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What Happens To My Joint Trust If I Get Divorced?

What Happens To My Joint Trust If I Get Divorced?

 

 

What Happens To My Joint Trust If I Get A Divorce?

What Happens To My Joint Trust If I Get Divorced?

              Going through a divorce can be an extremely painful, stressful and seemingly unending process.  It affects so many different aspects of your life.  This article discusses just one of the effects, which is your estate planning, including your living trust, will and power of attorney documents.

What happens to my estate plan when I get divorced?

This is a great question and one that a qualified estate planning lawyer Dardenne Prairie can assist you with.  In Missouri, a divorce essentially treats any distributions intended for your ex-spouse as void.  In other words,  you have a will, it says that when you pass everything goes to your ex-spouse, but upon finalization of the divorce, that provision for your now ex-spouse is treated as if they have predeceased you and therefore the distribution would pass to your contingent beneficiaries, which would usually be your children.

What happens if I have assets that will avoid probate, such as a life insurance policy?

The Missouri law treating the ex-spouse as a voided beneficiary only covers assets in probate.  If you had a life insurance policy that left your soon to be ex-spouse as the primary beneficiary, you would need to change that after divorce, because if you pass away, your ex-spouse would inherit.  This happens all the time, unfortunately, and that’s why it’s important to have a game plan to review your estate plan (or establish one) after your divorce is final.

The second thing to note is that any distribution to your ex-spouse upon your passing is only void if the divorce is final.  If you expect your divorce to be extended for a period of time, it’s important to meet with an estate planning attorney to make changes anyway.  Under Missouri law, you can adjust your estate plan to cut out your soon to be ex-spouse.  You can’t completely cut them out (unless you have a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement), but you can ensure that they will not inherit everything, which would be the case if you did nothing and passed before your divorce was finalized.

What happens if I have a trust and am getting divorced?

That depends on the type of joint trust you have.  An irrevocable trust attorney O’Fallon, Missouri  can explain in more detail, but the terms of this type of trust cannot be changed after the trust is created, regardless of divorce.  This type of joint trust, however, is usually created by spouses to benefit their children.

If, on the other hand, you have a revocable joint trust, both spouses can retain control over the assets.  Of course, this assumes you would want to do that.  Most of the time, spouses want to dissolve their trust and distribute assets as agreed in their marital settlement agreement.  From there, you can take the safest step and create a new estate plan with your own trust, a new will and new powers of attorney.  You’d probably want to do that anyway, since your now ex-spouse is usually listed as your principal in your healthcare power of attorney and durable power of attorney documents.

Do you really want your ex-spouse making healthcare calls for you at the end of life?  Me neither.

As you can see, the best practice, at a minimum, when you are going through a divorce is to sit down and review your estate plan with an experienced estate planning attorney.

 

 

Do You Have To Change Your Estate Plan If You Move Out Of State?

Do You Have To Change Your Estate Plan If You Move Out Of State?

DO YOU HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR ESTATE PLAN IF YOU MOVE OUT OF STATE?

A common question from clients that move away from Missouri is do they need to change their estate planning that I completed for them.

The answer is probably.  Here’s why:

Each state has different laws with respect to estate taxes, trusts and many have adopted different statutes with respect to probate and inheritance generally.

Here’s an example:

I used to practice law in New Jersey, which had, at least at that time, a statute that required some beneficiaries from wills and trusts, usually farther than an immediate family member like a cousin or an uncle, to pay inheritance tax on anything received from a relative’s estate.

Attorneys draft estate plans to take to the most advantage out of weakly drafted statutes or to utilize breaks in the law.  And so we drafted wills and trusts in New Jersey that not only had provisions for that very specific inheritance law but took advantage of it where possible.

Different laws among states is not the only reason why you should amend or change your estate plan if you move away from Missouri.

Another issue is the perception by some that out of state documents are a problem.  Banks are a really good example of what I would call a “skittish acceptor” of legal documents.  Having dealt with banks (and faced repeated non-issues made into issues by them) as a probate lawyer St Peters, I can tell you that there is the way things are and the way banks what things to be.

One of the biggest problems with banks is that they no longer train their employees well enough.  As a result, any legal documents are often met with an immediate call to the “legal department”, which is almost always in another state and, as a rule, routinely denies the validity of a document.  This is often just because the bank employee couldn’t properly explain the issue to the legal department and since the default answer at legal is “no”, you might end up in a difficult situation where you have a perfectly acceptable legal document that you cannot utilize because of the bank.

