Estate Planning Lawyer Lake St. Louis, MO

Estate Planning Lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO

Estate Planning Lawyer Lake St. Louis, MO

At Legacy Law Center, an estate planning lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO, we understand that many people in Missouri believe they don’t need an estate plan because they aren’t “rich” enough. But in actuality, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Estate planning isn’t only reserved for people with an excessive amount of money. The goal of having an estate plan is to reduce the stress and burden on your heirs or beneficiaries. The drive behind an estate plan is to prepare your legacy to distribute it to those you care about the most.

If you are finally ready to get started on your estate plan, here are four tips to get you going:

Start with Your Assets

If you aren’t sure where to begin, start with writing a list of your assets. These can be both tangible and non-physical items such as your car, property, bank accounts, 401k, life insurance, stocks, deeds, and more. Be sure to add sentimental items and collections to your lists, like jewelry and art. Keep in mind that this step may take longer than you think but will set the foundation for the rest of your estate plan.

Choose a Personal Representative Wisely 

After you pass away, your personal representative, also called an executor, will take on the responsibility of handling your estate affairs. This may be a great or terrible thing, depending on who you pick. This is why a Salt Lake St. Louis, MO estate planning lawyer advises choosing your personal representative wisely and that they should be someone who has your best interest in mind always.

Consequences of No Estate Plan

The task of writing an estate plan is not a fun one, as it can make us come face-to-face with our mortality. While this may not feel so great, it’s such an essential step in protecting your legacy. If you do not write an estate plan, then what can happen is the courts will decide who and what is given away of your assets based on state law. This means that your loved ones are not guaranteed a fair share of what you have built because there was no legally-binding documentation expressing your wishes.

Call Legacy Law Center Today 

Whether you need to start writing an estate plan or make changes to one you already have, we can help. Consider contacting an estate planning lawyer in Lake St. Louis, Missouri, from Legacy Law Center today for prompt and dependable assistance. 

Answering Your Estate Planning Questions

An estate planning lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO, can offer a variety of advantages, including consultation, guidance, support, and most importantly, control. Our team can assist with ensuring that you can clearly outline your final wishes, ensuring that you can have a voice when you may no longer have one. It’s only natural that planning for the future will weigh heavily on your mind, but, despite this, it’s not uncommon to continue to put off estate planning. It’s not unusual to have questions about the process, and the Legacy Law Firm can answer those questions and provide the counsel you deserve. 

What is an estate plan?

Estate planning is the process of outlining your wishes for the future. Plans made can take effect while a person is still living and after they pass. Simply put, an estate plan is a collection of documents that include: a will, power of attorney, guardianship designations, beneficiary designations, medical directives, trusts, and more. 

What is a power of attorney?

A power of attorney allows you to appoint another person to step in and oversee your affairs. You can designate a person to make financial decisions, healthcare decisions, and non-medical decisions with power of attorney. Some power of attorneys can take place for a limited period of time. There are several types of power of attorney such as:

  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney
  • Springing Power of Attorney
  • Special Power of Attorney

Should I be concerned about probate?

Probate is the process where a person’s will is validated. This process ensures that the proper executor is appointed, debts are settled, and beneficiaries receive what they are entitled. Many people are concerned about the probate process; however, it’s a common misconception that probate should be feared. With the proper planning and legal support from our Lake St. Louis, Missouri estate planning lawyer, it’s possible to simplify the legal process. 

What role does the executor play, and how should I choose the right person for the job?

The executor plays a significant role as they are responsible for sorting out the person’s affairs who has died. An executor retains legal support, settles debts of the estate, files a copy of the will with probate, inventories the estate’s assets, notifies creditors of a person’s passing, and ultimately represents the estate. As the testator, identifying an executor is a critical decision. You will want to choose someone that is not only responsible but up for the task. Be sure to speak with the person of your choosing before identifying them as executor. In addition, it’s critical that you first speak with the executor to ensure that they are up for the responsibility. 

What is a living trust, and how will it benefit me?

