MISSOURI PROBATE: THE SMALL ESTATE
If you are familiar with the term probate, you may know it almost as a vulgarity or a swear word, rather than the process by which a dead person’s assets are administered through the courts. The Missouri probate process, however, offers some relief in cases where the assets of the estate are limited. This is called the Small Estate Procedure and it offers a less complicated and streamlined process for administering an estate in Missouri.
There are a couple of qualifications that must be met in order to use the small estate procedure. First, this is generally only allowed when the total value of property is less than $40,000 (after debts are paid). Second, the small estate procedure is generally best for members of the decedent’s family other than the spouse or minor children, i.e. adult children and other relatives. Surviving spouses and minor children have better and even more efficient options available to them, most notably refusal of letters.
Other conditions must be met: thirty days must have elapsed since the person’s death and no application for letters testamentary or for administration or for refusal of letters is pending or has been granted. Additionally, a bond in an amount of not less than than the value of the personal property must be filed and the bond is conditioned upon payment of decedent’s debts and funeral and burial expenses, compliance with court orders regarding decedent’s estate; and delivery to the property persons any assets which the distributee is not entitled.
Any and all fees must be paid to the clerk of the court. Finally, where the estate is worth more than $15,000, notice must be published for creditors and such notice advises them that their claims against the estate are barred unless filed within one year of the decedent’s death.
The basis of the small estate procedure filing is an affidavit confirming certain information about the estate, the decedent and the people entitled to inherit.
All of this sounds overly complicated and it is for non-lawyers. However, an experienced probate attorney cannot only confirm that the small estate procedure can be utilized in a given situation but can put together all of the information necessary to do so.
The small estate procedure is cheaper to file, cheaper to hire an attorney to assist you with the process. It’s cheaper and best of all, allows for a quicker open and close of an estate versus a regular probate in Missouri, which cannot be closed for at least six months and 10 days after the death of a person.