He/She/They Would Never Have Wanted That

A strong reason for estate planning.

I often have conversations about probate with people who argue about the distributions of their loved one. People tell me all of the time that their mom, dad, uncle, brother, etc. would have never wanted property to go to this particular child, sibling, cousin, etc. And while I obviously can’t argue with their personal knowledge of their family dynamic, I often find myself giving default answers according to the rules that they don’t want to hear and that I wish I didn’t have to say.

Missouri, like all other states, has rules for distributing your property to your relatives if you choose not to do any estate planning. These rules are created by statute and not open to interpretation from any judge. I’ve heard stories of neglect, loss of affection, alienation, rudeness, and conceitedness toward decedents, but none of them matter when it comes to distribution for someone who doesn’t have an estate plan. No judge or jury can change the fact that even though a particular sibling might not have treated mom or dad with the appropriate amount of respect, that sibling will inherit property just like everyone else.

My advice is to make sure that you have an estate plan in place so that your property doesn’t get distributed according to the rules of the state. I also tell people to review their estate plan every 3-5 years to make sure that they have everything that they want included in it.

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