taking possession of personal property. They are only permitted to taking possession of real estate if they get permission from the probate court to do so. The court will only allow it if they find that it is necessary to preserve the property. The court will also allow it if it is necessary to use the real estate to pay claims. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.123.
Inventory and appraise the assets. The personal representative is required to inventory the estate. An inventory is a list of the property that is part of the estate, the date of death value of the property, and details of any encumbrances on the property. The inventory must be completed by the personal representative and filed with the court within 30 days of when they were appointed. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.233
Pay estate debts and expenses. The next major task of the personal representative is to pay estate debts. The personal representative is required to publish and mail notices to claimants that instruct on how to file a claim. It is critical that claimants understand the deadline for filing claims, which is 6 months of when the first notice was published. Any claim that is filed after the deadline will be denied as being time-barred. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.360. Another reason that claims may be denied is if the estate is short on assets. All claims are categorized and paid in order of priority. Claims that are categorized as low priority will not get paid if the estate runs out of money.
Distribute estate assets. The claims period is also relevant for asset distribution. Debt and expenses must be paid prior to asset distribution. Thus, the court will not give the personal representative permission to distribute assets until the 6-month claims period has expired. At that point the court will issue a decree authorizing final distribution that details how the assets are to distributed.
Executor compensation in Missouri
Personal representatives are not required to work for free. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.153. They are entitled to reasonable compensation based on the terms of the will. If there is no will or the personal representative renunciates the compensation plan in the will, compensation is based on the value of the personal property administered and of the proceeds of all real property sold under order of the court as follows:
- 5% on the first $5,000
- 4% on the next $20,000
- 3% on the next $75,000
- 2 ¾% on the next $300,000
- 2 ½% on the next $600,000
- 2% on all over $1,000,000
This schedule of compensation provides the statutory minimum. The personal representative can petition the court for more compensation.