If a Mississippi resident fails to make arrangements for the division of his property by making a will, his property will be divided according to state law. These laws are known as "laws of intestate succession," and they provide a distribution scheme that dictates a priority of heirs. In other words, certain relatives are entitled to all, or a portion of, a decedent's estate under certain circumstances -- if he didn't make a valid will. Dying without a valid will is known as dying "intestate."
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Inheritance by Will
Anyone who is at least 18 years old and of sound mind can make a will in Mississippi. Being of sound mind simply indicates that the will maker, or "testator," knows or understands the significance of executing a will. In Mississippi, a parent can disinherit a child by stating it clearly in his will. If a married Mississippi resident attempts to disinherit his spouse in a will -- or leaves her less than her statutory share -- she may set the will aside and choose to take an "elective share." An elective share is the portion to which a suriving spouse would normally be entitled to under the state's laws of intestate succession.
Spouse's Inheritance Rights
In Mississippi, a surviving spouse is entitled to her deceased spouse's entire estate if her spouse died intestate and had no children or other descendents, such as grandchildren. If a married person dies intestate with a surviving spouse and surviving children, the surviving spouse and surviving children inherit the estate in equal portions. If a surviving spouse renounces the share bequeathed to her in her spouse's will, she is allowed only to receive one-half of her spouse's estate.
Children and Grandchildren
According to Mississippi inheritance law, children have the right to inherit a deceased parent's entire estate -- in equal shares -- if their parent was unmarried at the time of his death. For example, if an unmarried parent leaves four surviving children, each will inherit one-fourth of his estate. Grandchildren have the right to an inheritance under certain circumstances. For instance, a grandchild is entitled to her parent's inheritance share if her parent predeceased the grandparent.
Parents and Siblings
If a decedent dies intestate and leaves no surviving spouse or children, his estate is divided among his parents and siblings in equal portions. For example, if a decedent has one surviving parent and two siblings, each receives one-third of the estate. If there are no surviving parents, the siblings split the estate equally. If a decedent's siblings predecease him, but his siblings had children, those children -- the decedent's nieces or nephews -- inherit their deceased parent's share.
If a decedent has no surviving spouse, descendants, parents, siblings, nieces or nephews, his estate passes to his grandparents, aunts and uncles -- in equal shares. If a decedent has no surviving grandparents, aunts or uncles, his estate passes to his next of kin; a decedent's next of kin may be his cousins or other more distant relatives. If a decedent has no surviving relatives whatsoever, his estate "escheats," or passes, to the state of Mississippi.
References & Resources
- Mississippi State University: Planning Your Estate
- The Mississippi Code: Sec. 91-5-1 Who May Execute
- The Mississippi Code: Sec. 91-5-25 Right of Spouse to Renounce Will
- The Mississippi Code: Sec. 91-5-5 Children Born After Making of the Will
- The Mississippi Code: Sec. 91-1-7 Descent of Property as Between Husband and Wife
- The Mississippi Code: Sec. 91-1-3 Descent of Land
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