If you die without a will in Mississippi, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state “intestate succession” laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Mississippi.
Which Assets Pass by Intestate Succession
Only assets that would have passed through your will are affected by intestate succession laws. Usually, that includes only assets that you own alone, in your own name.
Many valuable assets don’t go through your will, and aren’t affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples:
- property you’ve transferred to a living trust
- life insurance proceeds
- funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account
- securities held in a transfer-on-death account
- payable-on-death bank accounts, or
- property you own with someone else in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety.
These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will.
Who Gets What in Mississippi?
Under intestate succession, who gets what depends on whether or not you have living children, parents, or other close relatives when you die. Here’s a quick overview:
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The Spouse’s Share in Mississippi
In Mississippi, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living children or other descendants. If you don’t, then your spouse inherits all of your intestate property. If you do, they and your spouse will share your intestate property as follows:
If you die with one child. Your surviving spouse and your child split your intestate property 50/50. If your child dies before you do and you have grandchildren, your grandchildren will take your child’s share.
Example: Barrett is married to Jed and also has a 12-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Barrett owns a house in joint tenancy with Jed, plus $200,000 worth of additional, separate property that would have passed under a will if Barrett had made one. When Barrett dies, Jed inherits the house outright – it’s not intestate property -- plus $100,000 worth of Barrett’s property. Barrett’s daughter inherits the remaining $100,000 share of Barrett’s property.
If you die with more than one child. Your surviving spouse and children will each take an equal share of your intestate property. If a child dies before you do, leaving grandchildren, your grandchildren will take your child’s share.
Example: Bill is married to Karen, and they have two grown children. Bill also has a son from a previous marriage. Bill and Karen own a large bank account in joint tenancy, and Bill took out a life insurance policy naming Karen as the beneficiary. When Bill dies, Karen receives the life insurance policy proceeds and inherits the bank account outright. Bill also owns $400,000 worth of property that would have passed under a will. Karen and the three children each inherit a $100,000 share of that property.
Children’s Shares in Mississippi
If you die without a will in Mississippi, your children will receive an “intestate share” of your property. The size of each child’s share depends on how many children you have and whether or not you are married. (See the table above.)
For children to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, the state of Mississippi must consider them your children, legally. For many families, this is not a confusing issue. But it’s not always clear. Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Adopted children. Children you legally adopted will receive an intestate share, just as your biological children do.
- Foster children and stepchildren. Foster children and stepchildren you never legally adopted will not automatically receive a share.
- Children placed for adoption. Children you placed for adoption and who were legally adopted by another family will not receive a share. However, if your biological children were adopted by your spouse, that won’t affect their intestate inheritance.
- Posthumous children. Children conceived by you but not born before your death will receive a share.
- Children born outside of marriage. If you were not married to your children’s mother when she gave birth to them, they will receive a share of your estate if (1) you participated in a marriage ceremony that later turned out to be void, or (2) your paternity is established by a court.
- Children born during your marriage. Any child born to your wife during your marriage is assumed to be your child and will receive a share of your estate.
- Grandchildren. Your grandchildren will receive a share only if their parent (your child) has died before you do.
If you want to read the law, Mississippi Code § 91-1-15 covers parent-child relationships. You can search the code from the website of the Mississippi Secretary of State.
This can be a tricky area of the law, so if you have questions about your relationship to your parent or child, get help from an experienced attorney.
Will the State Get Your Property?
If you die without a will and don’t have any family, your property will “escheat” into the state’s coffers. However, this very rarely happens because the laws are designed to get your property to anyone who was even remotely related to you. For example, your property won’t go to the state if you leave a spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, neices, nephews, or cousins.
Other Mississippi Intestate Succession Rules
Here are a few other things to know about Mississippi intestacy laws.
- Half-relatives. “Half” relatives inherit as if they were “whole.” That is, your sister with whom you share a father, but not a mother, has the same right to your property as she would if you had both parents in common.
- Posthumous relatives. Relatives conceived before -- but born after -- you die inherit as if they had been born while you were alive, as long as they survive at least 120 hours after birth.
- Immigration status. Relatives entitled to an intestate share of your property will inherit whether or not they are citizens or legally in the United States.
- Causing someone’s death. Any person who willfully causes or procures the death of another person may not inherit from that person.
To learn more about intestate succession, read How an Estate Is Settled When There is No Will.
You can find Mississippi’s intestate succession laws in the Mississippi Code, Sections 91-1-1 to 91-1-31. If you want to read the law, you can search the Mississippi Code by visiting the website of the Mississippi Secretary of State.
For more about estate planning, go to the Wills, Trusts & Probate section of Nolo.com.
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