Probate Shortcuts in Missouri

Save time and money when you wrap up an estate in Missouri.

Updated by , Attorney

The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Missouri offers a probate shortcut for "small estates." If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, your loved ones can use a procedure called a "small estate proceeding" to transfer your property more quickly and with less hassle.

When Can You Use a Small Estate Proceeding in Missouri?

You can use a small estate proceeding in Missouri if:

  • the value of the entire estate (all of the property the deceased person left behind) does not exceed $40,000
  • 30 days have passed since the death, and
  • no application for letters testamentary or administration has been granted or is pending.

Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.097.

Filing a Small Estate Affidavit in Missouri

Below is an overview of Missouri's small estate procedure.

Filing the Affidavit to Establish Title of Distributee

To open the small estate proceeding, you'll need to file an Affidavit to Establish Title of Distributee (here's a sample). You can file this document only if you are the personal representative of the estate, or if you are an heir.

This affidavit must include the following attachments:

  • a will, if there is one
  • the death certificate
  • an itemized description of all property of the deceased person, as well as the names and addresses of those currently possession the property
  • names, addresses, and relationship of the people entitled to the property, and
  • a list of creditors and amounts owed, if necessary to bring the value of the estate down below $40,000.

Paying Fees and Surety Bonds

You'll need to pay some fees when filing the affidavit. These might include:

  • The fee to file the affidavit (around $70)
  • A fee to probate the will, if there is one (around $35), and
  • A publication fee for a newspaper to publish a notice to creditors of the deceased (required if the assets are between $15,000 and $40,000).

In addition, the court requires either:

  • a bond that covers the value of all property in the estate (held, essentially as insurance, during the process), or
  • a waiver of the bond, which must be signed by every person who is entitled to receive property.

Collecting Property

After filing the documents discussed above, the personal representative or heir simply presents the affidavit to the person or institution holding the property—for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account. The personal representative will usually also need to provide a certified copy of the death certificate. After that, the person or institution transfers the property.

For More Information

For more help handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo). For an introduction to how you can plan your estate to help your survivors, try Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).

For more on Missouri estate planning issues, see our section on Missouri Estate Planning.

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