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Missouri Inheritance Laws: What You Should Know

Rachel Cautero
The Arch in St. Louis, Missouri

Missouri inheritance laws are fairly tax-friendly, as the state doesn’t have an inheritance or estate tax. You will, however, be responsible for federal inheritance taxes should the inherited estate be over a certain threshold. In this guide we’ll take an in-depth look at Missouri inheritance laws, in which we break down intestate succession, probate, taxes, what makes a valid will, and more. Estate planning is a complicated topic, however, so it may be a good idea to work with a financial advisor with expertise in the field.

Does Missouri Have an Inheritance Tax or Estate Tax?

Missouri does not have an inheritance tax or estate tax, though there are some loopholes on the latter. Keep in mind that while they sound similar, inheritance taxes and estate taxes are two different things. Estate taxes are applied to the deceased’s estate immediately after their passing, while inheritance taxes are applied to the funds once they’ve been passed down to the deceased’s heirs.

That said, you will be responsible for filing some taxes on behalf of the recently deceased. Learn more below.

Other Necessary Tax Filings

Despite the fact that Missouri does not have an inheritance or estate tax, the estate may still need to file some other taxes. These include:

  • Inheritance taxes for another state  There’s a chance that you might owe inheritance taxes to another state if you inherit an estate. For example, you could inherit property from an heir in one of the six states that do impose an inheritance tax, like Kentucky. Then you’d need to pay that inheritance tax. Due dates for inheritance taxes vary by state.
  • Federal estate tax – An estate could subject to the federal estate tax if it’s more than $11.58 million. If your inheritance is more than $11.58 million, you will be taxed on the overage, not the entire estate. Federal estate taxes are due nine months after the date of death.
  • Both federal and state income tax returns – The estate of the deceased must file individual state and income tax returns one final time, due by the tax deadline in the year immediately following their death.

Missouri’s inheritance tax was enacted in 1917 and repealed in 1980. Its estate tax, enacted in 2012, was adjusted in 2017 to accommodate an exemption of $11.2 million. This exemption was later increased to $11.8 million.

Dying With a Will in Missouri

First, the basics. Dying with a last will and testament in place is referred to as testacy while dying without a will and last testament is called dying intestate.

If you die in Missouri with a valid will, then your property and other assets will be distributed according to that will – barring a successful will contest. Missouri’s requirements for a valid will include: the testator must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind, the will must be signed by the testator and at least two witnesses, it must be written (with a few exceptions), and must name a beneficiary.

Missouri requires that an estate be over $40,000 in order to go through a standard probate process. Otherwise, it will undergo a simplified probate process. Wills and testaments must be filed within one year of death with the Probate Division of the Circuit Court. Missouri does adhere to the Uniform Probate Code, a standardized set of probate procedures used in 15 states.

From there, there are three routes probate can take. First, the settling of the estate can move through informal probate, which usually occurs when all the heirs are getting along and things appear to be going smoothly in terms of distributing assets. Or there could be formal probate, in which the court supervises part of the settling of the estate. This occurs when there are disputes. Finally, there’s supervised formal probate, which is subject to court supervision across the board.

Dying Without a Will in Missouri

Table Rock Lake in Missouri

If you die without a will (also called dying intestate), things get much more complicated. First, dying without a will means having the deceased’s estate distributed according to Missouri’s intestate succession law. This law will also provides guidance as to how the estate should be distributed if there is no surviving spouse or children.

Most importantly, if you die without a will in Missouri, your entire estate must pass through probate (with the above-noted exceptions, of course). This isn’t ideal, as probate can often be an expensive and lengthy process. Going through the probate process can often mean your estate will lose thousands of dollars in value, not to mention six months to a year’s time.

The Show-Me State is not a community property state, meaning it doesn’t have some of the more complicated property division rules of community property states.

Spouses in Missouri Inheritance Law

According to the inheritance laws of Missouri, which does not recognize common law marriages, spouses are entitled to 100% of the intestate estate if there are no surviving children. If you have children, your spouse is entitled to the first $20,000 in value of the estate, plus 50% of the balance of the estate. Your children will receive the remainder. (More on that below). If you have stepchildren not from your spouse, then the latter gets 50% of your estate and your descendants, i.e. stepchildren, get the other half.

Children in Missouri Inheritance Law

As mentioned, if there is a surviving spouse, he or she gets the first $20,000 of the estate’s value, plus 50% of the remainder. The other 50% is distributed evenly among children of the two spouses. Stepchildren of the deceased (not with the surviving spouse) get 50% of the intestate estate, while the spouse claims the other half.

If the deceased has no surviving spouse, then his or her children or their descendants will be the sole recipients of the estate in equal parts. If the deceased has no children or spouse, then according to Missouri law, the estate is divided evenly among their father, mother, siblings, or descendants, then to grandparents, aunts and uncles or other descendants.

Intestate Succession: Spouses and Children Inheritance Situation Who Inherits Your Property Spouse, but no children, siblings or parents – Entire estate to spouse Children, but no spouse – Children inherit everything Spouse and children with that spouse – Spouse gets first $20,000 of intestate estate value, plus 50% of the balance. Descendants inherit everything else Spouse and stepchildren from you and partner other than that spouse – Spouse gets 50% of intestate property, stepchildren get 50%. Unmarried Individuals Without Children in Missouri Inheritance Law

Woman canoeing down a river in Missouri

In the case of the intestate estate of an unmarried individual with no children, there are several laws governing who gets what. If the deceased has parents and siblings, then the estate is divided up evenly among them. If they have parents but no siblings (or spouse or children), then the entire estate goes to the parents. The same goes for if they have siblings but no surviving parents (and no spouse or children). Then, the entire state is split up evenly among their siblings.

If the state cannot locate any heirs and all possible heirs have been exhausted – think aunts, uncles, cousins, great-grandparents, even nieces or nephews – then the estate goes back to the state, or “escheats.” This is unlikely, as the state will likely unearth at least one or two heirs.

Also, keep in mind that these above mentioned scenarios are only enacted in the case of an intestate estate. If the deceased has a valid will, it will take precedence over the state’s succession laws.

Intestate Succession: Extended Family Inheritance Situation Who Inherits Your Property Parents, but no spouse, children, or siblings – Entire estate to parents Parents, but no spouse or children – Estate split among parents and siblings in equal shares No children, spouse, siblings, or parents – Estate split evenly among grandparents, aunts and uncles and other descendants in equal shares. Non-Probate Missouri Inheritances

Assets that are exempt from going through probate include jointly owned property with right of survivorship, property owned by tenants in their entirety, living trusts, and accounts that already have a beneficiary named, such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies.

Other Situations in Missouri Inheritance Law

Regardless of state, inheritance laws can be tricky, and some of Missouri’s unique laws only add to that. For example, the state employs a survivorship period which states that an heir must outlive the deceased by 120 hours. If they die within this timeframe, their estate isn’t eligible to inherit any of the deceased’s.

Additionally, half relatives, such as step or half-siblings receive half the inheritance as relatives that are whole. In other words, a stepbrother would receive half the inheritance from your late father as you and your full sister. Lastly, immigration status is of no importance in Missouri’s inheritance laws. Heirs get their due share, whether they are legal citizens of the U.S. or not.

Estate Planning Tips

  • Estate planning is a complicated process, so some professional help may be needed. A financial advisor can offer valuable guidance. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Having enough money to leave to your heirs starts with creating a secure retirement for yourself. SmartAsset’s retirement calculator can help you determine whether you’re on pace to meet your retirement income needs.

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