What Happens If You Don’t Have a Will?

Posted by Sheri Tucker, M.S., J.D.Jan 28, 20230 Comments

Person with flower with hand on casket

Many don't have a basic estate plan in place. If you don't have a will, ask yourself this question: “What happens if I die without a Last Will and Testament?”  People spend a lifetime earning a retirement, paying for a home, building up a dream savings.  People spend years gathering but very little on life planning. Here's what it means to your family if you die intestate.  

Death Without an Estate Plan

Maybe you're a person who thought that you would spend all your money during your lifetime and leave nothing to no one. The trouble with that plan is that it rarely, if ever, happens in real life. You may be single and own a home, a car, or even firearms. Estate planning is not just about the dollars in a bank account. Maybe you kept putting off your estate planning with an attorney. Maybe you write the will yourself, but it doesn't meet state law requirements. Then, you die without an estate plan. If you don't have a Last Will and Testament, you die intestate.  What happens next?

Without a Will Means Intestate

When a person dies without a Last Will and Testament it is called intestate. Intestate simply means there is no will to tell the court how to dispose of assets to any family members. You didn't make a life plan to be carried out at your death. It seems that a married person may not need to be concerned. After all, you are married and the spouse inherits everything right? Is there a prior marriage? Is there a child that's yours but not your spouse's?  Circumstances may exist that disrupt spousal inheritance. Intestate means the state law dictates who gets your property, even if it's some remote relative you don't know. Every state provides an intestate succession plan—which means more time, cost, and attorney fees.

Without a Will-Intestate Succession

The estate balance includes the asset value minus the decedent's debt. The following information is part of Missouri Probate law that decides intestate succession.

  • Surviving Spouse and No Children.  Surviving Spouse inherits everything.
  • Surviving Spouse and Children of Both: Spouse receives the first $20,000 and ½ of the balance of the intestate estate.
  • Surviving Spouse and Decedent Only Children: Spouse receives only ½ of the estate.
  • No Spouse but Surviving Children: Estate divided equally among children or their descendants.
  • No Spouse and No Children or their Descendants: The estate is divided equally to decedent's father, mother, and siblings in equal parts.
  • If there is no family from the latterThe estate is divided equally to grandfather grandmother, aunts, and uncles.

Other problems exist though when you don't have a Last Will and Testament in place.

Intestate Problems

There are problems that your family will face and be forced to solve because you died without a will. In addition, intestate Probate in Missouri cannot occur Pro Se, which means your family must hire an attorney. Dying without a Last Will and Testament is more costly and time consuming for your loved ones. Here are some typical problems:

  • Your spouse is now 70 years old and in a nursing home.  How will she handle the legal issues of probate?
  • Your spouse has Dementia onset. He won't be able to file for appointment as Personal Representative and another family member will have to take care of the legal issues.  The person may be required to pay for a bond.
  • A Determination of Heirs may be necessary, which is costly.
  • You own a small business that has debt, who will take care of winding down the business? How will your spouse or children be affected?
  • There is no spouse, no children or descendants, no known heirs- What do you think happens to your property?
  • Is Intestate a Good Plan?

Perhaps you think that you don't need a plan in place. Probate becomes an ordeal that keeps your family members from being able to heal from grief. Isn't grief enough for your family to go through? Not having a Last Will and Testament in place, well that is a plan. Dying without a will is a state plan. Intestate probate costs more in time and money.

For Your Last Will and Testament

There is an estate plan that is right for you, your family, and your goals. Be Proactive to protect your finances and your family with a Last Will and Testament. Your Estate Ally offers a limited time complimentary consultations to discuss your estate needs. Call Your Estate Ally 314-998-4223, or  book your complimentary consultation today Book time with Sheri Tucker