A last will and testament is a foundational document for simple and comprehensive estate plans. If you die without a will, your estate will not be distributed according to your wishes and will instead be distributed according to Missouri’s intestate laws. To prevent this and save your loved ones significant stress, you can work with a Springfield estate planning attorney to draft an enforceable will and, potentially, other useful estate planning documents.

When you don’t have a will, and your estate is distributed according to intestate succession laws, you do not have control over who receives your assets or who distributes the estate. The court will appoint an individual to manage the estate, pay debts, and distribute assets according to intestate law. Intestate law prioritizes your relatives, who may not be the people you wish to inherit your property.

Even in cases where the law does reflect how you wish your assets to be distributed, these laws can change. They are also not ideal for your loved ones. Allowing your estate to be distributed this way can increase the cost and stress for your family and increase the likelihood of disputes.

Succession Laws in Missouri

If you die without a will or if your will is determined to be invalid, then the probate court process follows intestate succession laws after debts are paid. The court will follow these laws to determine which of your relatives inherit your assets:

  1. If you are survived by a spouse but have no descendants, then your spouse receives the entire intestate estate.
  2. If you are survived by your spouse and descendants who are all the legal children of that spouse, then your spouse will receive the first $20,000 of the value of the estate, plus half the balance.
  3. If you are survived by your spouse and descendants, one or more of whom are not the legal children of that spouse, then your spouse will receive ½ of the estate.

Who Receives My Assets if I Leave No Surviving Spouse?

The remaining estate, after distribution to a surviving spouse, or the entire estate if there is no surviving spouse, will be distributed in the following order as applicable:

  1. To your children or their descendants in equal parts
  2. To your father, mother, and siblings or their descendants in equal parts if you have no surviving children or descendants
  3. To your grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, or their descendants in equal parts if you have none of the prior surviving family
  4. To your great-grandfathers, great-grandmothers, or their descendants in equal parts if none of the prior family survives you
  5. Laws continue to pass the estate to the nearest lineal ancestor relatives and their descendants, with some exceptions for collateral relatives.

Finally, if there is no surviving spouse or relative entitled to inherit, the entire estate passes to the relatives of your spouse who died before you or in equal parts to multiple spouses who died before you.

If you have no surviving relatives able to inherit under these guidelines, your estate will pass to the ownership of the state. This is very uncommon, as the laws are made to hand your estate to any surviving relative first.

If you are not married to your partner, estate planning is especially important, as your loved one has no legal right to inherit under intestacy laws. Many situations benefit from the creation of a will or estate plan, such as when you have close relationships with those who are not related to you or when you wish to leave assets to a cause or organization you believe in.


Q: Who Inherits an Estate if There Is No Will in Missouri?

A: If there is no will in Missouri, then the entire estate may be inherited by a surviving spouse if there are no descendants. If there are descendants, and they are the legal children or descendants of the surviving spouse, then the spouse receives the first $20,000 and then half the estate.

If one or more of the children or descendants are not the legal children of the surviving spouse, then the spouse receives half the estate. The remainder of the estate is split equally between children, followed by their descendants.

Q: Do Small Estates Have to Go Through Probate in Missouri?

A: Small estates do have to go through probate in Missouri. However, if an estate’s value is under the limit, it qualifies for a simplified probate process. A simplified probate process is faster and less expensive, but it is still probate court.

To ensure you keep your estate from probate court and save your loved ones time, stress, and money, you can establish a comprehensive estate plan. Through the creation of trusts, you can transfer assets to your intended beneficiaries outside of probate court.

Q: What Is Missouri Law on Next of Kin?

A: The next of kin law in Missouri applies when someone dies intestate, or without a will. These laws aim to have any surviving relatives of the deceased inherit their estate before it falls to the state’s ownership.

Next of kin are more commonly called heirs and include a surviving spouse, surviving children, and descendants of surviving children. Children and descendants include biological and adopted children. In certain situations, the estate may pass to parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles of the deceased or the descendants of those relatives.

Q: What Rights Do Beneficiaries Have in Missouri?

A: Beneficiaries have several rights, including:

  • The right to receive information about the administration of the estate, the timeline of distribution, and a list of the assets the beneficiary has interest in
  • The right to accounting and financial transactions of the estate
  • The right to contest the will if it was created fraudulently or is otherwise invalid
  • The right to receive inheritance
  • The right to be treated fairly and have fiduciary duty from the executor or trustee of the estate

Contact Stange Law Firm

The most effective way to avoid the complications of intestate law is to create a will. However, there are even more effective ways to protect your loved ones. Creating a comprehensive estate plan can keep your estate entirely out of probate court, which limits the deductions to your estate and provides your beneficiaries with their share more quickly. If you are unsure where to start when drafting an estate plan, contact the skilled attorneys at Stange Law Firm today.