A last will and testament is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (real and personal property) upon your death. Mississippi wills permit the testator, the person writing the will, to provide for a spouse, children, or other loved ones after his death as well as to name a personal representative for the estate.
Not to be confused with a will, a Mississippi living will, or advance health care directive, provides instructions should you become incapacitated and incapable of making decisions regarding your medical care.
Do You Need a Last Will and Testament?
Although a last will and testament is not legally required, without a will, the laws of intestacy determine the distribution of an estate's assets. Because the outcome may not coincide with the decedent's wishes, it is generally advisable to create a last will and testament.
In addition to providing the opportunity to direct asset distribution, a Mississippi last will and testament form also allows the testator to make a charitable gift, create a trust for any person, or name a legal guardian for minor children.
Before the terms of a Mississippi last will and testament can be effectuated, the will must be proven in probate court. Probate is the court-supervised process of distributing the estate of a deceased person.
Once the will is proven, the executor can proceed to wrap up the estate, which includes collecting and protecting property, paying off debts, and then distributing assets.
Mississippi also offers shortcut options for small estates, including claiming property through an affidavit and using a simplified procedure for estates worth $500 or less.
Intestacy: Dying Without a Will
Someone who dies without a will is called “intestate,” which invokes the strict laws of intestacy. In Mississippi in the absence of a will, a surviving spouse inherits the entire estate unless there are also surviving children, in which case the spouse’s share varies based on the number of children.
If there is no surviving spouse, descendants, or parents, other relatives, including siblings and grandparents, will inherit depending on the closeness of the relation.
Exceptions to Ability to Distribute Property
Not all property can be distributed according to a will. Some exceptions in Mississippi include the following:
- Property owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship
- Life insurance policy and retirement account proceeds
- Elective share of surviving spouse if excluded from the will
- Share for child born after the execution of the will
Form a Last Will in Mississippi
The basic requirements for a Mississippi last will and testament include the following:
- Age: The testator must be at least 18 years old.
- Capacity: The testator must be of “sound and disposing mind.”
- Signature: The will must be signed by the testator or by someone else in the testator’s name in his presence, by his direction.
- Witnesses: A Mississippi will must be signed by at least disinterested two witnesses in the presence of the testator if the will was not written entirely and signed by the testator.
- Writing: A Mississippi will must be in writing, except as noted below.
- Beneficiaries: A testator can leave property to anyone.
Other Recognized Wills in Mississippi
Mississippi recognizes nuncupative (oral) wills in certain specific circumstances.
Changing a Mississippi Last Will and Testament
A Mississippi will may be changed at any time by codicil, a type of amendment to the will, which must be executed in the same way as a will.
Revoking a Mississippi Last Will and Testament
The revocation of a Mississippi will can be accomplished in the following ways:
- By executing a subsequent will, codicil or other writing; or
- By “destroying, canceling, or obliterating” the document, done by either the testator or by someone else at his direction in his conscious presence.
When you are ready to make a last will, LegalZoom can help. We can help you start a last will online in three easy steps.