Last Will and Testament Missouri
When creating a Last Will and Testament in Missouri, you are creating a plan for what happens to your assets when they pass. When you create a Will that sets out exactly what you want, your family or other beneficiaries will not usually question if they are doing the right thing when it comes to your assets. A Will takes away a lot of uncertainty and indecision that families might have after losing a loved one.
A Will is important no matter how little or how much you may have in your estate, and there are many reasons you may want to make a Will – controlling what happens to your assets, who would look after your children, how property would be divided, how debts would be paid, and who would be in charge. At Affordable Legal Services, our team provides estate planning services for individuals and families in all walks of life, and we handle cases of all sizes and types. Contact our attorneys to learn more about how we can help.
What is a Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament (or “Will”) is a legal document that an individual creates to tell others what they would like done with their assets after they pass. A Will can also accomplish many other estate planning goals. For instance, it can name a guardian or conservator for minor children or contain a trust to benefit those children for years to come.
Can I Write My Own Will in Missouri?
You can draft your own will, and as long as it meets several legal requirements. However, just because you can create your own will does not necessarily mean that you should. There are many forms online, some are right, some are wrong, and many are not designed to be compliant with Missouri Law; some say they are compliant with Missouri Law, but are not. Seeing an attorney will ensure that your Will is done correctly, and that your wishes are carried out.
How Do I Write a Will in Missouri?
A valid will under Missouri law requires several requirements. First, you generally must be at least 18 years old to create a valid will. In addition, you must be of “sound mind’, and making the Will of your own choosing. Two witnesses will be required.
Name Your Beneficiaries
Describe the person or persons you want to receive your property upon your death. This can be very specific, or alternatively, can be relatively general (such as “one equal share to each of my children”). You can specify whether you want the property itself to be received by your beneficiaries (a gift “in kind”), or alternatively, for the property to be sold and proceeds split among your beneficiaries.
Choose a Personal Representative
A Personal Representative is someone who will administer your estate based on the directions in the Will. They will gather assets, get valuations, and distribute assets. They may also pay outstanding bills and address any administration costs as well.
Choose a Guardian and/or Conservator for Your Minor Children
Your Will can also set out who you would like to care for your children if you pass before your children become of age. A Guardian is the person who will make most day to day decisions for a child. A Conservator is the person who will make most financial decisions for the child. One person can be both Guardian and Conservator, or two separate people can serve as such. The Guardian and/or Conservator will often take on all of the rights and responsibilities of raising your children in your absence, so these are very important decisions.
Write the Will and Sign it in Front of Witnesses
You must put all of the decisions you have made about the previous issues on paper. Then, sign the will in front of two witnesses. They will also sign the will in front of you as well. Your witnesses should not be anyone who is named in the Will, meaning, the witnesses should be “disinterested”.
Self Proving Affidavit and Notary
It is generally advisable (but not required) to have the Will notarized, while containing a “Self-Proving Affidavit”. If you include such an affidavit, the Witnesses will not have to be located after you die. If you do not include the affidavit, your Will has to be “proven” after you die, which is accomplished by finding the two witnesses and having them sign sworn statements that they did indeed witness your Will, back when you signed it. If the witnesses cannot be found, the Will cannot be “proved” and will be invalid.
Must I List or Name Specific Property in My Will?
You do not have to name specific property in your Will; however, you might have specific assets that you want to include in your will. You can list those out individually, or you can provide a category of assets, such as all bank accounts or all furniture.
In many situations, there is a clause that deals with “residual property,” which is essentially any other property that you own but have not specifically been named in the will. This “catch-all” provision ensures that all of your property is addressed in the will. Most Wills in Missouri do not reference specific property in the body of the Will. Some Wills are supplemented by a list that is attached to the end of the Will that gives away certain tangible, personal property upon death.
Is a Handwritten Will Valid in Missouri?
Generally, a handwritten will (often called a holographic will) may be valid Missouri, if it otherwise meets all of the requirements for making a Last Will and Testament. However, as you might imagine, may do-it-yourself, handwritten Wills simply DO NOT meet all of the requirements, often not being witnessed, containing the correct information, or many times contain ambiguities that make for an unclear understanding of the Decedent’s wishes.
Does a Will Have to be Notarized?
A will written in Missouri does not have to be notarized to be valid. However, it is advised to have the Will contain a self-proving affidavit and be notarized, as referenced above.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Make a Will in Missouri?
You are not required to have a lawyer to draft a will. However, having a Missouri estate planning lawyer help with this process greatly increases the likelihood that the Will correctly contains your wishes, is done correctly, and is upheld as valid. Learn more about creating a Will in Missouri by calling Affordable Legal Services at 417-409-2819.
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* The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements. Neither the Supreme Court of Missouri nor The Missouri Bar reviews or approves certifying organizations or specialist designations. Certain cases may be referred, or may involve outside co-counsel arrangements, in which event you would be notified.