What Happens If I Die Without a Will?

Posted by Sheri Tucker, M.S., J.D.Jul 11, 20200 Comments

Many Americans 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. You may ask, “What happens if I die without a last Will and Testament?” In St. Louis County Missouri, more than fifty percent (50%) die without a will.  Let's take a look at what it means to your family if you die intestate. 

Without a Will, What Happens to My Estate?

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.  If you don't have a Last Will and Testament, a plan, for what happens to the home, your car, that stock option, you die intestate.

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 also means that state Probate laws determine the distribution of the decedent's estate.

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.

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

Problems of Not Having a Will

It seems that a married person may not need to be concerned.  After all, married and the spouse inherits.  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.  Intestate Probate is costly and time consuming.  Here are some typical problems:

  1. Your spouse is now 70 years old and in a nursing home. How will she handle the legal issues of probate?
  2. 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.
  3. Your spouse and descendants don't file your estate in Probate for over a year, now there is a determination of heirship, which is costly in legal fees.
  4. 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?
  5. 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.  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.  Probate becomes an ordeal that keeps your family members from being able to heal from grief. 

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.  I offer virtual video conferencing and complimentary consultations to discuss your estate needs. Call me at 314-332-0011 or book a consultation today.