A trust is an estate planning tool where assets such as bank accounts, real estate, and valuables are placed into a trust until your passing. This is a way of detailing the specifics of your assets and how you would like them to be distributed. A revocable living trust allows a person to continue managing and controlling their assets until they are no longer able to. There are two key benefits to a living trust: 

  1. Assets within the trust can avoid probate
  2. Allows for privacy that mitigates the risk of someone contesting your wishes

How can I ensure that my estate plan is up to date?

It’s commonly recommended that someone update their estate plan at least once every 3-5 years. For some, it may be necessary to update their estate plan more often than that. It’s vital to be aware that an estate plan should not be created and left to sit. The estate plan is a living, breathing document that should be reviewed and updated regularly. 

4 Advantages of Living Trusts

Planning what happens to your estate after you’re gone can be a monumental task for anyone, regardless of the amount of wealth you’re dealing with. Deciding what kind of legal and financial vehicles you want to use to transfer your wealth is itself an important decision to make. Living trusts are one such option when it comes to estate planning. Here are four advantages of living trusts for you to consider. 

1. Bypass Probate 

When a typical will is put into action, the assets of that person enter a legal process called “probate,” which is essentially the divvying up of the estate to the intended parties. However, the assets you own that are put into a trust will not need to go through probate, saving your family the hassle of that process. Keep in mind that, when creating something like a trust, you should hire a professional estate planning lawyer in St. Charles, MO, to help you, such as one from Legacy Law Center.

2. Protect Your Family’s Privacy 

It’s also important to note that probate is a publically recorded process. Therefore, the will in question (and all of the individual assets going to probate) will not remain in the privacy of your family alone. Trusts, on the other, are private. Because they bypass the probate process, they will protect the privacy of that part of your wealth. 

3. Protect Your Kids 

One of the best aspects of a trust is that it allows you to have portions of your estate released to your heirs at certain times, rather than all at once. This means that if you have heirs who are still children or who are unable to handle the money all at once for any reason, you can lay out a plan that gradually gives them access to their inheritance over time. Remember that it’s important to hire an estate planning lawyer in St. Charles, MO, such as a lawyer from Legacy Law Center, to guide you through the process of doing all of this the right way. 

4. Protect Yourself 

Finally, trusts are flexible enough that the money or assets that are placed in them are accessible to you in your own life in the event that you need them. In other words, trusts don’t tie up your wealth in such a way that they can’t benefit you in an emergency. This is important to keep in mind. 

Living trusts can be a great part of your big-picture plan for your estate and inheritance. Use them to make things more efficient, protect your family’s privacy and protect you and your children financially. 

Estate Planning Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

Wills and trusts are both estate planning tools, but they are not the same. Wills do not become effective until the person who wrote the will dies. Some types of trust are immediately effective when created. Trusts only apply to the property that is placed in the trust. Wills apply to anything that is only owned by the person who created the will. Wills direct a legal representative to distribute an estate after a person dies. Trusts can distribute property while that person is still living. Wills are usually in the public record. Trusts are private.

Do I Need a Medical Directive?

A medical directive may include a health care proxy, power of attorney, and medical instructions. Having an estate planning lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO help you create a medical directive can prevent substantial issues from arising if you become unable to make your own medical decisions. 

How Can I Prevent My Family From Contesting My Will?

You can not completely prevent the possibility that one or more family members may contest your will. However, you can reduce the chance of this happening by having an estate planning lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO ensure that your will is properly executed, and explain your estate planning decisions to your family. 

What Are Some Alternatives To Having a Will?

You can own property in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. This property automatically transfers to the surviving owner when the other owner dies. However, the property may be taxed as a gift. Another alternative is to place a beneficiary designation on each asset you want to transfer when you die. The team at Legacy Law Center can help you understand the benefits and drawbacks of these alternatives.

What if I Want To Be an Organ Donor?

Many states allow an advance directive to state a person’s wish to become an organ or tissue owner. An estate planning lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO can explain how the laws in Missouri apply to organ and tissue donation. Even if your driver’s license states that you want to be a donor, you still need to make your wishes known to your family, health care proxy, and doctor. 

Do Not Forget Your Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan

When people start working on an estate plan, they typically think about their tangible assets, such as the family home, the vehicles they own, and other physical possessions. They will also usually consider financial assets such as investments, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, etc. But what about the small, seemingly unimportant aspects of your life — your digital assets? An estate planning lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO can help you determine what digital assets should be included in your estate plan.

