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Because formal probate estates tend to be an expensive, time-consuming, and complicated process, many people often seek alternative ways of distributing a decedent’s estate. Luckily, if a decedent has a small estate, a full probate estate is not required and can instead be distributed with a Small Estate Affidavit. In Missouri, an estate is considered a “small estate” when value of a decedent’s real and/or personal property totals less than $40,000.00 after debts are paid.
Process of a Small Estate
Typically, the Small Estate Affidavit process takes two to three months from start to finish. (Whereas, a formal probate estate takes a minimum of 6 months to close!) An affiant, the person filing the Small Estate Affidavit, must be either (a) the Personal Representative named in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament or (b) an heir to the decedent’s estate. Additionally, an affiant must wait at least 30 days from the decedent’s date of death before filing a Small Estate Affidavit in the county where the decedent last resided.
Once 30 days has passed and Small Estate case can be opened, the affiant must file the follow documents with the Court:
- Small Estate Affidavit
- Decedent’s Death Certificate
- Paid funeral bill
- Decedent’s obituary
- Mo HealthNet Release
- Original Last Will and Testament (if applicable)
Additionally, if the value of the decedent’s assets is between $15,000.00 and $40,000.00, a Notice to Creditors must be published in a local newspaper once a week for two consecutive weeks. While many courts take care of this step of the process themselves, this does require an additional fee when filing. If the small estate assets total under $15,000.00 no publication is needed.
In the Small Estate Affidavit, the affiant must list the real and/or personal property of the decedent to be distributed. These assets can include: bank accounts, stocks, bonds, Certificates of Deposit, paychecks, refund checks, vehicles, trailers, mobile homes, and the decedent’s home. Only assets titled in the decedent’s name alone should be included in the Small Estate Affidavit.
After the above-listed Small Estate documents are filed, the court must verify the title and value of the real and/or personal property listed in the affidavit. Some assets, such as vehicles and trailers, can be verified by title. Other personal property, such as bank accounts, will be verified by a Verification of Balance form sent by the court to the financial institutions listed. If real property is included in the affidavit, an appraisal, a county tax appraisal, or a letter from a realtor is required to verify the value.
Once all the property values are verified and publication is complete (if required), the court will issue a Certificate of Clerk. This document then allows the affiant to collect, sell, and distribute the decedent’s property to the decedent’s heirs or as designated in the Will.
Attorneys at Cline, Braddock & Basinger are ready to assist you in all types of probate matters, including the small estate affidavit process. It is our hope that you find these materials useful. When you are ready, contact out office to schedule a free consultation!