What is Small Estate Probate?

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Small estate probate
KS and MO Attorney Kyle E Krull

Written by Kyle Krull

Attorney & Counsellor at Law Kyle Krull is president of the Law Offices of Kyle E. Krull, P.A., an Estate Planning Law Firm located in Overland Park, KS. Estate Planning Attorney Kyle Krull has provided continuing education instruction to attorneys, accountants, and financial professionals at local, state, and national programs.

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POSTED ON: May 30, 2024

Strategic planning can qualify an estate for small estate probate.

Small estate probate can simplify estate asset transfers.

Probate can be a complicated process.

It is most complex and frustrating for those with no estate plan.

When this happens, the courts must appoint administrators (and guardians for any orphaned minor children) and distribute the estate according to state intestate succession laws.

This can be slow and expensive as heirs and creditors must be identified and notified before transferring anything.

Estate planning with an experienced estate planning attorney is the most important way to create a more efficient and effective probate process.

According to a recent Nolo article titled “Small Estate Probate Shortcuts: Why Even Large Estates May Qualify,” some strategies for simplifying small estate probate may also work with larger estates.

Some assets are excluded from small estate probate calculations.

Some states do not include real estate located in a different state when calculating whether an estate qualifies for small estate probate.

What Is Small Estate Probate?

Small estate probate provides a more streamlined legal procedure for the distribution of personal assets.

As a result, heirs will receive assets more quickly than is typical with traditional probate.

States have their own rules governing the criteria for what may qualify as a small estate for these probate proceedings.

Often, certain assets are excluded from the calculation of the estate value.

One should work with an experienced estate planning attorney when navigating these nuances.

Can Large Estates Qualify as Small?

The answer depends on the state.

Certain larger estates will qualify for small estate probate.


Some states exempt specific asset types from the calculation of total estate value.

These types may include jointly owned property, real estate in other states, and assets in payable-on-death (POD) accounts.

What does this mean?

Estates worth hundreds of thousands may qualify for small estate probate.

Can Your Estate Benefit from Small Estate Proceedings?

States do not have uniform thresholds and exclusions for estate planning.

For example, the small estate threshold in California is $184,500 but excludes payable-on-death accounts, vehicles, and property passed directly to a surviving spouse.

You should work with an experienced estate planning attorney in your state of residence to see if strategic planning and asset management would bring your estate into the small estate threshold.

Why Is Small Estate Probate Beneficial?

Specific benefits of small estate probate are simplicity, speed, and cost.

With less paperwork and federal complexities, executors and beneficiaries will find probate for small estates far simpler.

Due to this simplicity, probate for small estates is faster, so beneficiaries may receive inheritances more quickly.

The speed and simplicity lead to lower court costs and legal fees.

Planning for Small Estate Probate

Addressing how beneficiaries are designated, how assets are titled, and whether a trust is used can impact small estate probate because certain asset classifications are exempt from the small estate threshold.

Small Estate Probate in Kansas and Missouri

If no real estate is otherwise subject to probate, the Kansas Small Estate ceiling was raised from $40,000 to $75,000, effective July 1, 2023.

Good news!

No attorney and no judicial approval is required to process a Kansas Small Estate Affidavit.

But the news gets even better.

The Kansas Judicial Council website offers a Kansas Small Estate Affidavit for consumer download, preparation, and use.

In addition, it is so common for motor vehicles to be subject to probate that the Kansas Department of Revenue has a fillable PDF Kansas Small Estate Affidavit to transfer motor vehicles titled with Kansas tags.

Missouri is a different matter.

The Show Me State offers a more complex Small Estate process, requiring representation by a Missouri-admitted attorney, judicial approval (requiring judicial approval), and only a $40,000 threshold.

What are Key Small Estate Takeaways?

Small estate probate reduces the time, cost, and complexity of probate proceedings.

Because states have their own exclusions and thresholds when calculating the value of the estate subject to probate, some larger estates may qualify for small estate probate and its cost and time benefits.

Qualifying and preparing for small estate probate requires planning and proper asset management.

In conclusion, probate avoidance and small estate probate are both ideal for families and individuals tasked with settling an estate of an individual.

To create a plan to reduce the stress on your loved ones after you die, work with an experienced estate planning attorney.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. You should contact an attorney for advice concerning any particular issue or problem. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between Harvest Law KC and the reader.

Reference: Nolo “Small Estate Probate Shortcuts: Why Even Large Estates May Qualify

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