If you die without a valid will while residing in the State of Missouri, you are said to have died "intestate." In order to determine who will receive your property if you die intestate, the State of Missouri has established a number of laws (known as "intestacy laws" or "laws of intestate succession.") The primary statutes comprising these intestacy laws, or laws of intestate succession, are set forth below. For a more complete list, see Missouri Intestacy Laws | Intestate Succession statutes.
General rules of descent
All property as to which any decedent dies intestate shall descend and be distributed, subject to the payment of claims, as follows:
(1) The surviving spouse shall receive:
(a) The entire intestate estate if there is no surviving issue of the decedent;
(b) The first twenty thousand dollars in value of the intestate estate, plus one-half of the balance of the intestate estate, if there are surviving issue, all of whom are also issue of the surviving spouse;
(c) One-half of the intestate estate if there are surviving issue, one or more of whom are not issue of the surviving spouse;
(2) The part not distributable to the surviving spouse, or the entire intestate property, if there is no surviving spouse, shall descend and be distributed as follows:
(a) To the decedent's children, or their descendants, in equal parts;
(b) If there are no children, or their descendants, then to the decedent's father, mother, brothers and sisters or their descendants in equal parts;
(c) If there are no children, or their descendants, father, mother, brother or sister, or their descendants, then to the grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles and aunts or their descendants in equal parts;
(d) If there are no children or their descendants, father, mother, brother, sister, or their descendants, grandfather, grandmother, uncles, aunts, nor their descendants, then to the great-grandfathers, great-grandmothers, or their descendants, in equal parts; and so on, in other cases without end, passing to the nearest lineal ancestors and their children, or their descendants, in equal parts; provided, however, that collateral relatives, that is, relatives who are neither ancestors nor descendants of the decedent, may not inherit unless they are related to the decedent at least as closely as the ninth degree, the degree of kinship being computed according to the rules of the civil law; that is, by counting upward from the decedent to the nearest common ancestor, and then downward to the relative, the degree of kinship being the sum of these two counts, so that brothers are related in the second degree;
(3) If there is no surviving spouse or kindred of the decedent entitled to inherit, the whole shall go to the kindred of the predeceased spouse who, at the time of the spouse's death, was married to the decedent, in like course as if such predeceased spouse had survived the decedent and then died entitled to the property, and if there is more than one such predeceased spouse, then to go in equal shares to the kindred of each predeceased spouse;
(4) If no person is entitled to inherit as provided in this section the property shall escheat as provided by law.
Failure to survive decedent by 120 hours deemed predecease of decedent --consequences
1. Any person who fails to survive the decedent by one hundred twenty hours is deemed to have predeceased the decedent for purposes of homestead allowance, exempt property, and intestate succession, and the decedent's heirs are determined accordingly. If the time of death of the decedent, or of the person who would otherwise be an heir, or the times of death of both, cannot be determined, and it cannot be established that the person who would otherwise be an heir has survived the decedent by one hundred twenty hours, it is deemed that the person failed to survive for the required period.
2. This section is not to be applied where its application would result in a taking of intestate estate by the state under section 474.010.
Other intestacy statutes
There are additional statutes pertaining to the distribution of intestate property in the State of Missouri. To view those statutes, please click here.
[Reference - Missouri's Intestacy Laws].