When an individual dies without a will, he or she is said to have died “intestate.”
Intestacy laws stipulate how property will be divided when one dies without a will. How property passes differs, depending on whether the decedent left a surviving spouse or surviving children.
When an individual dies without a will (or even with a will), the estate will go through the probate process. The probate court and those in charge of administering the estate are compensated for their work with the estate. Thus, expenses involved in the probate process can greatly diminish the value of the decedent’s estate. When a person dies without a will, the probate court will order the decedent’s property to be distributed under Missouri’s intestacy laws.
The passage of property through intestacy can be simple or complex, depending upon which relatives survive the decedent: If a decedent leaves only a surviving spouse and no surviving heirs (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.), the surviving spouse receives the entire estate. If a decedent leaves a surviving spouse and surviving heirs who are also descendants of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse receives $20,000 plus half of the remaining estate. The surviving heirs receive the remainder of the estate. If a decedent leaves a surviving spouse and heirs who are not also descendants of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse receives half of the estate. The remainder of the estate passes to the decedent’s heirs.
Generally, the order of priority for distribution is as follows, but varies depending upon the marital status of the decedent: Surviving spouse Surviving heirs Surviving parents and siblings or their descendants Surviving grandparents, aunts, and uncles or their descendants Great-grandparents or their descendants, and so on If an individual dies intestate with no surviving relatives, the estate will “escheat” or transfer to the state. A will is a good way to ensure that your property is divided according to your wishes.
Contact an experienced Missouri estate planning attorney at the Quitmeier Law Firm to help you solidify your will.