Mississippi Inheritance Laws: A Guide by The Law Offices of Rusty Williard

Losing a loved one is a sad and confusing experience, and dealing with their estate can add an extra layer of emotional pain. In Mississippi, the laws of inheritance serve as a roadmap for distributing a deceased person’s assets, which ensures that their wishes are honored and their loved ones are cared for.

Whether your loved one left a detailed estate plan or none at all, Mississippi’s laws provide clear steps on how to proceed. These steps can help to ease the burden during a difficult time, especially if you’re guided through them by an experienced hand. If your loved one has recently passed away, or you’re considering your own future with estate planning, The Law Offices of Rusty Williard can help. We’ve had decades of experience guiding Mississippi residents through some of the most difficult moments of their lives. We provide experience and compassion so you can focus on the emotional burdens that come with loss, instead of the legal ones.

Intestate Succession

When someone passes away without a will in Mississippi, intestate succession laws determine how their estate is divided. These laws offer a structured and equitable way of distributing assets based on the deceased’s family relationships. They provide a uniform system that the state can follow regardless of the family structure your loved one had. However, family members and decedents may disagree with what the State considers a fair distribution.

If a person dies without a will in Mississippi, this is how the State will distribute their assets to their surviving family:

  • Spouse and Children: The surviving spouse and children of the deceased will share the estate. If all children are also the surviving spouse’s children, the spouse receives the first $50,000 plus one-half of the remaining assets. The rest is equally divided among the children. This arrangement supports the immediate family, but rarely considers others.
  • Spouse, No Children or Parents: In cases where the deceased is survived by a spouse but has no children or living parents, the spouse inherits the entire estate. This rule simplifies asset distribution and seamlessly transitions everything to the surviving partner.
  • Parents, No Spouse or Children: If the deceased has no spouse or children but is survived by parents, the entire estate goes to the parents. This transfer can provide support to aging parents who might have depended on their children for care.
  • Siblings, No Direct Descendants or Spouse: If there are no direct descendants or a surviving spouse, siblings of the deceased inherit the estate equally.

Will Validation

When there is a will, validating it is a critical step in honoring the final wishes of the deceased. In Mississippi, a probate court must confirm that the will was created by someone legally capable of making informed decisions, meaning they were of sound mind and appropriate age. The court also ensures that the will was signed in the presence of at least two impartial witnesses who do not stand to benefit from the estate. It’s important that the will was executed freely and without any pressure or undue influence from others.

The Probate Process

Probate is the legal process of verifying an estate plan in court. It involves appointing an executor, settling any debts and taxes, and distributing assets according to the will or, if there is no will, under intestate laws. The duration of the probate process can vary wildly depending on the case and the type of assets it contains.

The Elective Share

The elective share in Mississippi is an option for surviving spouses who feel that a will does not reasonably provide for them, but there are specific rules about how and when it can be used:

  • Eligibility: The elective share is exclusively for surviving spouses. It’s not an option for other relatives or dependents of the deceased.
  • Filing Requirement: To claim the elective share, the surviving spouse must file a request with the court. This isn’t automatic and needs to be started within six months from the date of the will’s probate.
  • Limitations: The elective share allows the spouse to claim one-third of the estate. However, this calculation is made after any debts of the estate are settled but before any distributions to beneficiaries are made.
  • Impact on Other Beneficiaries: When a surviving spouse claims the elective share, it can reduce what other beneficiaries receive according to the will. This can sometimes cause disputes and disagreements that can lengthen the probate process significantly.
  • Conditions and Exceptions: There are some conditions where the right to an elective share might be forfeited, like in cases where the spouse is proven to have abandoned the deceased before their death or if the spouses were legally separated.

Estate Taxes and Federal Considerations

Mississippi does not have an estate tax. This fact can provide a bit of relief to residents when planning the distribution of their assets. However, it’s important to consider federal estate taxes, which apply to estates exceeding 12.9 million. Understanding these federal obligations is important for large estates because they can influence how assets are structured and distributed.

Steps for Preparing an Estate Plan

  1. Document Assets and Liabilities: Compile a detailed list of all your assets, such as real estate, investments, and personal valuables, as well as any liabilities like loans or mortgages.
  2. Decide How to Distribute Your Assets: Decide who should receive specific items, such as family members, friends, or charities.
  3. Choose an Executor and Guardian: Select an executor to manage the estate’s affairs based on your will. If you have minor children, also appoint a guardian to take responsibility for their care.
  4. Create the Will and Trusts: Draft a will with your estate planning attorney to outline your wishes and appoint guardians. Additionally, consider setting up trusts if you want more control over how your assets are used after your death.

Call the Estate Planning Attorney Mississippi Trusts

The Law Offices of Rusty Williard can simplify the estate planning process and help you navigate the legal obligations after a loved one’s passing. If you need an experienced estate planning or probate attorney, call our Brandon, MS office at (601) 824-9797.