What Happens If You Die Without A Will In Missouri?

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended solely for informational purposes and should not be used for legal purposes.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets the time to create a will, leading to uncertainty and potential complications for their loved ones. 

In Missouri, like in many other states, dying without a will can have significant implications.

These will be for the distribution of your estate and the welfare of your family. 

This article provides a detailed overview of what happens if you die without a will in Missouri.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In Missouri? – Intestacy Laws In Missouri

When people die without a will, they’re said to have died “intestate.” 

In such cases, the state’s intestacy laws determine the distribution of their assets.

It is where they resided at the time of their death

In Missouri, intestacy laws dictate how the deceased person’s estate will be distributed among their heirs.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In Missouri? – Distribution Of Assets

When an individual dies without a will in Missouri, their estate will be distributed based on the state’s intestacy laws. 

These laws determine the order of priority for distributing assets among surviving family members. 

The distribution of assets varies based on the deceased person’s family structure.

It is while considering whether they have a surviving spouse, children, parents, or other relatives. 

Surviving RelativesDistribution Of AssetsShare
Spouse onlyThe spouse receives the first $20,000 plus 50% of the rest100% to spouse
Spouse and ChildrenThe estate is equally divided among the childrenThe entire estate goes to the surviving spouse
Children onlyThe entire estate goes to the parents50% to a spouse, 50% equally divided among children
Parents but no spouse/childrenEntire estate goes to the parentsEqually divided among parents
Siblings but no spouse/children/parentsEntire estate goes to the siblingsEqually divided among siblings
No immediate familyThe entire estate goes to the siblingsVaries based on relatives or escheats to the state

Below is a detailed breakdown of the distribution of assets in different scenarios:

Surviving Spouse Only: 

If a spouse survives the deceased individual but has no descendants, the entire estate goes to the surviving spouse.

Surviving Spouse And Descendants

If a spouse and descendants survive the deceased, the surviving spouse typically receives the first $20,000 of the estate.

It also includes the other half of the remaining balance

The other half is distributed equally among the descendants.

Descendants Only: 

If no surviving spouses exist, the estate is distributed equally among the descendants, typically children and grandchildren.

No Surviving Spouse Or Descendants: 

The estate may go to the deceased person’s parents.

It is if there is no surviving spouse or descendants.

If the parents are not alive, the estate may pass to the deceased’s siblings or relatives.

This will be based on a predefined order of succession.

No Surviving Spouse, Descendants, Or Parents: 

The estate may pass to the deceased person’s siblings or descendants.

This will be if there are no surviving spouses, descendants, or parents.

No Surviving Family Members: 

In the rare event of no surviving family members, the estate may escheat to Missouri.

This means it becomes the property of the state.

It’s important to note that the laws regarding intestate succession can be complex.

These are especially true when there are multiple heirs at different levels of relation to the deceased individual. 

The estate will be divided according to these rules to ensure a fair distribution among the eligible heirs.

Special Considerations And Exceptions:

Understanding these distribution rules is crucial to foresee how an estate will be divided.

However, it’s important to emphasize that creating a will allows individuals to specify their preferences.

It can ensure their wishes are followed accurately. 

Some special considerations are as follows:

Consult a legal professional to navigate these laws and create a comprehensive estate plan.

Half or Step-Siblings: Missouri’s intestacy laws do not provide for half or step-siblings.

Typically, only full-blooded siblings inherit in intestate succession.

Posthumous Children: Children conceived before the deceased’s death but born after.

They are typically considered heirs and may inherit a share of the estate.

Adopted Children: Adopted children are treated like biological children and have the same inheritance rights.

Illegitimate Children: In Missouri, illegitimate children have the same inheritance rights as legitimate children if paternity has been established.

Per Stirpes Distribution: An heir predeceases the deceased individual.

Their share is usually distributed among their descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.) in a stirpes manner.

Guardianship Of Minor Children:

Another critical aspect of dying without a will is determining the guardianship of minor children.

A will typically designate a guardian to care for the minor children in case of the parent’s death.

However, without a will, the court will decide on guardianship based on the children’s best interests.

Also, close relatives often petition for guardianship. 

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In Missouri? – Probate Process

The Probate is a legal process of administering the estate.

It also includes distributing assets according to the law or the terms of a will. 

When a person dies without a will in Missouri, the probate process is initiated to handle the estate’s distribution. 

Here’s a detailed overview of the probate process in Missouri for individuals who pass away without a will.

Initiating Probate:

When a person dies without a will, the probate process begins with filing a petition.

This will be with the probate court in the county.

It is where the deceased person resided at the time of their death. 

The court will appoint a proper administrator.

This will be typically a close relative or a qualified individual to manage the estate’s administration. 

The administrator handles the estate affairs under the court’s supervision.

Identifying And Inventorying Assets:

The appointed administrator must identify and create an inventory of all the assets owned by the deceased individual. 

This includes real estate, personal property, bank accounts, investments, vehicles, and any other belongings of value. 

