Estate Planning Law Firm O’Fallon, Missouri
How to Feel More Confident About Estate Planning
Those who have never delved into the world of estate planning with a law firm in O’Fallon, Missouri, may quickly become perplexed at the many legal terms used. Estate planning is when a person prepares for the transferring of his or her assets to loved ones in the event of passing. Estate planning includes creating documents which reflect these wishes after death. If you are just now starting to write your estate plan, there are a variety of definitions you should be aware of, that can help make the process go much more smoothly. Many people who are beginners at estate planning may turn to the experience of an estate planning law firm for O’Fallon, Missouri, like The Legacy Law Center, for guidance along the way.
Please read on for a list of common terms to know, to help you feel more confident about creating your estate plan.
Assets = any items that you own, which could include anything from your property, bank accounts, art collection, clothing, furniture, life insurance, investments, vehicles or sentimental treasures.
Will = a written document that lists the wishes and desires to be carried on after the person passes away.
Decedent = refers to a person who has died. The decedent is the person who worked with an O’Fallon, Missouri estate planning law firm and created the estate plan documents regarding beneficiaries, belongings and instructions for distributing assets.
Living Trust = an official legal document which contains instructions for how assets are to be managed during the lifetime of the creator, and distribution of estate in the event of death and/or incapacity. By creating a living trust, it can prevent the will from having to go through probate.
Will Executor = the person appointed by the creator of the will to carry out his or her wishes as described in the will. An executor may also be referred to as the personal representative. This person has the responsibility to protect and manage the estate, in addition to distributing assets to beneficiaries. An attorney from an estate planning law firm for O’Fallon, Missouri can also act as an executor.
Beneficiaries/Heirs = these are the individuals who are to receive assets from the trust, after the creator of the will becomes deceased.
Probate = when a will is evaluated for validity in court, any outstanding debts are paid, and then assets are distributed.
Fiduciary = when a person has a legal obligation to act based on the benefit of another. For example, the executor of the will has a fiduciary duty to uphold when handling the decedent’s assets.
Children’s Trust = a document in the living trust that is aimed for children who may not be of legal age when the creator passes away. The child’s inheritance shall go into the living trust and be managed by the appointed trustee, which can be managed by an estate planning law firm in O’Fallon, Missouri. The child cannot receive the inheritance until he or she has reached the age described in the terms of the trust.
Co-Trustees = two or more people can be assigned to work together in regards to managing the assets in a trust.
Probate Litigation = during probate court, assets of the decedent are identified, taxes and other expenses are paid, and then legal heirs receive portion of estate. The court oversees the handling of these assets, and the decisions made regarding the decedent’s estate are typically uncontested.
Reviewing Your Estate Plans Can Protect Your Assets
An experienced estate planning law firm in O’Fallon, Missouri knows that far too often, people will draft execute estate plans, but then fail to review them after a life event. Even if there have been no major changes in your life, asset protection attorneys recommend that you periodically review your plans to make sure they are still appropriate for what your wishes are. Meeting with your estate planning law firm in O’Fallon, Missouri once a year can go a long way in ensuring that your family is protected in the event you are no longer here to take care of them.
When meeting with your attorney, some of the items that you should examine include the following:
Beneficiaries: It is always a good idea to periodically review who you have for a beneficiary and what assets you want to leave them. Events may take place that could leave you wanting to change the beneficiary or what it is you are leaving them. For example, if you have designated your spouse as the beneficiary for your pension plan but you have separated or divorced your spouse, then you will likely want to remove them and add someone else as the beneficiary.
Divorce does not automatically remove a spouse as a beneficiary and if you fail to do it, your now ex-spouse would inherit that asset, even if you have married someone else.
Another issue could be that one of your beneficiaries has passed away. If you do not remove them, then the asset you are leaving them will likely be required to go through the probate process in order to determine which one of their beneficiaries should receive the asset. Working with an experienced estate planning law firm in O’Fallon, Missouri, like The Legacy Law Center, can help your beneficiaries avoid the arduous probate process after you pass away, while they grieving.
Will and Trusts: It is also a good idea to go over your will and trusts that you have set up each year. You may have made purchases that would need to be addressed should you pass away, such as real estate property, collections, or art. Or, you may have sold assets and need to decide who should benefit from the profit in the event of your death.
Power of Attorney Designations: Your O’Fallon, Missouri estate planning law firm will likely discuss with you the importance of having a financial power of attorney and a medical power of attorney when you first set up your estate plans.
A financial power of attorney is the person you designate to handle all of your financial issues in the event you become incapacitated, either through injury or illness. A medical power of attorney is the person you designate to make all the medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
You can pick two different people for those roles, but no matter who you choose, you will want them to be people you trust explicitly. It is a good idea to review these documents each year when you meet with your estate planning law firm in O’Fallon, Missouri to make sure that these are the individuals you still want in these roles. Relationships sometimes change over time and there is a chance that you may no longer be on good terms with the person you chose.
The Four Steps of Estate Planning
An estate planning law firm O’Fallon, Missouri offers can help you designate who should receive your belongings and financial assets after your passing. Those who wish to create a last will and testament can benefit from seeking counsel from Lorona Mead, an O’Fallon estate planning law firm. We have represented many clients who want to feel confident about what will happen to their estate after their passing.
The task of writing an estate plan can seem daunting, but is quite manageable with the help of an estate planning law firm in O’Fallon, Missouri such as Lorona Mead. There are four aspects of estate planning that you can think about before meeting with an attorney so as to make the process even easier.
#1 – Write a Will or Create a Trust
An estate plan can be unique from one person to the next, as there are many options. It can be easier to determine whether a will or a trust might best meet your needs. When you work with an estate planning law firm O’Fallon, Missouri families trust, they can review your circumstances. With a fuller understanding of your situation, you will have a better sense of whether a will or a trust is most suitable for you.
You can name an executor of your estate whose responsibility will be to pay off your debts and distribute the remainder of your assets based on your wishes. The person you appoint should be someone capable of handling your belongings and finances with care and respect. Without a will or trust, then your estate will likely fall into the hands of the court system and be handled based on your state’s laws of intestacy. An estate planning law firm O’Fallon, Missouri residents choose can help your family avoid that.
In your will or trust, you will name the people who you wish to receive some or all of your assets. This information should be updated after you experience major life changes such as a marriage or divorce. If a person was named as your beneficiary more than three decades ago and you no longer have a relationship with him or her, you will probably want to make that change as soon as possible.
#3 Write a Letter
If there are things you want to tell your surviving loved ones, you can write a separate letter to them. Some people include what kind of funeral arrangements they wish and anything else that is important for them to share with their loved ones. You can give this letter to your estate planning attorney at Lorona Mead who can include it with your will or trust. Some states do not legally recognize these letters as official documents, however, your loved ones are likely to do everything possible to respect your wishes.
#4 Power of Attorney
A more complete estate plan includes wishes regarding health care and money in the event you become disabled or too sick to make decisions. An estate planning law firm O’Fallon, Missouri community members rely on such as Lorona Mead can help you complete a durable power of attorney document. This document differs from a regular power of attorney in that it is still effective after you cannot manage your own affairs.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
An estate plan can be a great way to build a strong foundation for your family and loved one’s futures after your passing. An estate planning attorney at Lorona Mead recommends you review the estate plan around five years, as life changes and relationships progress. Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation with an estate planning law firm O’Fallon, Missouri locals recommend.