Has a loved one died? Then that individual’s estate will likely need to go through probate. Probate is necessary primarily when people don’t plan appropriately, or don’t understand their planning. Every week it seems we are forced to explain to someone that Wills don’t avoid probate — in fact, Wills are designed for probate! One of the best definitions of a Will is “a set of instructions to the Probate Court”.

When probate is necessary, our job is to make it as smooth and quick as possible. We will do our best to help you understand what is happening and why. We have found that much of the frustration with probate matters stems from not knowing why, how long, how much, etc.

From the small details to the big picture, we are happy to tackle all areas of your case so that you can remain stress and worry free. You hire us when you want to be free of the stress and anxiety associated with Probate court.

The Missouri Probate Code provides a flexible system of administration. Attorney Mark McMullin will guide you through the process and help you find a solution that provides the appropriate legal services for the assets to be administered. We tailor our services to your situation


Probate is the process by which a court determines whether a person’s Last Will and Testament is valid. Many people also use the term to refer to the process of administering someone’s estate after the validity of the Will has been proven. Administering the estate generally includes gathering and taking control of estate assets, paying any debts owed by the estate, paying any taxes that are due, and distributing assets to the beneficiaries of the estate.


The probate division of the circuit court in the county where the deceased individual lived is responsible for supervising the administration of the deceased individual’s estate. For Cape Girardeau County residents, Probate Court is at the Common Pleas Courthouse located at 44 N Lorimier St, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701.


Probate assets are those assets belonging to a deceased person (“decedent”) which pass to the beneficiaries named in the decedent’s Will (or, if there is no Will, to the decedent’s heirs as determined by law) as part of the probate process. These assets do not have a survivorship feature or beneficiary designation to control who receives the property when the decedent dies. Some examples of probate assets are:

  • personal property
  • bank or brokerage accounts that have no beneficiary designation or that name the decedent’s estate as the beneficiary
  • proceeds from a life insurance policy owned by the decedent on his or her life that are payable to the decedent’s estate
  • Real property owned entirely by the decedent or the decedent’s interest in real property as a tenant in common

Non-probate assets are those assets that do have a survivorship feature or a beneficiary designation. Upon a decedent’s death, his or her non-probate assets pass directly to the joint owner or the designated beneficiary and are not subject to the probate process. However, non-probate assets can become probate assets if there is no named beneficiary or the beneficiary is the decedent’s estate. Some examples of non-probate assets are:

  • property owned by the decedent in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship
  • bank or brokerage accounts with POD (payable on death) or TOD (transfer on death) beneficiaries
  • retirement benefits with beneficiary designations
  • proceeds from a life insurance policy on the decedent’s life
  • property owned by the decedent’s revocable living trust

Non-probate assets are distributed outside of probate. This can be very helpful in a variety of circumstances: (1) if you own property in multiple states, (2) if your beneficiaries need to have access to your assets immediately upon your death, or (3) if you have reason to think someone might contest your Will.


Independent administration is the most popular form of probate in Missouri.The reason? Independent probate administration removes the hassle associated with court supervised probate administration.Let me explain…

Supervised administration is the more formal method. The court plays an active role in approving each transaction. Supervised probate administration is most often associated with the “nightmare of probate.” Supervised administration usually takes longer, is much more expensive, and requires considerably more work by the attorney because issues are often contested.

Independent probate administration is a simpler method in which the number of duties and procedures is reduced and the court’s role is diminished. With independent probate administration, an interested party, usually a loved one, petitions the court to be your personal representative. With the help of a probate attorney like me, this personal representative settles your estate.


Attorney Mark McMullin has years of experience in probate and the complicated process that can be involved. We are happy to meet with you to provide an overview of the probate process so you can have clear expectations regarding thelength, expense, and anticipated outcomes of a probate. Attorney Mark McMullin is also an advocate for alternatives to probate and will see if any alternatives are available for you or your family.

Know more

Missouri probate vocabulary
Missouri probate FAQ