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Missouri Probate and Estate Tax Laws

Probate is the legal process that occurs after a person (the "decedent") dies, with or without a valid will. If the decedent dies with a valid will, then the property is distributed according to the will. If a person dies without a will, then Missouri's probate law dictates how the decedent's assets are distributed. Probate isn't always required when someone dies, depending on what assets are in the estate.

Types of Estate Administration

Probate cases in Missouri are handled at the local county circuit court in the probate division. The process of administering the estate will vary depending on whether the decedent had a valid will and the type of probate administration the decedent's estate will have to go through. In Missouri, if a decedent’s estate is small enough, the law allows you to skip probate altogether and use a simplified process. Otherwise, you'll need to go through a formal probate process in court, either "independent" or "supervised" depending on the circumstances.

Estate Tax

Missouri law based a state estate or death tax on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estate tax credit. As the IRS stopped allowing state death tax credits after January 1, 2005, Missouri's estate tax is no longer imposed. If, however, the IRS reinstates a state-based estate tax credit, than the Missouri estate tax and tax return will again be required.

Code Sections

Missouri Revised Statutes Chapters 472, 473, and 474

Types of Estate Administration

  • Small Estates – doesn’t require probate
    • Small Estates Affidavit - For estates of $40,000 or less and 30 days or more since the death, an attorney’s assistance isn’t required.
    • Spouse's Refusal – Surviving spouses and the decedent’s unmarried minor children can get a support allowance based on their standard of living for one year after the decedent’s death. The spouse’s refusal is when the surviving spouse or the decedent's children ask that their allowances be paid from the estate, when the estate is worth less than the allowance(s).
    • Creditors' Refusal - When the estate value is less than $15,000, creditors can also file a "refusal of letters" and can try to reach these assets to pay their bills, when there's no surviving spouse or unmarried minor children.
  • Independent Administration – requires probate
    • A more informal estate administration, possible if designated by will or the beneficiaries agree to it
  • Supervised Administration – requires probate
    • A more formal estate administration where the court must approve many actions by the personal representative. This does increase the amount of time to settle an estate, but can be necessary if disagreements exist among the heirs.

What Assets Go Through Probate?

Probate is necessary when a person dies with property in his or her name or with rights to receive property. Examples of having property at death include:

  • Bank accounts in the decedent’s name with no co-owner and no beneficiary designation
  • A home or land that is owned by the decedent individually
  • A home or land that is co-owned as tenants in common (not with right of survivorship)
  • Stocks and bonds in the decedents name
  • Tangible possessions such as clothing, jewelry, household furniture, and cars registered in the decedent's name only

What Assets Skip Probate Entirely?

Some assets skip probate and go directly to the beneficiary or co-owner. For example:

Estate Taxes

Since 2005, Missouri doesn't have a separate state death tax or estate tax.




What Other Taxes Must be Paid?

The estate must file and pay all necessary state and federal taxes including:

  • The final income tax return of the deceased
  • Any real estate or personal property taxes owed by the deceased
  • Possibly an income tax return for the estate for income coming to the estate after death, if there's sufficient income
  • Possible death transfer taxes for probate assets transferred at death, such as life insurance, over a minimum amount that Congress sets

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources

Get Legal Help Understanding Missouri's Probate and Estate Tax Laws

Estate issues can involve a lot of complicated considerations, and some decisions can have costly tax consequences. Contact a local tax attorney who can help you get a better understanding of Missouri's probate and estate tax laws, and guide you through the estate planning process.

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