A will is a legal instrument that tells the probate court how to distribute your assets after you die. Because the probate process often involves considerable expense and delay, Missouri law authorizes real property owners to execute a beneficiary deed, which allows someone to transfer real property to his heirs after his death without having to submit the property to probate. Both wills and beneficiary deeds must be drafted in particular ways to be enforced. Nevertheless, if your estate is small, you can prepare both a will and a beneficiary deed without the assistance of an attorney.
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Take a written inventory of your property. Include real estate, personal property, bank accounts and intangibles such as patents or corporate stock.
Entitle your will "Last Will and Testament of [your full legal name]. This will satisy the legal requirement that an enforceable will must clearly indicate its intent.
State your full name,and recite the required assertions -- that you are at least 18, that you are of sound mind, that you have not been subject to undue influence with regard to the contents of your will, and that your will revokes all previous wills and codicils.
Appoint your executor. The executor is the person who will administer your estate after you die and represent it during probate proceedings. Consider appointing an alternate executor so that you don't have to revise your will if your first choice dies before you do.
Add specific instructions as to the distribution of your property to your heirs, referring to your property inventory. Remember that if your spouse survives you, he will be entitled to a statutory portion under Missouri law, regardless of the contents of your will. If you intend to transfer real property under a benficiary deed, don't mention this property in your will.
Sign and date the will in the presence of two adult witnesses. They must watch you sign the will, and then they must sign the will in your presence.
The Beneficiary Deed
Complete the information requested in the beneficiary deed. You must identify yourself as the grantor and your heir as the beneficiary. You must include the date the deed is signed, and insert the legal description of the property that is included in your property's current deed.
State that the change in ownership is not to take effect until the death of the grantor. If you omit this statement, the transfer will take place immediately.
Sign and date the deed in the presence of a notary public, and have the notary public sign the deed and affix his official seal.
File the deed with the Recorder of Deeds with jurisdiction over the city or county where the property is located.
- A fill-in-the-blanks version of a Missouri beneficiary deed
Tips & Warnings
You may grant your property to two or more heirs as tenants in common. A tenancy in common is one form of joint ownership. When one tenant dies, his share goes to his heirs rather than to the other tenant.
The property transferred by the beneficiary deed must be located in Missouri for the deed to be governed by Missouri law, regardless of your state of residence.
References & Resources
- MissouriBeneficiaryDeed.com: Beneficiary Deeds
- Missouri General Assembly: Missouri Nonprobate Transfers Law
- FindLaw: Missouri Wills Laws
- Lawyers.com: Will Basics
- MissouriBeneficiaryDeed.com: Instructions
- Missouri Nonprobate Transfers Law: Deeds Effective on Death of Owner
- Sirkin & Associates: What is a Tenancy in Common (TIC)?
- LandAmerica: Missouri Beneficiary Deed
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