Does a small estate have to go through probate?

My ex-husband died and we had 3 minor children. He owed the state $29,000 in back taxes and they filed a lein. However, when he died, he was in a state paid assisted living facility. He was on SSI and to live there he could not have more than $1,000 in assets. He had an old car which doesn’t run, some furniture, kitchen goods and bed. Many items the kids want for the memories attached. He had no Will. Does this still have to go through probate? Will the state take it? He had no cash, no bank account and no real estate.

Asked on November 5, 2011 under Estate Planning, Missouri


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes the estate must be probated. However, in MO, if a decedent’s estate is valued at less than $40,000, a small estate certificate may be obtained 30 days after the decedent’s death without going through the full probate process. Any distributee can do this by filing an affidavit promising to use the decedent’s assets to pay debts and distribute the property according to law. Publication notice is required unless the estate is valued below $15,000. There are certain other filings that may be needed for surviving spouses if any, and/or minor children, as well as creditors, depending on the amount of the estate.

As for the $1,000 in assests, this stays in the estate since it is under the legal limit for assests allowed by the state.

For further information you can contact the probate court in the county in which your ex-husband died.

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