Navigating Intestate Succession in Missouri: What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

If you're a resident of Missouri and you pass away without a will, you leave the distribution of your estate up to the state's intestacy laws. Here's an in-depth look at what happens to your assets under such circumstances.

1. What Does It Mean To Die Intestate?

Dying intestate means passing away without having a valid will in place. The state of Missouri has specific laws, known as intestate succession laws, that dictate how your estate will be distributed in the absence of a will.

2. How Does Intestate Succession Work in Missouri?

Missouri intestate laws follow a hierarchy of eligible heirs:

If you're survived by a spouse and children: Your surviving spouse inherits half of your estate, and your children share the remaining half equally.

If you're survived by a spouse but have no children or parents: Your spouse inherits everything.

If you're survived by a spouse and parents: Your spouse inherits the first $20,000 of your estate, plus half of the balance. Your parents receive the rest.

If you're survived by children but no spouse: Your children inherit everything, divided equally among them.

If you're survived by parents but have no spouse or children: Your parents inherit everything.

If you have no surviving close relatives, your estate goes to more distant relatives, according to the rules set by Missouri intestate laws.

3. What Happens to Jointly-Owned Property?

Property held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship automatically passes to the surviving owners when one owner dies and is not affected by Missouri intestate laws.

4. Probate Process Without a Will

Even without a will, your estate will likely have to go through probate, a court-supervised process of paying off debts and distributing the remaining assets to the heirs as per Missouri intestate laws. This can be time-consuming and expensive.

5. The Importance of Having a Will

A will allows you to control how your estate is distributed after your death, helping you to ensure your assets go to the people or causes you care most about. It also allows you to appoint a personal representative to manage your estate, and a guardian for your minor children, if necessary.

While it might be comforting to know that the state has a plan in place, Missouri's intestate succession laws may not distribute your assets according to your wishes. That's why having a comprehensive estate plan, including a will, is essential.

6. Conclusion

Dying without a will in Missouri means your estate will be divided according to the state's intestacy laws, which may not align with your personal wishes. To ensure your assets are distributed according to your desires, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to draft a comprehensive will.