So what am I saying?  Well, you could run into a problem at a bank and since you won’t find out until it’s maybe too later to fix the problem, it’s always the safer practice to update your estate when you move.

By the way, that process is relatively simple.  If you have a Missouri living trust, you’ll need to change the “governing law” provision in your trust document.  It will be Missouri and need to be changed to whatever state you have moved to.  Note that this is a relatively simple change because you’re simply amending your trust to change that one provision, not re-writing the whole thing.

Since you might be moving closer to other loved ones who might now be closer than they were before, it might make sense to add them as power of attorney, healthcare proxies, executors and trustees.

A qualified and experience estate planning lawyer where you move to can review your Missouri plan and help you pinpoint other changes, if any.

Common Estate Planning Terms in Wills and Trusts….

Common Estate Planning Terms in Wills and Trusts….

Common Estate Planning Terms in Wills and Trusts

Estate planning is an area of the law with plenty of legalese. The placement of certain in documents like Missouri wills and especially special needs trusts attorney St.Common Estate Planning Terms in Wills and Trusts
Estate planning is an area of the law with plenty of legalese. The placement of certain in documents like Missouri wills and especially special needs trusts attorney St. Peters, Missouri can make a huge difference in the document.

Here are some commonly used estate planning terms in wills and trusts.

Wills

Testator / Testatrix: The person creating the will. Formally, a male creating a will is a testator, whereas a female is referred to as a testatrix.

Executor: The person or persons named in a will who will administer the estate when the testator dies. The person in charge. In Missouri and other states, an executor is called a personal representative.

Beneficiary: The person(s) named in a will that the testator wants to inherit their property. In a trust, this person is also referred to as a beneficiary.

Heir: The persons who will receive your property if you do not have a will in place when you die. Dying without a will is called “dying intestate” and each state, including Missouri has a list of heirs that receive your property when you die intestate and in what order. For example, in Missouri, many people don’t know that if a spouse passes away and does not have a will, all non-joint property owned by the deceased spouse goes partially to the children, if any, and partly to the surviving spouse. All receiving property are referred to as heirs.

Bequest: A specific item listed in a will, other than real estate, to be distributed at death as a gift. Example: “I give all of my silver coins to Joe.” The bequest is only the silver coins, not any others and Joe is the beneficiary of the item.

Devise: Real estate given at death, received by a devisee. Example: “I give my 10 acre farm to Joe.” The testator has devised the farm to Joe, the devisee.

Bequeath: Means that the testator is giving property to someone other than a person. Example: “I give my book collection to the St. Charles County Library.”

Bond: A policy that requires the executor to insure the estate, usually for the value of the estate. The idea is that if the executor runs off with the money, the heirs / beneficiaries are protected by the bond in place. A testator can state that no bond is required in their will.

Real Property: Land of any acreage and/or a home. Also includes anything affixed to the property. Example: Joe has a 10 acre farm, which includes his home. He also has a pole barn which is attached to the land. All are examples of real property.

Tangible Personal Property: Any property that you can actually touch. Example: Loose cash is personal property. Cash in a bank account is not personal property.

Intangible Property: Any property that you cannot touch. Example: Mutual funds that you hold in an account are intangible property.

Titled Property: Property that may or may not be tangible that has a registration. Example: A bank account. It is titled in your name, has an account and you get statements every month in the mail. Also an insurance policy because it has a policy number, a named insured and beneficiary.

Revocable Trusts

Grantor: The person creating the trust. Also referred to as a Settlor or Trustor.

Trustee: An individual or individuals listed in the trust to administer the trust for the grantor. The grantor and trustee are often the same person.

Beneficiary: Same as with a will, a person listed to receive assets in a trust.

Estate Tax: A tax levied either by the federal government and some states when a person passes away. The estate tax is much less of an issue because the estate tax exemptions are much higher than they used to be.

Estate Tax Exemption: An amount of money that a person is allowed to have when they pass away that does not result in federal estate tax being levied. In 2018, for a person this amount is approximately $11 million dollars. Any amount above that, without proper planning in place, is subject to taxation.

No-Contest Clause: A provision in a trust (or a will) that states that if a beneficiary to the trust contests their inheritance, they risk losing that inheritance if they file a lawsuit. These provisions vary greatly, but are enforced by courts and are a good way to ensure that beneficiaries don’t litigate your estate when you pass away.

