Probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation
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Who Are Next Of Kin In Missouri?

The term “next of kin” under Missouri law generally means those that would inherit from a decedent if the decedent died intestate (without a will).  Unless a contrary intent is shown, “next of kin” is used synonymously with heirs at law, particularly in the inheritance context. 

Next of kin heirs at law under Missouri law are the following people:

  1. Surviving spouse
  2. Children
  3. Parents and siblings
  4. Grandparents and aunts and uncles


What Do Next of Kin Inherit Under Missouri Law?

A next of kin heir at law’s share of a decedent’s intestate estate depends on the other survivors of the decedent, and is controlled by the Missouri Probate Code as follows:


Share Of Intestate Estate

Spouse only

100% of estate

Spouse and issue who are all also issue of the surviving spouse

–          Spouse receives first $20,000 and ½ the balance of the estate

–          Issue receive remaining balance

Spouse and issue, one or more of whom are not issue of the surviving spouse

–          Spouse receives ½ of the estate

–          Issue receive remaining balance

Children and their descendants only

Children or descendants inherit estate in equal parts

Parents and siblings, no children or descendants and no surviving spouse

Parents and siblings or their descendants inherit estate in equal parts

Grandparents, uncles and aunts or their descendants, no parents or siblings or their descendants, no children or their descendants, and no surviving spouse

Grandparents, uncles and aunts or their descendants inherit in equal parts

Great-grandparents or their descendants only

Great-grandparents or their descendants inherit in equal parts, and so on, in other cases without end, passing to the nearest lineal ancestors and their children, or their descendants.

The information in the chart can be found in section 474.010 of the Missouri Probate Code.

Is Next Of Kin Guaranteed To Inherit From An Intestate Estate In Missouri?

Even if you are the next of kin heir at law entitled to inherit from a Missouri decedent’s intestate estate, you will only inherit if the decedent died with probate assets.  If a decedent died with only non-probate assets, then none of the assets would be distributed at decedent’s death under Missouri intestacy laws.  Instead, the titling of the assets would control where the assets end up.

For example, if a decedent died with jointly owned real property and bank accounts that listed pay on death beneficiaries, those persons would have ownership over the assets, not the next of kin heirs at law.  See the Probate and Non-Probate Assets Chart.

Survivorship Requirement Under Missouri Law

In order to inherit as next of kin from a Missouri intestate estate, you have to survive the decedent by 120 hours.  If  a person fails to survive the decedent by 120 hours, they are deemed to have predeceased the decedent for purposes of intestate succession, and the decedent’s heirs are determined accordingly.  Missouri Probate Code section 474.015.

The survivorship requirement does not apply if its application would result in a taking of the intestate estate by the state of Missouri (which occurs if there are no kindred to inherit the estate).  This very rarely happens.

Do Half Relatives Inherit As Much As Whole Relatives In Missouri?

No.  Half-relatives inherit half the inheritance as whole relatives.  Section 474.040 of the Missouri Probate Code states:

When the inheritance is directed to pass to the ascending and collateral kindred of the intestate, if part of the collaterals is of the whole blood of the intestate, and the other part of the half blood only, those of the half blood shall inherit only half as much as those of the whole blood; but if all collaterals are of the half blood, they shall have whole portions, only giving to the ascendants double portions.

Do Children Born After A Decedent’s Death Inherit In Missouri?

Yes.  Posthumous children (children conceived prior to death, but born after death) inherit from their deceased parent’s intestate estate.  Missouri Probate Code section 474.050.

A Missouri Surviving Spouse Can Forfeit Their Intestate Share By Misconduct

Missouri surviving spouses beware – bad behavior can bar a spouse’s share of a deceased spouse’s intestate estate.  Section 474.140 of the Missouri Probate Code states:

If any married person voluntarily leaves his or her spouse and goes away and continues with an adulterer or abandons his or her spouse without reasonable cause and continues to live separate and apart from his or her spouse for one whole year next preceding his or her death, or dwells with another in a state of adultery continuously, such spouse is forever barred from his or her inheritance rights, homestead allowance, exempt property or any statutory allowances from the estate of his or her spouse unless such spouse is voluntarily reconciled to him or her and resumes cohabitation with him or her.

Figuring out whether you are a next of kin heir at law under Missouri law can sometimes be tricky.  A Missouri probate lawyer can help.