The assets -- money and property -- of a deceased Mississippi resident must go through probate to transfer those assets pursuant to his will’s instructions. If the person dies without a will -- called intestate -- then the laws of Mississippi intestacy govern how the assets are distributed. Probate can be an expensive process. In Mississippi, however, there are several alternatives to probate.
Small Estate Affidavit
Mississippi, like most states, has a simplified procedure for small estates. If an estate is worth less than $50,000, a decedent’s tangible personal property can be transferred by affidavit. This exception does not apply to real property like houses and land.
Muniment of Title
“Muniment of title” is another simplified alternative to full probate in Mississippi. If a person dies with a will that transfers real property in Mississippi, the will can be filed for probate as “muniment of title.” To do this, all beneficiaries listed in the will must sign a petition and present that petition to the chancery court. The personal property of the estate cannot be worth more than $10,000, and all debts and applicable taxes must be paid on the estate first.
Bank Account Transfer
Mississippi law allows individuals to transfer bank account assets without probate to designated individuals, such as spouses. The account, however, cannot exceed more than $12,500.
Joint ownership can help avoid probate for some, but typically not all, assets. A person can hold property as joint owner with another person with rights of survivorship. Under this arrangement, the property transfers automatically upon one of the joint owner’s death. Using joint ownership arrangements as part of the estate planning process for all assets in an estate is often, if not always, impractical or impossible. Therefore, joint ownership can help minimize the amount of assets that must go through probate, but does not avoid it all together.
To avoid probating a will, a person in Mississippi can draft and execute a living trust. A living trust is effective while a person is alive. In the trust, the asset holder usually appoints herself trustee and maintains control over her assets while she is alive. Upon death, the successor trustee distributes the estate according to the trust’s directions.