These are just some of the terms that you would come across in a will or trust lawyer O’Fallon, MO. Creating documents with an estate planning lawyer is just part of the process. The real important part is understanding how they work and what the terms mean. Don’t get discouraged, we are all masters of our own knowledge and what’s natural to you would be unnatural to your attorney!

 

Update: The Estate of Prince, Two Years Later…

Update: The Estate of Prince, Two Years Later…

 

UPDATE:  THE ESTATE OF PRINCE, TWO YEARS LATER

The world mourned the death of Prince on April 21, 2016.  After the initial shock of his death, apparently from a drug overdose, passed, his estate became a central issue with his surviving relatives.

Right after his death, I wrote that his probate estate would be a mess:

https://www.legacylawmissouri.com/prince-died-what-about-estate/

Unfortunately, I was right.

First, none of his heirs have received a dime from the probate estate.  That’s in part because Prince had not even created a will, which complicated things initially because hundreds of people came out of the woodwork claiming to be related to the singer.

Since then, it has been determined that his six surviving siblings will share equally in his estate.  However, there’s an ongoing issue:  The executor of his estate and the IRS cannot agree on what the estate is worth.  Until they do, nothing can be distributed to the siblings.

So who is getting paid from the estate?  The executor and their lawyers have collected $5.9 million in fees and expenses.  They’ve requested additional fees already and more are obviously expected after that.

A rich celebrity like Prince should have had a will at the very least.  That was either a failure of him to follow advice from what you can only imagine was a team of managers, lawyers and accountants or, less likely, the advice was never given to him by his team which would be incredible incompetence.

Had Prince created a will, the beneficiaries of that will would have been determined right away.   The process would definitely be further along and likely the will would have contained terms regarding the assets of his estate and directions to the executor.

Had Prince created a properly funded living trust St. Peters (or series of trusts more likely) he could have avoided probate all together and his estate would be resolved in private.  It would be a quicker process and a much cheaper one.

And likely his heirs would already be spending their inheritance.

Trust Administration in Missouri…

Trust Administration in Missouri…

TRUST ADMINISTRATION IN MISSOURI

               Over the years, I have had the honor to serve as a trustee of a few living trusts, as my clients have requested.  It is an honor for these clients to choose me to help execute their estate plans and to work with their chosen trust beneficiaries in Missouri.

As a trust lawyer O’Fallon Missouri, it is interesting to see how things work in reality after a client has passed away.  I’ve always been pleasantly surprised at how much easier the process is than probate and a much less stressful process at that.

When a client passes away and I am the successor trustee, my job is to immediately secure all of the trust assets and to ascertain who are the beneficiaries of the trust.  It’s also my job to collect all the mail of the client to learn about any debts they may have.  This usually means having their mail forwarded to my office so that I can keep tabs on any amounts owed.

Because a revocable trust becomes irrevocable when the grantor (creator) dies, I have to obtain a tax identification number (TIN) from the IRS.  With the trust documents and the TIN in hand, I can visit the client’s bank of choice and access all funds held by the trust.  If the funds are payable on death to the trust, the process is a little different but I will still create a trust account to hold all the liquidated assets of the trust estate.

Assets like houses and cars have to be accessed and determined whether they are to go directly to a beneficiary via the trust.  If so, I make arrangements to work with that beneficiary to transfer that asset to them.  In a recent case, there was a mortgage against the property but very little cash.  The house was very nice but needed some money put into it to get it on the market.  Finding the right balance for this kind of situation is part of the job of the trustee.  In this particular case, we opted to stage the house but not to do things like paint it – we figured we could sell potential buyers on the fact that they could get it painted the color they want.  It turned out to be a great strategy.

Communication with beneficiaries is an important part of being a trustee.  In addition to providing a copy of the trust document to all beneficiaries, it’s important for the trustee to be proactive in letting beneficiaries know what’s going on and when they can expect their distribution of funds (or property) from the trust estate.

Finally, most trust documents empower the trustee to hire just about anyone they need to administer trust business, including financial advisors, attorneys and accountants.  It’s important that the trustee not moonlight as they are a fiduciary responsible to maintain trust funds for the beneficiaries.  Any loss attributed to malfeasance (investing in penny stocks resulting in financial loss, for example) by the trustee can result in personal liability.

Trust administration is a very complex area of law and requires the expertise of a trust administration lawyer O’Fallon, Missouri.