Making a Will in Missouri

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

By , Attorney · University of Arkansas School of Law

Steps to Create a Will in Missouri

Here's a quick checklist for making a will in Missouri:

  1. Decide what property to include in your will.
  2. Decide who will inherit your property.
  3. Choose an executor to handle your estate.
  4. Choose a guardian for your children.
  5. Choose someone to manage children's property.
  6. Make your will.
  7. Sign your will in front of witnesses.
  8. Store your will safely.

Why Should I Make 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 Don't Have 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 Quicken WillMaker & Trust. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or you have especially complicated goals, you should talk with an attorney. See Do I Need an Attorney to Make My Estate Plan?

What Are the Requirements for Making a Will in Missouri?

To make a will in Missouri, you must be of sound mind and:

  • 18 years of age or older, or
  • an emancipated minor by court order, marriage, or entry into active military duty. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 474.310.

Your will disposes of your real and personal property. You can also use your Missouri will to donate all or part of your body to any college, university, licensed hospital, or the state anatomical board. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 474.310.

You must generally make your will on hard copy. That is, it must be on actual paper. It cannot be on an audio, video, or any other digital file. (Although, see "Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?," below.) Type and print your will using a computer, or you can use a typewriter. Missouri does not permit handwritten (holographic) wills that are not witnessed.

However, Mississippi does allow nuncupative (oral) wills under limited circumstances. To make a valid oral will, you must make the will while in "imminent peril" of your death, you die from that peril and:

  • you say it is your will in front of two disinterested witnesses,
  • you reduce the information to writing within 30 days after declaring it to be your will, and
  • the writing is submitted to probate court within six months after your death. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 474.340.

How Do I Sign My Missouri Will?

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.

Your will should be signed by disinterested persons who don't stand to inherit anything from you. If an interested person serves as a witness, they can lose the gift you leave them. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 474.330.

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. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 474.337.

Should My Will 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 Quicken WillMaker & Trust 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).

Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?

In a handful of states, you can make a legal will digitally—that is, you can make the will, sign it, and have it witnessed without ever printing it out. Although such electronic wills are currently available in only a minority of states, many other states are considering making electronic wills legal. Missouri currently doesn't allow e-wills, but that may change in the future.

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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