Making a Will in Missouri

How to make a will in Missouri and what can happen if you don't.

What Can I Do With a Missouri Will?

A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:

  • leave your property to people or organizations
  • name a personal guardian to care for your minor children
  • name a trusted person to manage property you leave to minor children, and
  • name an executor, the person who makes sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

What Happens if I Die Without a Will?

In Missouri, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Missouri's intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you have neither a spouse nor children, your grandchildren or your parents will get your property. This list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins of any degree, great grandparents, great aunts or uncles, any relative to the ninth degree, or the children, parents, or siblings of a spouse who dies before you do. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Will in Missouri?

No. You can make your own will in Missouri, using Nolo's do-it-yourself will software or online will programs. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or if you want to disinherit your spouse, you should talk with an attorney. Nolo's will-making products tell you when it's wise to seek a lawyer's advice.

What Are the Requirements for Signing a Will in Missouri?

To finalize your will in Missouri:

  • you must sign your will in front of two witnesses, and
  • your witnesses must sign your will in front of you. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 474.320.

Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?

No, in Missouri, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.

However, Missouri allows you to make your will "self-proving" and you'll need to go to a notary if you want to do that. A self-proving will speeds up probate because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it.

To make your will self-proving, you and your witnesses will go to the notary and sign an affidavit that proves who you are and that each of you knew you were signing the will.

Should I Use My Will to Name an Executor?

Yes. In Missouri, you can use your will to name an executor who will ensure that the provisions in your will are carried out after your death. Nolo's will software and online will produces a letter to your executor that generally explains what the job requires. If you don't name an executor, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.

Can I Revoke or Change My Will?

In Missouri, you may revoke or change your will at any time. You can revoke your will by:

  • burning, canceling, tearing, or obliterating the will
  • ordering someone else to burn, cancel, tear, or obliterate the will in front of you, or
  • making a new will. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 474.400.

If you and your spouse divorce, Missouri law revokes any language in your will in your ex-spouse's favor. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 474.420. If you have any concerns about the effects of divorce on your will, see an estate planning attorney for help.

If you need to make changes to your will, it’s best to revoke it and make a new one. However, if you have only very simple changes to make, you could add an amendment to your existing will – this is called a codicil. In either case, you will need to finalize your changes with the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above).

Where Can I Find Missouri’s Laws About Making Wills?

You can find Missouri's laws about making wills here: Missouri Revised Statutes Title XXXI Trusts and Estates of Decedents and Persons Under Disability Chapter 474 Probate Code - Intestate Succession and Wills.

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