What does it mean to die intestate?

While it can be uncomfortable to make decisions based around what will happen after you die, Mississippi residents must take the time to craft a comprehensive estate plan that clarifies their wishes. An estate plan can include numerous documents such as trusts, powers of attorney and advance healthcare directives or it can be as straightforward as a will. If an individual passes away without any of these documents in place, however, they are said to have died intestate.

Dying without a will in Mississippi means that “intestate succession” laws are followed. Based on these laws, assets that would have normally passed through the will are distributed to your closest relatives. Depending on the surviving family members, the assets can be distributed in numerous scenarios:

  • With a spouse and no children, the assets are distributed to the spouse.
  • With a spouse and one child, the assets are split in half between the two.
  • With a spouse and more than one child, the assets are divided among them in equal shares.
  • With children but no spouse, the assets are split in equal shares.
  • With living parents but no spouse or children, the asset is distributed to the parent or parents.
  • With surviving sibling(s) but no spouse, no children and no parents, the assets are distributed to the sibling(s).

If the deceased individual is not survived by any family members, the entire estate is distributed to the state of Mississippi.

These laws account for assets that are owned alone by the deceased or those that are in the deceased’s name. There are numerous assets that would not be included in a will and, therefore, are not included in intestate succession. Those assets can include:

  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Retirement account funds
  • Property owned in joint tenancy

In general, these assets are distributed to the joint owner or the named beneficiary.

To ensure your wishes centering on who gets what when are followed, it is necessary to develop a comprehensive estate plan. Your will can be as general or detailed as you’d like, but it is wise to take the time to create one. You can help your surviving loved ones avoid legal struggles and unnecessary frustration.