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               As an experienced estate planning lawyer St. Charles, I spend much of my time explaining to clients what estate planning is and how it works.  Estate planning is the use of legal documents to not only distribute your assets when you pass away, but to name people to make decisions for you if you become disabled and/or incapacitated.

Overview of Estate Planning Documents

Common estate planning documents include a living trust, last will and testament, medical power of attorney, healthcare directive and financial power of attorney.

A living trust can help you avoid probate and provide rules about when your beneficiaries receive their inheritance.  An example would be creating a provision where your beneficiary only receives their inheritance when they reach a certain age.  That age is up to you and depends on your specific situation.

As one of the top estate planning lawyer St. Charles, you can count on me to also review the purpose of having a last will and testament, which is another document which can distribute property when you pass away.  If you have a living trust, the will usually leaves the property to the trust, not directly to a beneficiary.

Power of attorney documents allow you to name a spouse to make financial and healthcare decisions for you if you become incapacitated.  An example would be naming your adult children to do banking for you if you had dementia.  A medical power of attorney could name the same adult child to work with doctors if the dementia advanced to a point where you were considered mentally incapacitated by a doctor.

Choosing the Right Estate Planning Lawyer

You should feel comfort with the skill level and personality of any lawyer you meet with.  Many attorneys practice in too many areas of law, which reduces their effectiveness in all areas of law that they practice.  Therefore, you should focus on choosing a lawyer that practices almost exclusively in this area.

Making estate planning decisions is intensely personal due to everyone having different family dynamics, levels of wealth and health and concerns about the ability of children to make smart decisions if they inherit your nest egg.  There are many different components to determining how your estate plan is created and it’s important that we discuss all of the aspects that help you identify these components.

An initial meeting to discuss your situation will include who should be in charge of distributing your inheritance, who your beneficiaries are and specifics about their personality and what assets you have.  Our focus is always on identifying client concerns and worries, client goals and educating clients on how the documents we are drafting resolve their concerns and accomplish their goals.  If you’re in need of an estate planning lawyer St. Charles, contact Legacy Law Center today.


Structured Settlement or Lump Sum: Which is Better After a Personal Injury?

Structured Settlement or Lump Sum: Which is Better After a Personal Injury?

Structured Settlement or Lump Sum: Which is Better After a Personal Injury?

The U.S. legal system provides numerous protections that help to ensure that you may be entitled to compensation for your personal injury. Should your personal injury claim be successful, culminating in either a win in court or an out-of-court settlement, you can generally choose to receive your compensation as either a lump sum or a structured settlement consisting of a series of payments over a specific period of time.

However, deciding which method of payment is preferred is not always the easiest choice. For this reason, it’s generally a good idea to consult an attorney like personal injury lawyer Phoenix AZ trusts for advice before making your decision.

Lump Sum vs. Structured Settlement

Lump sums are typically the more common options for minor to moderate personal injury claims. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average damage award for civil cases is approximately $28,000. In the average case where the total damage award is fairly low, there is typically no reason to spread it out over time with a structured settlement.

On the other hand, plaintiffs who suffer from more severe personal injuries — especially injuries that result in permanent damage, disfiguration, or death — are more likely to be compensated via structured settlements. Although you can still choose to be paid via a lump sum, structured settlements generally have a number of benefits that make them a better choice for larger damage awards.

Managing Money Through a Structured Settlement

One reason that many people choose a structured settlement is that it makes it much easier to manage the money. Instead of getting a huge sum all at once and having to try to avoid blowing through it all quickly, a structured settlement allows you to spread the damages out over a longer period of time to ensure that you’ll have money when you need it most.

Structured Settlements Are Tax-Free

Another major advantage of a structured settlement is that the majority of them are paid in the form of an annuity. This annuity is an investment that allows your settlement money to grow over time, which means you’ll end up receiving more than the actual damage award. With this type of annuity, both the payments you receive and the dividends and interest earned on the annuity are free from both state and federal taxes.

