Losing a loved one is an emotional and challenging time for any family. Unfortunately, when someone passes away without a will, the situation can become even more complicated. In the state of Missouri, the laws of intestacy come into play, dictating how the deceased person’s assets will be distributed. In this article, we will explore what happens if someone dies without a will in Missouri and why having a comprehensive estate plan, including a will, is crucial. If you’re interested in learning more about estate planning and wills, be sure to register for our upcoming workshop at Polaris Estate Planning & Elder Law.
Intestacy Laws in Missouri
When an individual dies without a will, it is referred to as dying “intestate.” In such cases, the distribution of the deceased person’s assets is determined by the laws of intestacy. These laws are a set of default rules established by the state to guide the distribution of assets among surviving family members.
Distribution of Assets
In Missouri, if someone dies without a will and is survived by a spouse and children, the assets will generally be divided as follows:
- If there is a surviving spouse and no children or descendants: The entire estate passes to the surviving spouse.
- If there is a surviving spouse and children or descendants: The surviving spouse receives the first $20,000 plus one-half of the remaining estate, while the other half is divided equally among the children or descendants.
- If there is no surviving spouse, the assets will be distributed among the children or descendants. If there are no surviving children or descendants, the estate will pass to the deceased person’s parents, followed by siblings, and then to more distant relatives.
Dying without a will can lead to several complications:
- Probate Process: Without a will, the estate may need to go through a supervised probate, which is a longer and more expensive process. The probate court will appoint an administrator to oversee the distribution of assets according to the laws of intestacy.
- Disputes among Family Members: The absence of a will may lead to disagreements among family members about how the assets should be divided. This can strain relationships and result in costly legal battles.
- Unintended Beneficiaries: Without a will, the assets may pass to distant relatives or individuals who the deceased person did not intend to benefit. This can lead to the exclusion of close friends, charitable organizations, or other individuals the deceased person wished to provide for.
The Importance of a Will
Creating a will is essential to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes and to minimize potential conflicts and complications. A will allows you to:
- Designate Beneficiaries: A will enables you to specify who will receive your assets, including family members, friends, or charitable organizations.
- Appoint Guardians: If you have minor children, a will allows you to designate a guardian who will be responsible for their care and well-being.
- Name an Executor: You can appoint an executor in your will, someone you trust to administer your estate and ensure your wishes are carried out.
- Minimize Family Disputes: By clearly outlining your intentions in a will, you can help prevent conflicts and disagreements among your loved ones.
Consulting with an Estate Planning Attorney
To ensure your wishes are accurately reflected in your estate plan, including your will, it is crucial to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. An attorney can guide you through the process, help you understand the intricacies of estate planning laws in Missouri, and ensure your plan aligns with your specific goals and circumstances.
Dying without a will can lead to complex legal issues and potential disputes among family members. To protect your assets, provide for your loved ones, and minimize complications, it is vital to create a comprehensive estate plan that includes a will. Don’t leave your loved ones guessing about your intentions—take control of your estate planning today.
To learn more about the importance of estate planning and creating a will, register for our upcoming workshop at Polaris Estate Planning & Elder Law. Our experienced attorneys will provide you with the knowledge and guidance needed to navigate the estate planning process effectively. Secure your family’s future by attending our workshop!
For more information or to schedule a consultation, please visit our website or call us at (636) 535-2733. We are dedicated to assisting clients throughout Missouri with their estate planning needs.