Most of our readers understand that it is important for men and women to have personal estate plans in place so that their end-of-life wishes are respected with regard to the distribution of their assets. When does not have a will or other testamentary documents executed before their death, their assets will generally pass through the process of intestate succession. To die intestate is to pass on without having left instructions for what to do with one’s own wealth and possessions.

In Missouri, a person who dies intestate will have their estate pass to their spouse. If the decedent has children with their spouse, the spouse will take $20,000 from the estate plus half of the remainder. The children will take the other half of the remainder of the estate.

If the decedent passes on with a spouse and children from a prior relationship then the rules change. Then the spouse does not take the initial $20,000 from the state but only one-half of the estate. If a person passes on without a spouse or children, then their estate will be distributed based on a complicated set of rules that identify their parents, siblings and other surviving relatives as possible recipients.

Intestacy laws exist to ensure that there are procedures in place for what to do if someone dies without leaving instructions for what they want done with their assets. These laws may not always follow the intentions or desires of decedents, and it is therefore a more effective plan for individuals to make their own estate plans through an estate plan.