You may believe that only people with lots of assets need wills. Or maybe you think you do not need a will if you are not married. For one reason or another, a surprising number of people die without wills each year.
So, what do your heirs receive if you die without a will? In legal terms, when a person dies without a valid will, he or she dies “intestate.” The rules for dividing intestate property differ somewhat from state to state.
Married at time of death
If you die intestate, are married at the time of your death and have children, the law is different for Kansas and Missouri. Kansas recognizes common-law marriage, while Missouri does not. The states also have different rules for what is considered intestate property.
- In Kansas, the surviving spouse inherits 50% of your intestate property, and your children each inherit equal shares of the remaining intestate property.
- In Missouri, if you only had children with your surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse receives the first $20,000 of intestate property. 50% of the remainder goes to the surviving spouse, and the children inherit equal shares of the remaining 50%.
- In Missouri, if you had children with your surviving spouse and had children with someone else, your surviving spouse inherits 50% of your intestate property, and your children inherit the remaining estate in equal shares.
In both Missouri and Kansas, if you are married and have no children, your property will go entirely to your surviving spouse.
Unmarried at time of death
If you die without a will, are not married at the time but have children, your children inherit 100% of your intestate property in equal shares.
If you have no spouse and no children at the time you die, your property will be divided between other family members:
- In Missouri, your assets will be split equally between your surviving parents and siblings.
- In Kansas, your property will go entirely to surviving parents. If you have no surviving parents, children or spouse, your property will be divided evenly between your surviving siblings.
Of course, there are always exceptions, and special circumstances may exist for grandchildren or other descendants. A will is the easiest way to ensure that your estate passes according to your wishes.