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Summary of Widows or Widowers rights to their Deceased Spouse’s Estates

Updated: Apr 12, 2023


Surviving Spouse Rights in Missouri When There Is Not a Valid Last Will and Testament

When a spouse dies without a valid will, they have died intestate. In an intestate estate, Missouri law controls the distribution of the estate. The surviving spouse’s share of the estate depends on whether the deceased spouse is survived by children or descendants.

When the surviving spouse gets the entire estate of their deceased spouse. If the deceased spouse had no descendants, the surviving spouse receives the entire intestate estate.

When the surviving spouse gets only a percentage of the deceased spouse’s estate (partial estate).

If the deceased spouse had descendants, all of whom are also issue of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse receives one-half of the intestate estate plus $20,000.

If the deceased spouse had descendants, and one or more are not issue of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse receives one-half of the intestate estate.


Surviving Spouse Rights in Missouri When there is a Last Will and Testament (Elective Share)

Elective Share – Election Against Will

If a surviving spouse is unhappy with the terms of the Last Will and Testament, the surviving spouse may elect against the terms of the Will and claim an “elective share.”

The surviving spouse is entitled to receive anelelective (minimum) share one-­half of the decedent’s property if the decedent has no descendants, or one-third of the property if the deceased spouse is survived by descendants. In determining the spouse’s elective share, an the Probate Court looks at the entire estate including trust assets, jointly held property, and life insurance.


Other Surviving Spouse Rights And Allowances in Missouri

Property the surviving spouse always gets (Exempt Property)

The spouse is entitled to exempt property without regard to any provisions the deceased might have made for the disposition of other assets.

The exempt property includes “the family bible and other books, one automobile or other passenger motor vehicle, including a pickup truck, with its means of propulsion, all wearing apparel of the family, all household electrical appliances, all household musical and other amusement instruments and all household and kitchen furniture, appliances, utensils, and implements.”

Support Allowance

A surviving spouse in Missouri is entitled to one year’s support allowance payable in lump sum or periodically.


Homestead Allowance

The surviving spouse in Missouri is also entitled to a homestead allowance. The homestead allowance cannot exceed 50% of the value of the estate (excluding exempt property and year’s support) but is capped at $15,000. If the elective share is taken, the homestead allowance is an offset against the elective share.


Marital Agreements

Missouri recognizes marital agreements whereby spouses can waive the right to inherit from each other’s estates. Most states will enforce a marital agreement of there is adequate disclosure of the assets and income of each party to the marriage. Missouri law provides for additional protections for the waiving spouse.


Inheritance Rights Barred by Misconduct

The surviving spouse can lose their preferential rights because of their bad behavior including abandoning the deceased spouse for at least 1 year before the deceased spouse’s death or living with another in a state of adultery before their spouse’s death.

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