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Filing a Small Estate Affidavit in Missouri

Importance Of Estate Planning

When a Missouri resident dies leaving only a modest estate, the personal representative may file a small estate affidavit.

What Is a Small Estate Affidavit?

In Missouri, a small estate comprises property valued at $40,000 or less (after debts are paid) when the owner passes on.

As a matter of policy, the state of Missouri does not want to have county Probate Courts filled with small cases, so they have made special procedures for small estates so that such cases can be handled more quickly, affordably, and efficiently. Small estates get express-line treatment.

The affiant (the person who submits the affidavit) is typically a family member—a legal heir under the state distribution laws, or a named beneficiary in the will. 

The probate court will review the small estate affidavit. Upon approval, the court will issue a certified order, allowing for the efficient collection and distribution of assets.

Is Probate Required for a Small Estate?

By filing the affidavit, the affiant can avoid full, formal probate. With a simplified probate process, the typical small estate usually takes about two months to close. In contrast, regular probate takes no less than six months, often taking a year or more to complete.

Unless the value of the small estate’s assets is less than $15,000, publication in the newspaper is required, which your attorney can take care of.   Once the case is complete, the affiant can gather and/or liquidate the assets and divide and/or distribute the assets among the beneficiaries, which is done outside of Court supervision.

If any of the assets that make up the small estate have loans or liens against them, the affiant will need to see that such liens are paid before distribution of the asset(s) to the heirs, or the heirs may inherit such assets subject to the still existing liens.  Distribution occurs according to the decedent’s will—or to heirs under state law, if there is no will.

How Do You File a Small Estate Affidavit?

Once the small estate affidavit is drafted and signed in front of a notary, it must be filed with the Probate Court in the county of the residence of the deceased person. This would be Greene County, for example,  if the person died in Springfield, Ash Grove, Fair Grove, Strafford, Republic, or Willard, Missouri.

You will need a copy of the death certificate, and the Last Will and Testament; or if no will exists, you will state this in your pleadings.  You will also need the proper filing fees, and there are several other smaller formalities that will need to be observed. If there is real estate, you will need proof of the value of the home and the amount of any loan, and there are typically a few different methods that a county Probate Court will accept to prove valuation, which may include a letter from a realtor, an appraisal, or in some counties, the county tax appraisal.

Should a Lawyer Assist in a Small Estate Affidavit?

An attorney can guide you through the probate process and make sure your small estate affidavit meets all legal requirements—a process that could include such things as:

  • Admitting a Last Will and Testament into evidence in the Probate Court, if there is a Will.
  • Identifying the legal heirs of the deceased party, and locating them. 
  • Identifying what assets need to be probated, and which do not. 
  • Obtaining a bond that insures the value of the estate, or a bond waiver.
  • Advice on paying the deceased person’s funeral and burial expenses. 
  • Referral to a CPA or tax professional regarding payment of taxes and addressing tax issues.
  • Ensuring that the notice to creditors appears in the newspaper for two consecutive weeks. 
  • Creating inventories, appraisals, and identification details for parties holding the assets. These assets can include bank accounts, stocks, and insurance policy information, as well as vehicles, gold, jewels, and coins, and safe deposit boxes.  Small estates may include real estate.
  • Creating a list of beneficiaries’ names, addresses, and other identifying details, and relationship to the decedent, and the facts establishing them as beneficiaries to specified assets.
  • Overseeing the disposition of co-owned real property, and real property that will pass to beneficiaries. This starts with the retrieval of the property’s full legal description, current valuation, and mortgage information, if any.

Finally, the task involves liquidating property as needed to distribute value among multiple beneficiaries. If the deceased person left no will, any assets remaining after debts are paid must reach the appropriate heirs under state law.

Are There Other Ways to Probate Small Estates?

Yes.  If there is a small amount of assets “stuck” in the name of the decedent, there are other probate avenues to think about. Surviving spouses and children can explore other probate procedures such as the Refusal of Letters by the surviving spouse or children under the Missouri Statutes.  There is also a Refusal of Letters in Favor of a Creditor, if the decedent owed you money..

Our firm can counsel you whether the small estate affidavit applies to your situation, and whether it is indeed the best way to proceed under the circumstances. We also can advise our clients of all the documents that will be necessary to gather, and make sure all filing requirements are met.

Even Small Estates Are Challenging. Call on Us for Help.

Our Springfield, Missouri law firm guides clients through all types of probate cases, including the small estate affidavit process. Contact us today to get started.

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  • Avatar für Wendy Whippo

    Wendy Whippo

    April 6, 2023 - 8:36 pm

    I am in need of two small estate claim affidavits. Our local electric co-op has checks for my father and grandfather who are both deceased , its a patronage and retirement payouts . I am wondering how much of a hassle it is and the
    cost and time ect….
    Thank you

    Wendy Whippo

    • Avatar für Joe Piatchek

      Joe Piatchek

      April 10, 2023 - 10:23 am

      Would be happy to speak with you, give you an idea how much effort and cost this would be. Please call me, Joe at 417-882-5858

  • Avatar für Tracie Jackson

    Tracie Jackson

    April 18, 2023 - 8:18 am

    Can I file a Missouri small estate affidavit without a lawyer if the amount is only $3000 in assets??

    • Avatar für Joe Piatchek

      Joe Piatchek

      April 19, 2023 - 10:31 am

      Tracie: You should be able to do so. However, I find that the various counties, and the clerks found in those counties, have a wide array of ways they handle such items, and various levels of helpfulness, ranging from extremely helpful, to “you need to get an attorney, we can’t give you legal advice”. So you can certainly try, and if it doesn’t go well, you are welcome to call. Thanks and good luck.

