What is a Will?A will is a written legal document that states what you want to be done after you die. This can cover various topics, from what will happen to your belongings (your estate), to who will care for any minor children.
A will only become effective when it has been signed by both you and two witnesses, in the state of Missouri.
What Happens If I Die Without a Will?If you die without a Will, (aka intestate), your property will be distributed according to state laws. It will not go to the government as long as you have a living relative who can claim your state. However, if you die intestate, it can make the process much harder and longer. Your estate will go to your relatives in this order:
(1) The surviving spouse receives:
(a) The entire intestate estate if there is no surviving issue of the decedent;
(b) The first twenty thousand dollars in value of the intestate estate, plus one-half of the balance of the intestate estate, if there are surviving issue, all of whom are also issue of the surviving spouse;
(c) One-half of the intestate estate if there are surviving issue, one or more of whom are not issue of the surviving spouse;
(2) The part not distributable to the surviving spouse, or the entire intestate property, if there is no surviving spouse, shall descend and be distributed as follows:
(a) To the decedent's children, or their descendants, in equal parts;
(b) If there are no children, or their descendants, then to the decedent's father, mother, brothers and sisters or their descendants in equal parts;
(c) If there are no children, or their descendants, father, mother, brother or sister, or their descendants, then to the grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles and aunts or their descendants in equal parts;
(d) If there are no children or their descendants, father, mother, brother, sister, or their descendants, grandfather, grandmother, uncles, aunts, nor their descendants, then to the great-grandfathers, great-grandmothers, or their descendants, in equal parts; and so on, in other cases without end, passing to the nearest lineal ancestors and their children, or their descendants, in equal parts; provided, however, that collateral relatives, that is, relatives who are neither ancestors nor descendants of the decedent, may not inherit unless they are related to the decedent at least as closely as the ninth degree, the degree of kinship being computed according to the rules of the civil law; that is, by counting upward from the decedent to the nearest common ancestor, and then downward to the relative, the degree of kinship being the sum of these two counts, so that brothers are related in the second degree;
(3) If there is no surviving spouse or kindred of the decedent entitled to inherit, the whole shall go to the kindred of the predeceased spouse who, at the time of the spouse's death, was married to the decedent, in like course as if such predeceased spouse had survived the decedent and then died entitled to the property, and if there is more than one such predeceased spouse, then to go in equal shares to the kindred of each predeceased spouse;
(4) If no person is entitled to inherit as provided in this section the property shall escheat as provided by law.
Who Can Witness My Will?Your signature to the Will must be witnessed by two people over the age of 18. They must both be present when you sign your will, and the witnesses must also sign the Will in your presence.
Where Should I Keep My Will?You should keep your Will safely at home or lodged with a solicitor or a bank.
When Should You Modify Your Current Will?You should review your will once a year. There are other occasions to review your will and these include:
- If your marital status changes
- If the property you own changes significantly and you made specific gifts of that property
- If you adopt or have additional children
- If your child dies, leaving children
- If you move to a different state
- If any of your beneficiaries die
- If the person you name as personal guardian for your minor children or manager for their property is no longer able to serve
- If the person named as your personal representative (executor) is no longer able to serve
- If you change your mind about the provisions in your prior will
- If your witnesses move away, die or are no longer competent
- Your will is valid until revoked. You can revoke a will by making a new will. Your will can also be revoked if it is destroyed
What are Guardianships and Trusts for Minor Children?A minor child MUST have an adult guardian unless a court has declared he is legally “emancipated.” Normally, the surviving spouse becomes the personal guardian of your minor child. However, parents should agree on who they want to be appointed as the personal guardian of their children in case both parents die simultaneously.
In the case of divorced or separated parents, the surviving parent will generally have the best claim to be the guardian of their child, although anyone may challenge a person’s petition to be the guardian of a child. If the surviving parent is unavailable, the courts will give great weight to the preference contained in the deceased parent’s will.
The Truth About WillsThe fact is, everyone dies eventually, but not everyone leaves a last will and testament. Many don’t even know how to go about making one. If you are confused about you will, you are not alone, but talking with an attorney at the Lake of the Ozarks who is experienced in this area is a perfect first step.
Remember, your initial consultation with Gibbons Law Firm is always free.
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Gibbons Law Firm
2820 Bagnell Dam Blvd, Suite B4
Lake Ozark, MO 65049