What Are Digital Assets?

The amount of data we consume and create is staggering when you think about it, and it will only continue to increase. Everywhere we go, data is being streamed. On Facebook alone, there are more than 300 million photos uploaded per day, 510,000 comments posted and 293,000 statuses updated every minute. On Instagram, there are 95 million photos and videos are shared every day.

There is no widely accepted definition of “digital assets,” but most experts agree that they comprise anything that is stored electronically or are accessed via a computer, smartphone, tablet, server, or another type of device. Some of the more common examples of digital assets include cryptocurrency, music, videos, photos, websites, domain names, social media accounts, travel accounts, shopping accounts, virtual gaming accounts, client lists, digital files, and more.

Why Digital Assets Are an Important Part of an Estate Plan

What does any of this matter when it comes to estate planning? As a Lake St. Louis, MO estate planning lawyer can explain, digital assets are more than your social media accounts and the photos you upload to the cloud. Most people now handle many day-to-day tasks through electronic means. How will someone access your bank account and know how to pay for expenditures if you only receive your bills online? While access to digital assets may be necessary to distribute your property through probate, there may also be sentimental value to holding on to photos and other electronic files.

In some cases, digital assets may be worth a lot of money. People may earn an income as bloggers, Instagram “influencers,” YouTube vloggers, and even electronic music producers, and all of these occupations involve online accounts and electronic files. An estate plan should include information on how to access these accounts or how ownership of online business interests should be handled after you pass away.

There are federal and state laws that deal with unauthorized access to accounts. Even if a person does have the username and password, they may be technically prohibited from accessing the account, even if they are considered a fiduciary. A number of legal hurdles may need to be addressed, and an experienced Lake St. Louis, MO estate planning lawyer can help you understand how to handle these matters properly.

Registration of Estate Planning Documents

As a Lake St. Louis, MO estate planning lawyer can explain, when a person creates and executes testamentary documents, he or she details the way in which they want to pass on their belongings after death. Whether using a will or a trust, the person executing the documents has to ensure the proper legal requirements are met when writing and signing the documents in order for the document to be legally valid later on.

Generally, if the legal formalities for creating a will and a trust are followed, the person creating these documents does not have to file the documents with a court or another government agency in order for the documents to be valid. This is especially so with a will. If the will is written, signed, and witnessed by at least two other witnesses, it is a valid will even if it is found under the deceased’s mattress after his death.

The same is true of documents creating trusts, except the person forming the trust has to sign the trust creating documents in the presence of a notary public who can notarize the document. Trust documents are usually drafted by experienced trust attorneys. Because the creation of the trust may also require the transfer of property into the trust, there may need to be some official filing of documents. For example, a transfer of real estate from the trust creator to the trust would require a deed transfer which would have to be officially recorded.

It is very important to keep the original will and trust documents in a safe place. Making sure the documents will be protected in case of a flood or fire is also very important. If the original documents are not found after a person’s death, it can cause a lot of confusion and claims that the testator destroyed the documents. This is the presumption that is taken with wills, that if the original will is missing, the testator destroyed it. If such a presumption is taken, an earlier will may be accepted, even if it was not the true last wish of the testator.

After a person’s death, the original will must be presented to the clerk of the court by the person in possession of it. Assets placed in trust do not have to go through probate, but the trustee will be required to administer the trust in accordance with the trust documents. 

Contact Our Law Firm Today

Some people chose to keep their estate planning documents hidden away for privacy’s sake. While this is a wise choice, there may be other ways to protect the documents and still keep the contents of the documents private. For more information on how to prepare and preserve estate planning documents, or how to set up a trust, contact an estate planning lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO from Klenk Law.

Do I need an Estate Plan If I Am Not Wealthy?

Even if you do not have children or a lot of assets, you can benefit from estate planning at Legacy Law Center. An estate plan can take the burden of dealing with your estate off the shoulders of your surviving relatives.

To learn more, contact the Legacy Law Center, our Lake St. Louis, Missouri estate planning lawyer is available to help.