Writing a will means that you decide who acquires your property when you die. If you don’t make a will, you are said to be “intestate” and the state decides who is entitled to your estate. In Missouri, a person of sound mind who is at least 18 years of age, or an emancipated minor, may make a valid will. This person is commonly referred to as the “testator.”
Writing a Will
The Missouri Revised Statutes provide that all wills should be in writing and signed by the testator in the presence of at least two witnesses who sign it. The law does not invalidate a will if it is witnessed by someone who benefits from it, but the witness may forfeit all or some of his bequest by doing so. If you wish to write a will, you can contact an attorney or a legal document preparation service such as LegalZoom.
To avoid potential disputes, all wills should be in writing; however, Missouri allows oral wills in certain, limited circumstances. An oral will is valid if made by an individual who is in imminent peril of death and dies as a result of that peril, such as an illness. Two independent individuals should witness the oral will and arrange for it to be confirmed in writing within 30 days. Oral wills apply only to personal property up to a value of $500.
Revoking a Will
Circumstances change for everyone over time and you should review your will after any important life changes, such as having children or getting married. Missouri allows two methods for revoking a will. Most commonly, the testator may simply write a new will and sign it in the presence of two witnesses. This automatically revokes any previous wills. If, however, a testator wishes to revoke a will without writing a new one, he should destroy it or direct it to be destroyed in his presence.
Effect of Divorce
If a testator divorces his spouse after making his will, Missouri law automatically revokes all provisions in the will that benefit the spouse. The effect is the same as if the former spouse died at the time of the divorce. All other provisions of the will remain in force.