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.
Only assets that pass through probate are affected by intestate succession laws. Many valuable assets don't go through probate, and therefore aren't affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples:
These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will. However, if you don't have a will and none of the named beneficiaries are alive to take the property, then the property could end up being transferred according to intestate succession.
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:
|If you die with:||here's what happens:|
|children but no spouse||children inherit everything|
|spouse but no children||spouse inherits everything|
|spouse and one child||spouse inherits 1/2 of intestate property
child inherits 1/2 of intestate property
|spouse and more than one child||spouse and children inherit intestate property in equal shares|
|parents but no spouse or children||parents inherit everything|
|siblings but no spouse, children, or parents||siblings inherit everything|
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.
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.
If you want to read the law, Mississippi Code § 91-1-15 covers parent-child relationships.
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.
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, nieces, nephews, or cousins.
Here are a few other things to know about Mississippi intestacy laws.
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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