The same isn’t exactly true for lump-sum payments. Although you won’t have to pay any taxes on the lump sum itself, you will still be liable for taxes on any dividends and other proceeds you earn from investing the sum. This means that, all things considered, you’ll generally end up receiving more money by choosing a structured settlement.

Structured Settlements Offer Some Flexibility

One great thing about structured settlements is that they provide quite a bit of flexibility as you can write the settlement in a number of different ways. For instance, the settlement can be written so that you’ll immediately receive a larger sum to cover any medical bills and then the remaining balance will be paid out over a set number of years. Similarly, you can also set the settlement up so that you’ll receive a larger sum at some set point in the future, such as a year or two from now, which will allow you to cover any major bills or expenses you know are coming.

Unfortunately, this flexibility only applies until you’ve signed on the dotted line as a structured settlement cannot be changed once finalized. This means that it is important to consider all of the possible factors when creating your settlement. For instance, you may want the payments to increase slightly over time in order to keep up with inflation.

Contact a Lawyer Today

The fact that structured settlements can be quite complicated means it’s always a good idea to consult with an estate planning lawyer. By doing so, you can hopefully ensure that your settlement is set up in a way that keeps you financially secure.

The truth is that it is incredibly difficult to navigate through a personal injury case on your own. Therefore, if you or a loved one have been injured, it’s vital that you contact a lawyer to discuss your options and determine the best way to proceed.




Thanks to our friends and contributors from Alex & Saavedra, P.C. for their insight into structured settlements vs. lump sum estate planning.


Missouri Healthcare Power Of Attorney

Missouri Healthcare Power Of Attorney

MISSOURI HEALTHCARE POWER OF ATTORNEY: A must-have estate planning document

This article focuses on the importance of having a Missouri healthcare power of attorney and what it does. A Missouri healthcare power of attorney is a document in which you name a power of attorney, called an “agent”, to make healthcare decisions for you if you become incapacitated and cannot make them yourself.

In Missouri, the document allows you to state whether you want one or two doctors to determine if you are incapacitated. The state standard is two doctors, but you can opt out and decide one.

Once you are incapacitated, your agent can not only meet with your doctors and review your medical records, but decide:

* what type of treatment
* which doctor / which hospital
* whether to put you into skill nursing or other long term care facilities such as assisted living
* whether to put you into hospice, either at home or at a facility
* whether to withhold artificially nutrition and hydration (tube feeding), if you specifically grant that power to your agent

So, in a nutshell, your Missouri healthcare power of attorney literally puts you life into the hands of another person. That should usually be your spouse or an adult child (or children together if you think they can make decisions together). But it’s important to point out that you can choose whoever you want to make these decisions and generally that should be a person nearby who’s judgment you trust and who you are sure will act if necessary.

In the document you can also decide whether you want to donate organs and provide specifics about your wishes as to when you pass away if you want to be buried or cremated and information about the type of funeral services you want. It also contains a HIPAA Waiver which will ensure that your agent can review your medical records as needed and discuss your care with your doctor(s).

You should also have the second part of a Missouri healthcare power of attorney, which is a Missouri healthcare directive (sometimes referred to as a Missouri living will), which at our office is a second part of the healthcare power of attorney document. The point of the healthcare directive is to provide detailed instructions to your agent if you are terminally ill or persistently unconscious (a coma, for example). You want to prevent your agent from having to guess how far to take medical treatment if you are not able to decide and that’s the point of this document. It’s invaluable to provide these instructions to your agent so they don’t have to guess, which puts both of you potentially in a tough spot.

A Missouri healthcare power of attorney document can be drafted by an experienced Missouri estate planning or elder law attorney.

