Stephen A. Martin, Attorney at Law
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Understanding the process of intestate succession

Many in St. Charles have the hope that the assets they accumulate during their lives can eventually benefit their loved ones. Yet many of those same people fail to follow through on the simple step of designating where they want those assets to go. If one dies intestate (without a will), the state gets to the determine how his or her estate is dispersed. 

The process of intestate succession in Missouri can be found in Section 474.010 of the state's Revised Statutes. Here, it lists one's surviving spouse as the primary beneficiary of his or her assets. He or she is entitled to all of the decedent's assets if the decedent has no direct descendants. If there are, then the surviving spouse's claim to the estate is reduced to the first $20,000, then 50 percent of the remaining balance if the descendants are also his or hers. If they are not, then his or her claim is reduced further to an even 50 percent of the estate. 

If a decedent's spouse preceded him or her in death, then intestate succession guidelines mandate that his or her estate passes as follows: 

  • To his or her descendants 
  • To his or her surviving parents and siblings
  • To surviving members of his or her extended family 
  • To descendants of his or her lineal ancestors (up to the ninth degree)
  • To the family of his or her predeceased spouse

Per the American Association of Retired Persons, the most common reasons given for people not already having a will is they have not had time to do it or they do not think they have assets to pass on. Yet this post should show emphasize the importance of planning to ensure one has control over that which he or she does have to leave to his or her loved ones. 

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