Who Needs a Will?

Often referred to formally as one’s “last will and testament,” a will should be a part of every individual’s financial and family plan for the future.  Everyone from average-income folks to very wealthy individuals benefit from this sometimes simple, yet critical document.   A will designates who should receive one’s property upon their death.  Wills designate the recipients of property (called “legatees” or “devisees”) ranging from sentimental family property, to funds in a bank account to the family residence.  While a will may spell out a detailed list of “who gets what,” it also gives categorical gifts and should have a “residual clause” which provides for all unmentioned items to pass to a named recipient(s).  In addition to creating the scheme and details for posthumous gifts, a Will often include the following the nomination of guardianship for minor children , the establishment of a “testamentary trust”  to be formed upon death, naming of a personal representative of the estate and /or granting of gifts to specific charities or other organizations

If an individual dies without having ever prepared and signed a will, the distribution of their property will be left to the laws of the state in which they reside or where the property is located (see Mo Rev. Stat. Ch. 474).  Referred to as “intestate succession” this process may distribute property in a manner unsatisfactory and confusing to both the decedent and potential heirs and devisees.  Missouri laws are not tailored to individual wishes, needs or circumstances.  For example, one-half of a decedent’s property may pass to their children (regardless of the quality or even knowledge of these relationships), while their spouse is still living and remains dependant on this money and property (see Ch. 474.010).  Property can potentially be given to the state of Missouri, in the event no appropriate heirs are available (see Ch. 470).  While there are no laws requiring the preparation of a will, there is a little question to its benefit.



Keywords: Will, Last Will and Testament, Estate Planning, Probate, Trust, Schleiffarth Law Firm, Jim Schleiffarth, Lawyer, Attorney, St Louis, Webster, Missouri