Feb 2015

What Happens If I Die Without a Will?

Estate Planning Questions Answered

Making a will is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your loved ones. The goal of a last will and testament is to ensure your property is distributed to the people you care about when you pass away. A will is an incredibly powerful estate planning document that helps you protect and provide for your loved ones. Without one, your assets may not end up where you would have wanted them.

When a Person Dies Without a Will

When someone dies without a will, the law refers to this as dying intestate. In the absence of a will, the person’s property is distributed according to state intestacy laws. Chapter 474 of the Missouri Revised Statutes governs intestate succession and property distribution.

If the person has a surviving spouse, state intestacy law provides that he or she will receive one-half of the estate plus $20,000 if the decedent and the spouse have living children together. In addition, a surviving spouse may be entitled to other property, such as personal property and vehicles. In the absence of a surviving spouse, the intestate law turns to any children the decedent left behind. If the decedent had no children, the law continues down the line, first to the decedent’s parents and, in the absence of surviving parents, the decedent’s siblings. Locating heirs and gathering all the estate assets can quickly become expensive. Because the cost of the estate administration is taken from the estate’s assets, survivors frequently end up with less than they would have received had the decedent left a will behind.

Although most people want their spouse to inherit their estate, it’s important to note that the intestacy statute doesn’t allow for much flexibility in how (or which) property is distributed. In many cases, a surviving spouse must sell assets to ensure debts are paid and that the decedent’s property is distributed in accordance with the law.

The Advantages of a Last Will and Testament

A will offers numerous advantages for estate planning. With a last will and testament, you get to decide how you want your property to be distributed. For example, if you have children from a previous marriage, you can direct that they receive specific assets or funds. A will also allows you to make specific gifts to friends, family members, and charities. You can even make arrangements for the care and maintenance of your pets after you die.

Perhaps most importantly, a last will and testaments lifts a tremendous burden from your loved ones. Intestate estate administration can be a confusing, time-consuming, and expensive process. It’s the last thing a family needs after losing a loved one. Instead, an estate planning lawyer can help you arrange for these things in advance.

Springfield, Missouri Estate Planning Law Firm

At the Law Offices of Randy L. Smith, LLC, we help people create estate planning documents that provide peace of mind. Call today at (417) 841-2775 to speak to an experienced estate planning lawyer about your estate plan.

This website has been prepared by The Law Office of Randy L. Smith, LLC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.