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Understanding Small Estate Affidavits in Missouri Probate

Wed 3 Jul, by on Probate

Understanding Small Estate Affidavits in Missouri Probate


Dealing with the probate process can be a daunting task, especially during an already challenging time of loss. However, for small estates, Missouri offers a simplified probate process known as the Small Estate Affidavit. This procedure can significantly ease the administrative burden on surviving family members and expedite the distribution of assets. This blog post will delve into what a Small Estate Affidavit is, when it can be used, and the steps involved in utilizing it in Missouri.

What is a Small Estate Affidavit?

A Small Estate Affidavit is a legal document that allows for the transfer of a deceased person’s assets without the need for a formal probate process. In Missouri, this affidavit can be used if the total value of the deceased’s estate is $40,000 or less.

When Can a Small Estate Affidavit Be Used?

To qualify for a Small Estate Affidavit in Missouri, several conditions must be met:

  1. Estate Value: The total value of the estate must not exceed $40,000 (debts such as paid funeral bills can lower the total amount).
  2. Time Passed: At least 30 days must have passed since the death of the decedent.
  3. No Pending Petition for Letters: There must be no pending application or petition for the appointment of a personal representative.
  4. Debts and Taxes: All debts and taxes of the decedent must be paid or will be paid before the ultimate distribution.

Steps to Using a Small Estate Affidavit

Gather Necessary Information

  • Obtain the death certificate of the deceased.
  • Compile a detailed list of all assets and their estimated values.
  • Identify and list all known debts and creditors.

Complete the Affidavit (*A lot of courts in Missouri will NOT LET YOU COMPLETE A SMALL ESTATE AFFIDAVIT WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY*)

  • Use the prescribed form provided by the Missouri courts or obtain it from a legal resources website.
  • Include all required information, such as the decedent’s name, date of death, and a detailed description of the assets to be transferred.
  • Affix your signature in the presence of a notary public to ensure the affidavit is legally binding.

File the Affidavit

  • File the completed affidavit with the probate court in the county where the decedent resided. There may be a small filing fee associated with this process.

Distribute the Assets

  • Once the affidavit is filed and accepted by the court, you can proceed with distributing the assets according to the decedent’s will or, if there is no will, according to Missouri’s intestate succession laws.
  • Provide a copy of the affidavit to any institutions holding the deceased’s assets, such as banks or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), to facilitate the transfer of assets.

Benefits of Using a Small Estate Affidavit

  • Simplicity: This process is much simpler and quicker than formal probate, saving time and reducing legal expenses.
  • Cost-Effective: It avoids the higher costs associated with a formal probate process.
  • Expedited Access: Allows beneficiaries to access the decedent’s assets more quickly.

Potential Challenges and Considerations

While a Small Estate Affidavit simplifies the probate process, there are potential challenges to consider:

  • Eligibility: Not all estates qualify, and it’s crucial to ensure that the estate’s total value does not exceed the $40,000 threshold.
  • Debt Payment: All debts and taxes must be addressed before/while using the affidavit.
  • Accuracy: Ensuring the affidavit is correctly completed and filed is essential to avoid delays or legal issues.


The Small Estate Affidavit is a valuable tool in Missouri probate, offering a streamlined and cost-effective method for transferring assets of smaller estates. Understanding the eligibility criteria and following the correct procedures can significantly ease the probate process during a difficult time. If you are unsure about any aspect of using a Small Estate Affidavit, it may be beneficial to consult with an attorney who specializes in probate law to ensure a smooth and legally compliant transfer of assets.

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