TN 16 (12-14)
GN 02315.063 Missouri Small Estates
A. Policy for Missouri small estates
1. Missouri basic statutory provisions
Sections 473.090 through 473.107, Revised Statutes Missouri 1969, Vernon's Annotated Missouri Statutes, govern the administration of small estates in Missouri. MO. REV. STAT. §§ 473.090-473.107 (2014). Under these statutes, there are two general means by which small estates may be distributed without probate administration:
orders refusing letters of administration, and
affidavit by distributee.
2. Individuals who may be granted refusal of letters of administration
Pursuant to MO. REV. STAT. § 473.090:
A surviving spouse or unmarried minor children may be granted an order of refusal of letters of administration if the value of the decedent's estate (including Social Security benefits due) does not exceed the amount of statutorily exempt property and the allowance to a surviving spouse or to unmarried minor children provided by MO. REV. STAT. § 474.260. Missouri law places no maximum dollar value on these estates. An unmarried minor child or children may be granted an order of refusal of letters of administration if there is no surviving spouse, or if the probate court apportions a decedent’s estate among his or her surviving spouse and his or her unmarried minor child or children pursuant to MO. REV. STAT. § 473.095.
A creditor may be granted an order of refusal of letters of administration only if there is no surviving spouse and no surviving minor child or children, and if the value of the decedent's personal estate does not exceed $15,000.00 (including Social Security benefits due). The creditor must post bond in the sum of not less than the value of the estate, conditioned upon the creditor obligating himself (or herself) to pay, so far as the assets of the estate will permit, the debts of the decedent in the order of their preference, and to distribute the balance, if any, to the persons entitled to such balance under the law. A creditor includes any person who paid funeral expenses or debts of the decedent.
After the probate court enters the order of refusal of letters of administration, the surviving spouse, unmarried minor children, or creditor may collect and sue for all the personal property belonging to the estate. A surviving spouse or creditor may collect and sue for all the personal property belonging to the estate in the same manner and with the same effect as if the person had been appointed and qualified as executor or administrator of the estate; minor children may do so in the same manner and with the same effect as permitted by law for minors bringing suit. MO. REV. STAT. § 473.090.3.
3. Payment based on affidavit of distributees
Without awaiting the granting of letters testamentary or of administration, assets may be transferred to distributees of the decedent's estate if all the following conditions are met:
the value of the entire estate, less liens and encumbrances, does not exceed $40,000.00;
30 days have elapsed since the death of the decedent and no application for letters or for administration or for refusal of letters under MO. REV. STAT § 473.090 is pending or has been granted, or if such refusal has been granted and subsequently revoked;
a bond, in an amount not less than the value of the personal property, approved by the judge or clerk of the probate division is filed by the distributee making the affidavit conditioned upon payment of the debts of the decedent; and further conditioned that any part of the property to which the distributee is not entitled will be delivered to persons entitled to the property under law, unless the court finds that the filing of a bond is unnecessary; and
the payment of the fee required by statute and, if publication is required, payment of the cost of publication to the clerk of the probate division.
MO. REV. STAT. § 473.097.1 (2014). “Distributees” include “ . . . persons who are entitled to the real and personal property of a decedent under his will, under the statutes of intestate succession or who take as a surviving spouse under [MO. REV. STAT. §] 474.160, upon election to take against the will.” MO. REV. STAT. § 472.010.
NOTE: Payment to a distributee based on an affidavit results in good acquittance only if an affidavit and court clerk's certificate are presented that satisfy the numerous conditions stated in GN 02315.063A.3.i and GN 02315.063A.3.ii. in this section.
Contents of affidavit
The affidavit may be made by the person designated as personal representative under the will of the decedent, if a will has been presented for probate with the limitation periods specified in MO. REV. STAT. § 473.050, or by any distributee entitled to receive property of the decedent any time after 30 days after the decedent’s death. The affidavit shall set forth all of the following:
that the decedent left no will or, if the decedent left a will, the will was presented for probate within the limitation periods specified in MO. REV. STAT. § 473.050;
that all unpaid debts, claims or demands against the decedent or the decedent’s estate and all estate taxes due, if any, on the property transfers involved, have been or will be paid, except that any liability by the affiant for the payment of unpaid claims or demands shall be limited to the value of the property received;
an itemized description and valuation of the property of the decedent. As used in this subdivision, the phrase “property of the decedent” shall not include property which was held by the decedent as a tenant by the entirety or a joint tenant at the time of the decedent’s death;
the names and addresses of persons having possession of the property;
the names, addresses, and relationship to the decedent of the persons entitled to and who will receive the specific items of property remaining after payment of claims and debts of the decedent, included in the affidavit; and
the facts establishing the right to such specific items of property.
The clerk's certificate, endorsed on or annexed to the affidavit, must include the following:
the names and addresses of the persons entitled to the described property under the facts stated in the affidavit;
that the will of the decedent has been probated or that no will has been presented to the court; and
that all estate taxes on the property, if any are due, have been paid.
MO. REV. STAT. § 473.097. The person making payment, delivery, transfer, or issuance of personal property pursuant to the affidavit described above is discharged and released to the same extent as if made to an executor or administrator of the decedent, and is not required to see the application thereof or to inquire into the truth of any statement in the affidavit if made by any other person. MO. REV. STAT. § 473.100.
B. Procedure for affidavit and clerk’s certificate
If presented with an affidavit by a distributee, check the affidavit and certificate to be sure they agree as to the persons entitled to the property of the decedent. If not, deny request for the underpayment. Likewise, if the affidavit shows that the persons named therein are entitled to receive property under the laws of descent and distribution, but the certificate shows that a will has been filed or admitted to probate, deny the request.