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Small estates have shortened probate procedures

Probate is usually necessary if a person has died and left property in his or her name or if the deceased person held rights to receive property. However, in Missouri, small estates may qualify for a simplified process that bypasses regular probate procedures.

If applicable, the following small estate procedures may be more quickly and inexpensively managed than traditional probate proceedings.

Small Estates Affidavit

You can use the simplified small estate process in Missouri if the value of the entire estate, liens, debt, and encumbrances is $40,000 or less and it has been 30 days or more since the death of the decedent.

To use the simplified process, an executor can file a request with the probate court asking to use the procedure. If the court authorizes the executor to distribute assets, the settlement process can take less than 6 months.

Spouse's Refusal

Another way to streamline probate proceedings is to request that the court grant an order of refusal of letter of administration. This can be granted by the court to a surviving spouse or children if the decedent's estate is less than the cost of one year's worth of maintenance (financial allowance).

Each Missouri county may have a different way of determining how much this maintenance amount would be.

Creditors' Refusal

If there is not a surviving spouse or child(ren) and the value of the decedent's estate is $15,000 or less, creditors can also file a "refusal of letters" to pay their bills.

Any person who paid the funeral expenses or debts of the decedent could be considered a creditor.

The creditor must post bond for less than the value of the estate on the conditions that the creditor will:

  • Pay the debts of the decedent
  • Distribute the balance(s) to those who are entitled to it by law

The regular probate process can last a minimum of six months and requires inheritors to publish notice to creditors, file inventory and sort through a series of other legal and financial documents.

These are just a few of the guiding principles that must be met to qualify for a simplified probate procedure in Missouri.

To learn more about the purpose of probate or whether you qualify for a refusal of letters, talk to an estate planning attorney. A lawyer can help you determine the worth of a decedent's assets and advise you on further Missouri intestacy laws.

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