How to Prepare Your Own Will and Beneficiary Deed in Missouri

By Christine Funk, J.D.

How to Prepare Your Own Will and Beneficiary Deed in Missouri

By Christine Funk, J.D.

Wills and beneficiary deeds meet two very different needs for Missourians. Wills dictate how you want to distribute your assets when you pass away, after any remaining debts are paid, of course. A beneficiary deed, on the other hand, deals with a specific piece of titled property.

Glasses, pen, and stamp lying on a document labeled "Last Will and Testament"

Preparing a Will

Follow these steps when preparing a valid will in Missouri.

1. Indicate intent and that you meet the legal requirements for writing a will.

Under Missouri law, a will must clearly indicate its intent. It is not enough to write in your diary, "I want my sister to inherit my stuff." Instead, identify your wishes clearly by titling it "Last Will and Testament of [insert full legal name here]."

The document must also meet the requirements of Missouri law that require the person writing it to be of sound mind and 18 years of age, or a minor emancipated by adjudication, marriage, or active military duty.

2. Appoint an executor.

An executor is the person responsible for distributing your assets after you pass away, dealing with your creditors, and filing your taxes. It is wise to choose an executor you trust to follow your wishes as laid out in your will and who is capable of the task. It is also a good idea to name an alternate person in case your named executor is not able or willing to serve.

3. Identify your property and beneficiaries.

Property includes both real property (such as a home) and personal property, such as furniture, art, antiques, cars, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, and business interests. List all property and identify who you want to inherit it. If you also plan to execute a beneficiary deed to real property, do not include that property in the will.

4. Sign and witness the will.

After drafting your will, you must sign it in front of two witnesses who must also sign the document in front of you and one another. While it is not necessary to have these signatures notarized, it is a good idea to do so. This makes the document "self-proving." In other words, the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses to confirm their signatures.

Preparing a Beneficiary Deed

A beneficiary deed, sometimes also referred to as a transfer on death deed, transfers real property from one owner to another when the original owner passes away. This allows the instant transfer of property without the need to go through probate court. Follow these steps to prepare a this type of document.

1. Complete a beneficiary deed form.

The first step is to complete the form, which should include basic information regarding yourself (the grantor) and who you wish to designate property to (the beneficiary). Additionally, you need to include the legal description for the property, which can be found on your property deed. In many jurisdictions, you can also locate the legal description on the government office's website—usually the county recorder's office or the assessor's office, depending on the title your county uses.

2. Indicate your intent.

Make certain the deed clearly indicates the intent to transfer the property upon your death. Without those words, it may result in the immediate transfer of the property.

3. Notarize the document.

For a beneficiary deed, Missouri law requires you to sign and date the document in front of a notary public, who will then sign, date, and affix their official seal to the document.

4. File the document.

The final step is to record the document with the Recorder of Deeds. You must do this in the county or city where the property is located. You also usually have to pay a filing fee at the time of filing.

If you are considering writing a will or filing a beneficiary deed, follow these steps to ensure that your documents are properly drafted. You should also review the required steps set forth by the state of Missouri to avoid improper execution.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.