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What happens when someone dies without a will?

Posted on November 15, 2017

A will is likely one of the last aspects of life most would choose to discuss. Yet when an unexpected death occurs, family members are often left to pick up the pieces. To make matters worse, some surviving family are swept into discord over the deceased family’s will. What happens when someone dies without a will in Missouri, and are there any clear solutions to this potentially tricky issue?

An article in The Balance clarifies Missouri’s laws surrounding intestacy succession, stating that such laws help determine what, exactly, family members receive after someone dies without a will. A part of the Missouri Probate Code, intestacy laws can make matters simpler when a death is unexpected. However, different regulations apply depending on the surviving family. If the surviving family is a spouse or descendants, the spouse will receive the first $20,000 of the deceased spouse’s probate estate, plus one half of the balance. Per stirpes, descendants receive the remaining balance. Of course, the details are not always black and white; when the deceased is not survived by spouse nor descendants, the probate estate goes to parents, siblings or other family members.

It is natural for Missouri residents to develop some anxiety over unfinished wills. Forbes magazine seems to pick up on this stress, outlining common myths surrounding estate planning and inheritances. When it comes to the death of a family member who has no will, Forbes shows that many assume the state collects all assets. Yet, as mentioned in The Balance, it is important for any adult to understand the possible outcomes of wills; for parents, defining a specific guardian to oversee children is another major part of completing a will. Following up on plans regarding a will may not be the most thrilling experience, but doing so can help surviving family members avoid complications in the future.