A person can acquire money, personal property and real estate throughout his life. These assets, collectively called the estate, will be passed to a decedent’s friends and family after his death. In Mississippi, the beneficiaries of the estate can inherit by will, by marriage, by ownership or by law.
Exploring Wills in Mississippi
In Mississippi, a person, called the testator, can use a will to leave his estate to his beneficiaries. The requirements for a valid will are set forth in Trusts and Estates, Title 91 of the Mississippi Code. A testator must be at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor, as well as mentally competent.
Section 91-5-1 requires that a will be in writing and the testator must sign his will in the presence of two impartial witnesses. If the basic requirements are met, a testator is free to bequeath his property to any beneficiary, including family, friends and charitable organizations.
Inheritance by Ownership
Certain property cannot be left as a bequest in the decedent’s will. This property passes to beneficiaries based on ownership. For example, if the decedent owned a life insurance policy, the beneficiary named in the will receive the proceeds upon receipt of a death certificate.
Additionally, if the decedent owned any property jointly with one or more people, those surviving owners automatically inherit the decedent’s percentage of ownership in equal shares because joint property is owned with a right of survivorship.
Understanding Intestate Succession
When a person dies without a will, his estate passes according to Mississippi’s intestacy laws. According to Section 91-1-7, a surviving spouse is entitled to inherit the decedent’s entire estate if there are no children. If the decedent had children, the spouse and the children inherit equal shares of the estate. The children are entitled to inherit the entire estate if there is no surviving spouse.
The decedent’s parents are entitled to inherit when there is no spouse and no children. If the parents are already deceased, any siblings will inherit the estate in equal shares. If there is no immediate family, more distant relatives like aunts or uncles, cousins, and nieces or nephews can claim an inheritance.
Defining Spousal Rights
In Mississippi, a spouse who is left out of a decedent’s will, or who is unhappy with the small inheritance left to her in the will, is permitted to renounce the will. Under Section 91-5-25, a probate court will award the surviving spouse her intestate share of the decedent’s estate.
Bernadette A. Safrath is an attorney who has been writing professionally since 2008. Safrath was published in Touro Law Center's law review and now writes legal articles for various websites. Safrath has a Bachelor of Arts in music from Long Island University at C.W. Post, as well as a Juris Doctor from Touro College.