Have you ever wondered what happens to your stuff if you die without a Will? If so, you’re in the right place. If not, stick around, this is important to you too.
Did You Know?
If you die without a Will, the State of Missouri has you covered. Every resident of Missouri is subject to the “Intestate Succession” laws found in Chapter 474of the Missouri Probate Code.
Keep in mind, the Intestate provisions only apply to stuff that would otherwise pass through probate if you had a Will. There are many other ways to transfer property, other than through probate. We’ll mention a few of these options later.
Dying Without a Will in Missouri
It is commonly assumed that if you are married, all your assets pass directly to your spouse if you die. This assumption leads a lot of couples into a false sense of security. Intestate laws vary by state, and we recommend talking to a lawyer licensed in your state of residence. Under Missouri law, the division of your assets will depend on your current family situation. We’ve built a chart to demonstrate the most common scenarios. However, keep in mind this chart is not legal advice and there may be other factors may change the distributions.
So, what happens if you die without a will in Missouri:
|If you die with…||Your stuff goes to…|
|A spouse, but no children…||Your spouse|
|No spouse, but children…||Your children in equal shares|
|A spouse, and only children from this spouse…||Your spouse receives the first $20,000.00, plus ½ of your stuff; Your children equally split the other ½|
|A spouse, and a child(ren) from someone other than this spouse…||Your spouse receives ½ of your stuff; Your children (from this spouse and from others) equally spit the other ½|
|No spouse and no children, but, one or more parents and one or more siblings…||Your parents and siblings will equally split your stuff|
|No spouse, no children, and no parents, but, one or more siblings…||Your siblings will equally split your stuff|
|No spouse, no children, no siblings, but one or more parents…||Your parents will equally split your stuff|
|No spouse, no children, no siblings, and no parents…||Your grandparents, uncles, and aunts will equally split your stuff|
Special Rules if You Die Without a Will
Keep in mind, there are special rules that apply to Intestate Succession. For example, in order to inherit your stuff, the relative must outlive you by at least 120 hours. We refer to this as a survivorship period and often incorporate provisions in our Wills and Trusts to change the default rules. It serves as a safety net of sorts, and should be discussed with your lawyer.
Another issue that comes up are “half-blooded” relatives. Half-blooded relatives receive ½ of a full-blooded share. For example, imagine your parents also had your brothers Bob and John. However, your dad has a daughter Sue from a prior relationship. In this example, Sue is a “half-blooded heir” and would only inherit ½ of a full-blooded share. This distribution, assuming you have no spouse, no children, and no parents alive, would look like this: Bob and John take 2/5’s each, Sue takes 1/5th. For some folks, this may be in line with their desires, but it is an important distinction and should be discussed if you plan on giving to half-siblings.
Ways to Avoid These Results
Proper estate planning is the surest way to avoid the Intestate Succession laws of Missouri (or any state). Remember, there is no one-size fits all estate plan. You likely have your own unique goals, desires, and assets. Which means you should design a plan that fits your needs, not someone else’s.
Below is a list of some of the more common estate planning tools you can create to avoid Intestate Succession from dying without a Will. We’ve added links to other pages and articles addressing these tools, so you can explore on your own.
Transfer on Death Designations
Joint Ownership (with caution)
If you die without a Will, your assets that would normally pass through probate will go through the Intestate Succession process. There are ways to avoid, or at least minimize, this process. Your goals and wishes will guide your estate planning lawyer and his or her advice on which tools will best fit your needs. Always remember that some of these tools come with significant limitations, so staying in touch with your lawyer is highly recommended.
Please feel free to contact us if you have additional questions!