Wills Attorneys in Chesterfield, MO, Helping Clients Record Their Wishes for Asset Distribution After Death
A will, also called a last will and testament, is one of the most important components of an estate plan. Yet, many people believe they do not need one or postpone the task of getting their will written, which could prove to be a risky decision. Learn how a will works, why everyone should have one, and how an attorney can help make the process easier.
What Is a Will, and How Does It Work?
A will is an estate planning document that works as a written record of an individual’s wishes concerning how their assets should be divided among heirs after death. It contains a list of the decedent’s assets and beneficiaries and details about which estate assets each beneficiary should receive. The will also has the name of the person that should be designated as the executor and be in charge of the estate administration process, which includes probating the will in court.
In addition to addressing property division matters, a will can also serve other critical purposes. For example, if someone has a minor child, their will can contain a guardian designation. They may even add their wishes for who should take care of their pets in case the pet owner passes away.
Is There a Difference Between a Living Will and a Last Will?
Along with a last will, a living will is another important component of estate planning, but be careful not to be confused by their similar names. A living will records your wishes and preferences for how you would like to be cared for in case of incapacity. On the other hand, a last will addresses your wishes for what should happen to your assets and wealth after you pass away.
So, which document is the best place to add your funeral preferences? While many immediately think of their last will as the document in which they should add details about how they would like their funeral to be handled, it is important to remember that a person’s last will is usually only found and read weeks after the funeral has already taken place. Instead, it may be best to use your living will to add funeral instructions, as your loved ones are most likely to consult your living will while you are still alive and under medical care.
What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Missouri?
If a person passes away without having a last will – or if their last will is lost and cannot be located by the family – that person will have died intestate. That means a probate judge will distribute their estate in accordance with Missouri’s intestate succession laws. Their assets will go to their next of kin, depending on who the surviving relatives are.
For example, if someone passes away and leaves a surviving spouse but no children, the spouse will inherit everything. If the decedent had a spouse and the couple had children together, the spouse inherits the first $20,000 of the estate and half of the remaining balance, while the rest is divided among the children. It is worth mentioning that adopted children have the same inheritance rights as biological children, whereas stepchildren and foster children do not have the right to receive a portion of the estate unless the decedent has adopted them.
In cases where a person has died and has no surviving relatives, their property may go to the state of Missouri. However, Missouri’s intestate laws require that every effort be made to find any distant relative of the decedent, going as far as grandchildren, cousins of any degree, and relatives to the ninth degree, before the property is escheated to the state.
Do You Need a Wills Lawyer to Write Your Will?
It is understandable that many would rather not think about what will happen after they pass away, but as you may see, dying without a will in Missouri means a long and arduous probate process for your surviving loved ones – not to mention the fact that you would be leaving all asset distribution decisions in the hands of a probate judge. The judge will follow the intestate succession laws, which may mean you may end up with part of your estate going to someone you did not intend to give an inheritance to. The only way to have your wishes respected is to put them in writing in the form of a legally valid last will, and a wills attorney is the best person to help you.
At Mid-America Law Practice, LLC, our wills lawyers have been helping clients draft or revise their wills for many years. They can guide you through the process, ask questions you may not have thought of and help you ensure your will is valid and written correctly. Their legal knowledge and skills make the process of writing your will easier and more straightforward than any do-it-yourself solution you may find online. If you are ready to draft your will or have questions, contact our law firm in Chesterfield, MO, at (314) 347-3567 .