  • Avatar für Robin Gaud

    Robin Gaud

    May 2, 2023 - 2:40 pm

    Does a small estate affidavit need to be filed by family members? My boyfriend lived with me since 2015 and his siblings are both out of state.

    • Avatar für Joe Piatchek

      Joe Piatchek

      May 11, 2023 - 7:12 pm

      Robin, generally the answer is YES. You are welcome to call me to discuss. Joe, 417-882-5858

  • Avatar für Don Hill

    Don Hill

    August 16, 2023 - 2:05 pm

    My youngest brother passed away last December. I was his POA until his passing. He had no will. He owned a small property in Kingsville, MO in Johnson County with a very old beat up mobile home on it. As far as I know, he doesn’t have any liens. I had all his mail transferred to my home in Arkansas after his passing and have watched for any lien notices.
    His assets are minimal. He had two older Harley motorcycles, one of which I don’t think he ever registered and the other had a lien to Mazuma Credit Union. The lien has been paid off but the credit union will not send the title to me. He also has a $6,200.00 retirement fund from Infasource at Voya Financial and no one can locate a beneficiary.
    Can you advise us on how we should proceed? His girlfriend lives in the mobile home and as far as we are concerned, she can have the property. We don’t want it.
    I don’t want to spend a bunch of money in probate court if at all possible.
    Thanks so much

    • Avatar für Joe Piatchek

      Joe Piatchek

      August 21, 2023 - 5:28 pm

      Don: I would be happy to speak with you, but think it would be better to talk privately. I am sending you an email; or feel free to call me anytime. Thanks, Joe

  • Avatar für Kathy

    Kathy

    September 17, 2023 - 12:47 pm

    My ex husband passed away a year ago February. He was in a nursing home since 2003. He has one surviving son and a son who proceeded him in death, who has one grandchild. My ex and my name are still on the property. Our disabled son has been living in the house his whole life. I have paid insurance, electric and taxes since 2003. Can I quick claim the property over to my son and granddaughter since my name is on the title. Then do a small state affidavit. There are no leans on the place.
    Thanks
    Kathy

    • Avatar für Joe Piatchek

      Joe Piatchek

      September 17, 2023 - 1:54 pm

      Kathy, It sounds to me like your ex’s 1/2 interest in the property will need to be dealt with to get it out of his name, into the name of his legal heirs. Contact me at 418-882-5858 if you need assistance. Thanks, Joe

  • Avatar für Marie

    Marie

    September 21, 2023 - 11:07 am

    My husband passed away in January of 2021. He had left me beneficiary on everything, well I just recently received a call from a fidelity where he had some stock, that he didn’t have a beneficiary, they need a small estate affidavit, it’s $4400. He has 2 daughters, do I have to add them as the heirs?

    • Avatar für Joe Piatchek

      Joe Piatchek

      September 22, 2023 - 4:53 pm

      Marie: The answer would likely depend on whether these two daughters also belong to you, or are not your daughters. Additionally, there are other methods that may very well be better than a small estate. I would be happy to advise you on such options if you want to call me at 417-882-5858. Thanks, Joe

  • Avatar für Samm

    Samm

    November 11, 2023 - 12:52 pm

    Does Greene county, MO require an attorney in order to file a small estate affidavit? I’ve read that St. Louis county does not allow you to file one without an attorney, but I haven’t been able to find a clear answer for Greene county.

    Thanks

    • Avatar für Joe Piatchek

      Joe Piatchek

      November 12, 2023 - 7:41 am

      Samm: Over the years, in my experience they have given different answers at different times, ranging from “We cannot give you legal advice”, to “Sure, we can help”. You would need to call them and ask. If they are unable to help you, let me know. Thanks, Joe

  • Avatar für Selena hall

    Selena hall

    April 2, 2024 - 3:58 pm

    My dad passed January 9 2024 and has a banking account in the amount of a little bit over 6 thousand and I’m in need of a document that gonna name me the executor of his estate and said I need a lawyer

    • Avatar für Joe Piatchek

      Joe Piatchek

      April 3, 2024 - 8:04 am

      Selena, we would be happy to help, please call me at 417-882-5858. Thanks, Joe

  • Avatar für Shelly

    Shelly

    May 10, 2024 - 11:38 am

    A bank is asking for a small estates affidavit, do it have to be file with the court first or can i take it straight to bank with the death certificate?

    • Avatar für Joe Piatchek

      Joe Piatchek

      May 30, 2024 - 1:59 pm

      Shelly, Thanks for the comment. I am not sure I entirely understand what you are asking, but would be happy to talk to you on the phone about it. Generally a small estate affidavit is filed with the Court, then approved by the Judge, then it can be provided to a bank thereafter. Happy to discuss. You can reach me at (417) 882-5858, extension #3030. Thanks, Joe

  • Avatar für Pat Christopherson

    Pat Christopherson

    May 11, 2024 - 9:02 am

    I recently received a check in my deceased husband’s name for a Class Action Settlement. He passed away 6/25/2018. All property, i.e., our home, bank accounts, car, were jointly owned and no probate was filed. I was the sole beneficiary of his insurance policy. All documentation that I have indicating I am the surviving spouse was provided to the Settlement Coordinator but they are requesting legal documentation that I am the legally authorized representative to serve as the administrator of the estate or on his behalf. Can I get a Small Estate Affidavit so that I can get this almost $6000 check issued in my name. Thanks for your help.

    • Avatar für Joe Piatchek

      Joe Piatchek

      May 30, 2024 - 2:06 pm

      It has been a pleasure to assist you with this matter. Thank you for choosing the Piatchek Law firm.

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