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  • Derek R. Haake

You are married, and you don't have a will... Your spouse gets everything, right? Wrong!

In Missouri, if you do not have a will, and you have assets in your estate (i.e. you have not taken advantage of the non-probate transfer laws), your spouse does not get all of your assets.

Missouri provides the surviving spouse with the first $60,000 of the estate, and then one half of what is left over. The other one half goes to your children. This sounds great and fair, until you think about the fact that most people, should you die young, while your children are little will only have a minimal retirement account and perhaps a house. In this situation, the real value is the equity you might have in your home. Your children could then force the surviving spouse to sell the house and take half of the proceeds of your home.

Is this realistic for most families, probably not. However, if you have a blended family, this could become a real concern. In this scenario, children of a second marriage have used this law to essentially kick the surviving spouse out of the house and force them to sell the house. Another instance where this could come in is if you have a child with disabilities that becomes a ward of the state. The guardian would not be doing their job as an attorney if they did not try and enforce these laws.

The best way around this is to consult with an attorney and create a proper estate plan for you and your family, or at least to take advantage of the non-probate transfers that Missouri offers.

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