Independent or Supervised Administration?

Estate planning is full of choices; some big, some small. On occasion, you’ll run into one of those choices that looks small–if you read over someone’s will, you might miss this choice–that could become big when it’s time to administer your estate. Today, we’re going to talk about one of those choices: independent administration or supervised administration?

Supervised administration, as the name suggests, involves the probate court reviewing and approving (or disapproving) many of the actions the personal representative takes in administering an estate. On the other hand, independent administration allows the personal representative to act without much input from the court.

Under Missouri law, supervised administration is the default choice. If you want independent administration, you’ve got to either authorize it in your will or all of the beneficiaries of the estate have to consent to it. If you absolutely don’t want independent administration, you can also prohibit independent administration in your will.

For most estates, independent administration will probably be fine. However, in some circumstances, supervised administration may be the better option:

  • Is there significant distrust among your beneficiaries? If your beneficiaries don’t trust each other or your personal representative, those issues aren’t going to vanish when you die–they’ll likely get worse. Supervised administration can help satisfy beneficiaries that everything is being done properly.
  • Do you trust your personal representative? If you actually answered “no” to this question, you may need a new personal representative. If that person is the best you can do for some reason (and I’d check again just to make sure), having the court supervise the administration could limit the risk of a poorly managed estate.
  • Is there likely to be a will contest? A contested will is handled with a supervised administration. If you do think your will may be contested, you may want to consider working with your estate planning attorney to reduce those risks.
  • Would your personal representative prefer court supervision? Sometimes personal representatives want to get the court’s approval for the actions they take. However, this may require a lot of time, trips to the courthouse, and money, and your personal representative should understand that.

For your personal representative, this choice could be very important in how easy or difficult it is to administer your estate. If you’re preparing an estate plan, it’s definitely a question worth bringing up.

Photo credit: Flickr user AJ Cann, licensed under