Stephen A. Martin, Attorney at Law
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What if you die without a will?

Despite the advice offered up by estate planning experts in Saint Charles for people to do their estate planning early on in their adult lives, a majority of adults still do not have even a will that details how their assets are to be distributed when they die. Your reason for putting off creating your will may be the hope that if you do not create such a document, it will be left to your heirs to decide how to divide your estate (that way, you do not have to worry about offending anyone). Yet that simply is not the case. Rather, if you die without a will (the legal term is for this is "intestate"), it is the state that determines the dispersal of your estate. 

Missouri's guidelines for intestate succession can be found in Section 474.010 of the state's Revised Statutes. Here it states that your surviving spouse will receive your entire estate if you leave no descendants behind. If you do have surviving issue (direct descendants), then your spouse will receive the first $25,000 of your estate, then half of the remaining balance of those descendants are also their descendants (with the remaining half going to your descendants). Your spouse's share of your estate is reduced to exactly half if any of your issue are not also related to them. 

If you have no surviving spouse, then intestate succession rules dictate that your assets be distributed in the following order: 

  • To your descendants
  • To your parents and siblings
  • To your next of kin
  • To your spouse's next of kin

If there are none of these aforementioned parties to inherit your intestate estate, your assets then go to the state. Should you wish for assets to go to one not related to you, you must state that on a will. 

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