Missouri’s probate code has two principal goals: (1) provide a speedy method for administering a decedent’s estate and (2) establish a time after which claims are forever barred against an estate. North v. Hawkinson, 324 S.W.2d 733, 736 (Mo. 1959). In furtherance of these objectives, Missouri rigidly applies a general one (1) year limitation period for claims involving a decedent under Section 473.360, RSMo.
Similarly, Missouri law only permits a period of one (1) year from the date of death for an estate to be opened for a decedent. Section 473.020, RSMo. If more than one year has passed, then heirs typically have to resort to other probate procedures, like a small estate affidavit or petition for determination of heirship. Because there is a strict one (1) year period to accomplish many things, it is extremely important to ensure that if the claim/litigation involves a decedent’s estate it is timely filed. If not, the claim could be lost or greatly compromised. As it stands, there is only one statutory exception to the one year (1) limitation period for the opening of an estate and it relates to claims for “lost chance of survival or recovery.” Section 537.021, RSMo. Moreover, probate courts do have equitable powers to enforce their orders, judgements an decress, conceivably granting probate courts the ability to extend the limitations period when special circumstances exist. In re Myers Estate, 376 S.W.2d 219, 224 (Mo. 1964). However, it is best not to rely on this limited statutory exception or a general plea to the Court’s equitable powers.