Affidavit of Heirship Attorneys in St. Louis & Chesterfield, Missouri

An annual survey of Americans and their estate planning goals revealed that since 2015, the percentage of individuals with wills or other estate planning documents in place has declined. The percentage for middle-aged adults 35 to 54 years old surveyed in 2021 declined to 22.5 percent from 37 percent just two years earlier. Older adults, 55 years in age and beyond, declined from 60 to 44 percent.

In other words, it’s typical for Americans to have no plans in place for the time when they’re gone. It’s not a pleasant topic to face, and according to the survey, one of the reasons given for not executing a will is that the respondents simply didn’t know how.

If you lose a loved one without a will, you probably have questions about how to identify heirs and make a just distribution of the deceased’s estate. You also may have heard about the complexities of the court process known as probate.

Depending on what’s included in the deceased’s estate, there is a legal instrument known as an affidavit of heirship that can both identify heirs and make sure the estate is distributed properly.

If you’ve lost a loved one without a will in or around St. Louis, Missouri, or in neighboring Chesterfield, contact my firm at TdD Attorneys at Law. As an estate planning and probate attorney experienced in executing affidavits of heirship, I can help you complete one that will expedite the estate transfer process.

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What Is an Affidavit of Heirship?

An affidavit of heirship is a legal document that can be used outside of probate court proceedings to transfer real property held solely in the name of the deceased to his or her heirs in the absence of a will specifying heirship.

If a person dies and their property is held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, the property – home, land, farm – will pass without the need of probate to the joint tenant. An affidavit of heirship is the sole alternative to probate to pass real property to heirs when title is held only in the name of the person who died.

Note that an affidavit of heirship applies only to real property, not to bank accounts or other assets. To employ the affidavit to transfer title of the property to heirs requires that certain circumstances be met and certain steps taken.

How to File an Affidavit of Heirship

With real property “stuck” in the name of the deceased, the heirs cannot sell or do anything with it. If it goes through probate, the Missouri laws of heirship under intestacy—dying without a will—will determine ownership.

In general, in probate, if there are no children or stepchildren, the surviving spouse will get everything. If there are children, the spouse gets a certain amount, and the descendants get the rest.

To avoid this and file an affidavit of heirship, work with an experienced attorney. An estate planning lawyer can help you ensure that:

  • There is no last will and testament, trust, or other heirship document
  • The real property is titled solely in the deceased’s name
  • The deceased has been dead for more than a year
  • During that one-year-plus span, no will was admitted to probate
  • The heirs completely agree on the terms of heirship

The affidavit must contain the following information, among others:

  • The full name, address, age, and date of death of the decedent
  • Names, addresses, relationship to the decedent of all persons claiming an interest in the assets of the deceased
  • The percentage or fractions to which all persons claiming any interest in the assets of the decedent as heir or through relationship to an heir
  • Description and value of assets
  • Complete legal description of the real property as contained on the title deed

The affidavit must be notarized and witnessed by two disinterested parties who knew the decedent but do not stand to gain financially in any way from the filing. They could be neighbors, friends, or coworkers of the deceased. The affidavit must be filed in the county where the real property is located.

Can the Affidavit Be Challenged?

Like a last will and testament, an affidavit of hardship can be legally challenged. The challenge will often come from heirs who feel shortchanged or left out. That is why one of the necessary steps is to obtain the consent and agreement of all eligible heirs.

Affidavit of Heirship Attorneys in St. Louis & Chesterfield, Missouri

If you’ve lost a loved one who left no will but owned real property solely titled, contact me at TdD Attorneys at Law. I can help you accurately complete the affidavit and expedite the process of transferring title. For all your other estate planning needs, please contact my firm so we can get started. I proudly serve clients in and around St. Louis, Chesterfield, and the rest of Missouri.