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What Happens to My Estate if I Die Without a Will?

What Happens to My Estate if I Die Without a Will?

When someone dies without a last will and testament in Mississippi, they are considered to have died “intestate” – which literally means “without testament/witness.” As a result, Mississippi intestacy laws will apply. Mississippi law has rules regarding how a person’s property is distributed in the absence of a valid will (“intestate succession”). Intestate succession is the state’s best guess as to how you would want your property distributed upon your death. 

Under Mississippi intestate succession law, the deceased’s real and personal property will be distributed:

  • In equal shares to any surviving children, if no widow survives;
  • In equal shares to any surviving children and the surviving widow;
  • Entirely to a widow if no children are involved;
  • In equal shares to the decedent’s parents and siblings, if no children or widow survive;
  • In equal shares to the decedent’s surviving aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, if no children, widow, or siblings survive.

Furthermore, if some of your children have already died after having children of their own, their surviving children will receive their parents share of your estate.

To illustrate this principal, imagine a person named Dan has 4 children: Amy, Bill, Chris, and Dave. Bill also has two children: Emma and Frank. Dan passes away with an $80,000 estate. But if Bill predeceases his father, Dan’s estate will be distributed as follows:

  • Amy: $20,000
  • Chris: $20,000
  • Dave: $20,000
  • Emma: $10,000
  • Frank: $10,000

It is important to note that, under the rules of intestate succession, if any of your children from a previous marriage survive you, they will also receive an equal share of your estate with any of your surviving children from subsequent marriages.

Escheat

If a person dies without any family whatsoever, the state assumes ownership and possession of any real or personal property from your estate. However, escheat is unlikely because the rules of intestate succession are written in such a way that any remote relative will have an opportunity to inherit your estate.

Avoiding Intestate Succession

As you can see, you have no control over how your property is distributed. Children from previous marriages, adopted children, and your children from subsequent marriages, are all entitled to an equal share of your estate, whether you like it or not. This can be avoided by crafting a comprehensive estate plan that includes the following legal instruments:

  • Your last will and testament. This document supersedes intestate succcession regarding any property you keep in your name. Such property will be distributed according to the provisions of your will.
  • Revocable living trusts. Most property and assets can be held in a revocable living trust. Here, any property you transfer to the trust is maintained by the named trustee. You no longer own that property as an individual. As a result, it will not pass subject to a will, or the laws of intestate succession. However, you can name yourself trustee for as long as you’re alive. When you die, another person who you designate as a successor trustee will take over control of the trust property.

Call a Qualified Estate Planning Attorney in Jackson, MS

Estate planning involves complex and thorough preparation. Accordingly, you should consult with an experienced Jackson estate planning attorney to ensure your loved ones benefit from your estate after you pass away. At Shows Law Firm PLLC, we have years of valuable experience developing thorough estate plans for our clients and their families. You can rely on us to provide you with personalized care and attention to ensure your estate is distributed according to your wishes.

For more information, call (601) 809-4144 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced estate planning lawyers today.

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