Creating a will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. Missouri wills allow for any children, your spouse, other family members, and pets to be provided for after your death. LegalZoom works with the testator (or the person making the will) in creating valid Missouri wills and in assigning a person (called the executor in most states) to administer a Missouri last will and testament after the death of the testator.
Basic Requirements of a Missouri Last Will and Testament:
Age: The testator must be at least 18 years of age or be a minor emancipated by adjudication, marriage or entry into active military duty into the military.
Capacity: The testator must be of sound (capable of reasoning and making decisions) mind.
Signature: A Missouri last will and testament must be signed by the testator, or by another person under the testator's direction and presence.
Witnesses: At least two witnesses must sign it in the presence of the testator.
Writing: A Missouri last will and testament must be in writing to be valid.
Beneficiaries: A Missouri last will and testament may make a disposition of property to any person.
Other types of recognized wills:
Nuncupative wills: Under certain circumstances provided by Missouri laws, an oral will may be recognized. However, the legal requirements for an oral will are specific and need to be strictly followed.
Distribution of Property:
A will is a legal document created by you to determine how your property, known as your estate, is distributed after your death. Your estate consists of assets and property including bank accounts, homes, land, furniture, automobiles, and securities (stocks and bonds). In general, Missouri laws allow you to dispose of your property as you wish.
Other Purposes of Wills:
LegalZoom's Missouri wills form may be used to designate a guardian for any minor children.
Our Missouri wills form may be used to name an executor (also called a personal representative or administrator) to handle a testator's property and affairs from the time of death until the estate is settled.
Our Missouri wills form may also be used to pass on property to a charity.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
Property owned in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship automatically passes onto the surviving owner.
A beneficiary in a life insurance policy may not be changed through a will.
If a spouse is excluded from the will, the surviving spouse may take a portion of the estate within a certain period of time as allowed by Missouri laws.
Providing for Pets
Missouri laws recognize a trust for the care of a pet after the owner dies. The trust cannot be longer than 21 years in duration. Under Missouri laws, the testator would make an addition to the will stating the designated beneficiary (the pet trust) for the pet after the owner's death. Legalzoom's Missouri wills form gives you the choice of providing for your pets in this manner.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Will
A Missouri will and testament may be changed whenever the testator desires.
A Missouri will and testament can be changed through a codicil, which is a document stating additions or changes to the original will. Codicils must be executed in accordance with Missouri laws.
Revoking A Will
A Missouri will and testament, or any part of one, may be revoked by a subsequent will in writing, or by burning, canceling, tearing or obliterating the will, by the testator, or in his presence, and by his consent and direction.
Probate and Estate Taxes
After the testator has died, probate procedures prove the validity of the Missouri last will, pay off debts and taxes of the estate, appoint a personal representative to administrate the will, and distribute property as designated in the Missouri last will.
Missouri estate taxes encompass the Federal estate tax credit for state death taxes, and hence no additional taxes are owed. Within 9 months of the testator's death, an estate tax return must be filed with the Missouri Department of Revenue. The estate taxes owed from probate of your Missouri last will are determined using these guidelines.
It is extremely important to make a Missouri will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict Missouri laws.
For example, if you do not make a Missouri will, your surviving spouse will receive the entire estate (if you have no children at the time of your death). If you have children, then your spouse will receive the first $25,000 in value of the estate and one half of the estate, and your children will share the other half in equal amounts.
If you make a Missouri will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.