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Can I choose friends to inherit my estate?

On Behalf of | May 23, 2023 | Estate Planning

When doing their estate planning, most people choose their spouse, children or both as heirs in their will or beneficiaries of a trust. While this is common and understandable, nothing in Missouri law requires you to leave your legacy to your husband, wife or kids.

For one thing, you might be divorced, widowed, or a lone wolf who never got married or generally is not in a long-term relationship. You might not have children, or your relationship with your kids could be strained. You might have siblings or be an only child. If you are still fairly young, your parents could be an option, but you will most likely survive them. That could leave aunts, uncles, cousins and other distant relatives, some of whom you might barely know.

Beyond family

If you don’t have many good options for relatives to inherit your assets, you can always choose other options. For many people, their friends are more like family than the people with whom they share DNA. As the testator (the person making the will), you have the right to choose virtually anybody you want as your heir or beneficiary of your trust. So if you want to leave some or all of your estate to close friends, that is up to you.

Another option is to include a favorite charity. Many people decide to leave a portion of their estate to organizations whose work is meaningful to them.

Make sure your preferences are honored

However you decide to give away your assets after you pass away, you need to make your preferences clear in a legally enforceable estate plan. Passing on without a valid will is called dying intestate. That means state intestacy law determines who inherits the estate, with preference given to any surviving relatives in order of closeness to the deceased. For someone who died without a surviving spouse or children, this could mean a long-lost cousin or grand-niece or -nephew could inherit. Most people would rather control who their heirs will be and ensure that the funds go to someone or something that matters to them.