If a Mississippi resident fails to make arrangements for the division of his property by making a will, his property will be divided according to state law. These laws are known as "laws of intestate succession," and they provide a distribution scheme that dictates a priority of heirs. In other words, certain relatives are entitled to all, or a portion of, a decedent's estate under certain circumstances -- if he didn't make a valid will. Dying without a valid will is known as dying "intestate."
Inheritance by Will
Anyone who is at least 18 years old and of sound mind can make a will in Mississippi. Being of sound mind simply indicates that the will maker, or "testator," knows or understands the significance of executing a will. In Mississippi, a parent can disinherit a child by stating it clearly in his will. If a married Mississippi resident attempts to disinherit his spouse in a will -- or leaves her less than her statutory share -- she may set the will aside and choose to take an "elective share." An elective share is the portion to which a suriving spouse would normally be entitled to under the state's laws of intestate succession.
Spouse's Inheritance Rights
In Mississippi, a surviving spouse is entitled to her deceased spouse's entire estate if her spouse died intestate and had no children or other descendents, such as grandchildren. If a married person dies intestate with a surviving spouse and surviving children, the surviving spouse and surviving children inherit the estate in equal portions. If a surviving spouse renounces the share bequeathed to her in her spouse's will, she is allowed only to receive one-half of her spouse's estate.
Children and Grandchildren
According to Mississippi inheritance law, children have the right to inherit a deceased parent's entire estate -- in equal shares -- if their parent was unmarried at the time of his death. For example, if an unmarried parent leaves four surviving children, each will inherit one-fourth of his estate. Grandchildren have the right to an inheritance under certain circumstances. For instance, a grandchild is entitled to her parent's inheritance share if her parent predeceased the grandparent.
Parents and Siblings
If a decedent dies intestate and leaves no surviving spouse or children, his estate is divided among his parents and siblings in equal portions. For example, if a decedent has one surviving parent and two siblings, each receives one-third of the estate. If there are no surviving parents, the siblings split the estate equally. If a decedent's siblings predecease him, but his siblings had children, those children -- the decedent's nieces or nephews -- inherit their deceased parent's share.
If a decedent has no surviving spouse, descendants, parents, siblings, nieces or nephews, his estate passes to his grandparents, aunts and uncles -- in equal shares. If a decedent has no surviving grandparents, aunts or uncles, his estate passes to his next of kin; a decedent's next of kin may be his cousins or other more distant relatives. If a decedent has no surviving relatives whatsoever, his estate "escheats," or passes, to the state of Mississippi.
Andrine Redsteer's writing on tribal gaming has been published in "The Guardian" and she continues to write about reservation economic development. Redsteer holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Washington, a Master of Arts in Native American studies from Montana State University and a Juris Doctor from Seattle University School of Law.