Compiling a comprehensive list of assets is crucial.

This is important in determining the estate’s total value.

Also, it ensures a proper distribution to the heirs.

Notifying Creditors And Settling Debts:

Once the assets are identified and inventoried, the administrator must notify creditors and publish notice to potential creditors in a local newspaper. 

Creditors are given a specific period, usually six months.

This is to file claims against the estate for any outstanding debts owed to them by the deceased.

During this period, the administrator also settles any legitimate debts and liabilities of the deceased.

It includes mortgages, loans, medical bills, and other financial obligations. 

The estate’s assets may be used to satisfy these debts before distributing the remaining assets to the heirs.

Estate Tax Considerations:

The administrator must also address any potential estate tax liabilities

In Missouri, as of the knowledge cutoff date in September 2021, there is no state estate tax.

However, federal estate taxes may apply to larger estates.

Suppose the estate’s value exceeds the federal tax exemption threshold. It may change annually.

In that case, the administrator must file the necessary tax forms and pay any applicable federal estate taxes.

Asset Distribution:

The remaining assets are distributed among the right heirs after settling the estate’s debts and tax obligations.

This will be based on Missouri’s intestacy laws. 

The distribution is determined according to the deceased individual’s family structure.

The laws prioritize surviving spouses, children, and other relatives in a specific order of succession.

Final Accounting And Closing Of Probate:

The administrator submits a final accounting once the assets have been distributed and all debts settled.

It will be submitted to the probate court detailing the probate process.

It includes asset inventory, debt payments, and asset distribution.

If everything is in order, the court reviews the accounting and approves the distribution.

This way, it officially closes the probate case.

Thus, you know what happens if you die without a will in Missouri.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In Missouri? – Challenges And Delays

Challenges and delays in the distribution of assets occur while dying without a will.

At the same time, the probate process can be costly.

It often takes several months to several years to complete

Moreover, disagreements among family members regarding asset distribution can further prolong the process.

Without clear instructions from a will, disputes may arise

These will be regarding:

– Who should be the administrator

– How assets should be divided

– Other legal matters. 

This can lead to legal battles, emotional strain, and additional expenses.

Moreover, it helps to know what happens if you die without a will in Missouri.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In Missouri? – Taxes And Liabilities

In Missouri, as in many other states, dying without a will may have tax implications for the estate

The estate may be subject to federal and state taxes.

It depends on its total value and other factors

Without proper estate planning, the estate could incur higher tax liabilities than necessary.

Furthermore, the estate’s debts and liabilities must be addressed during probate. 

The administrator is also responsible for settling outstanding debts using the estate’s assets.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In Missouri? – Importance Of Creating A Will

The complexities and potential challenges of dying without a will highlight the importance of creating a comprehensive estate plan. 

It will always allow you to specify your wishes.

These are regarding the distribution of your assets, the guardianship of your children, and even the care of your pets.

By creating a will, you gain control over the destiny of your estate.

It also reduces the burden on your dear ones during a challenging time. 

It is often advisable to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney.


Dying without a will in Missouri can lead to uncertainties and complications for your loved ones. 

The intestacy laws dictate how your assets will be distributed among your surviving family members.

However, the probate process can be time-consuming and may involve disputes. 

It’s essential to recognize the importance of creating a will and engaging in comprehensive estate planning.

This ensures your desires are respected and your loved ones are provided for in the best possible way. 

Seek legal guidance to navigate the estate planning process.

It also creates a will that aligns with your preferences and circumstances.

Thus, it helps to know what happens if you die without a will in Missouri.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Does It Mean To Die Without A Will In Missouri?

Dying without a will, or intestate, in Missouri means that the state’s laws determine how your assets and estate are distributed.

2. Who Inherits My Estate If I Die Without A Will In Missouri?

The distribution of your estate is determined by Missouri’s intestate succession laws, which typically prioritize spouses, children, parents, and other relatives.

3. Does Missouri Have Specific Laws Regarding Intestate Succession?

Yes, Missouri has laws outlining how the assets and estate of a person who dies without a will are distributed among family members.

4. What Happens To My Property If A Spouse And Children Survive Me?

In Missouri, if you have a surviving spouse and children, the estate is divided between them, with the spouse receiving a substantial portion.

5. Can Distant Relatives Inherit My Estate If I Die Without A Will?

If you have no surviving spouse, children, parents, or any siblings, distant relatives may inherit your estate. Missouri’s laws dictate the order of inheritance.

6. What Happens If I Have No Living Relatives?

If you have no relatives, your estate may eschew to Missouri, meaning the state would take ownership of your assets.

7. Can I Avoid Intestacy By Creating A Will?

Creating a will lets you specify how you want your estate distributed, ensuring your wishes are followed after passing.

8. Is Consulting An Attorney Necessary When Dealing With Intestate Succession?

While not required, consulting an attorney when dealing with intestate succession can provide valuable guidance and ensure the process correctly complies with Missouri law.

Terry L. Crump

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