How to Pick the Right Executor of Your Will

How to Pick the Right Executor of Your Will


How to Pick the Right Executor of Your Will

It can be scary to think about who will take care of your family and your assets after your death. That is why picking the right executor for your Will can be so important, as an estate planning lawyer Phoenix AZ trusts can attest. The executor is the person you will name in your Will to administer your estate after your death. You’ll want someone you can trust to follow out your wishes and obey the laws of your state. Here are a few things to keep in mind when picking the executor that is right for you:





A family member, whether it be a spouse, child, or parent, is often the first and most obvious choice. These people probably know you best. They are more likely to know what sort of accounts and assets you hold. They are also more likely to know your wishes. Just be sure to take into account that person’s age and health, you want them to be alive to administer your estate upon your death.



When naming an executor, you’ll want to choose someone you know to be responsible, stable, trustworthy, and thorough. Pick someone who is timely and able to meet deadlines. This person will be responsible for handling the estate property and dealing with the court.



It is often recommended that your executor live in the same state as you. Some states even prohibit residents of other states from serving as executor. So, if all your friends and family live far away, you may want to consider the next option.


Professional Fiduciary

Third-party institutions, like a bank, law firm, or professional fiduciary company are experts in dealing with estates. If you don’t have a relative or friend who lives in the same state, or that you feel comfortable handling your estate, then this is a good option for you. Most third-party executors will administer your estate at a fee set by the state.



Before you assume that your spouse, children, or friends will serve as executor, be sure to ask for them first. You should always obtain that person’s permission. You may even want to inform them of what the job entails, and see if they feel up to the task. Make sure you notify them on the important details of your estate plan, including financial information and the location where the Will is kept. You can even provide them with a copy of the Will before your death, so that they’ll be best prepared when the day comes.

If you are interested in creating an estate plan, or have more questions about naming an executor, call an estate planning lawyer today.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Kamper Estrada LLP for their insight into assigning and executor.




As an estate planning attorney, a central goal that I preach is for my clients to avoid probate. Most of my clients associate probate with something akin to the plague and people like bankers, insurance agents, financial advisors, TV hosts and society at large have done a good job educating clients on the simple premise that they should avoid probate at all costs.

But why? Most people would guess the expense. That is certainly a legitimate reason. In Missouri, a probate administration can lead to costs to the court, big expenses being paid to your personal representative (also known as the executor) and, if you want the easy version of probate in Missouri, independent administration, the services of a knowledgeable and experienced probate attorney.

In a recent probate, an approximately $450,000 estate ended up costing about $1,000 in costs to the court for filing fees, inventory fees and various other expenses and approximately $31,000 in fees split equally between the personal representative and attorney .

That’s a lot of money and completely avoidable with estate planning. But to me the underrated reasons to avoid probate are:

1. Time

In Missouri, an estate cannot be closed for at least six months. Best case, therefore, you are looking at a 180 day process. In most cases, you can add at least a couple of months, if not more.  In some cases, the estate won’t be closed for at least a year, sometimes longer. So, not only have you lost a loved one, but now as a beneficiary or heir of an estate you have to wait a long time to get your inheritance!

2. Complexity

I work on probates every day and while I do a great job for my clients I have to say….I don’t like doing them.  St. Charles County has a terrific probate division but many of my probates are in St. Louis County and they are a nightmare to deal with.  Every county has a different set of procedural details that must constantly be adhered to, which is tough because those details seem to change by the month. Probates are comparable to getting your teeth pulled. The smallest details can delay them for days and even weeks.

3. Family Issues

Imagine with your family who would be more than a little bit anxious / conspiratorial about an inheritance owed to them. If someone makes out a will and then dies, unlike on TV, there is generally not a reading of the will. That is largely a Hollywood created fiction. In larger estates with a variety of distant relation family members or different beneficiaries (like people that don’t know each other), it might make sense to have a will reading. So people think that something is being hidden from them when the personal representative and the attorney for the estate don’t just cut them a check. Probates cause family tensions and in families where there is already tension, it can only aggravate things.


Here’s the silver lining: It is easier than ever to avoid probate with a living trust or even without a living trust under some circumstances. All you need to do first is sit down and meet with an estate planning lawyer to find out how. Heck, our office offers a free initial consultation. By the end of that meeting, you’ll know what you need and how much it costs…and how much avoiding probate will save you.