Estate Planning Lawyer St. Charles, MO
No person should put off contacting an estate planning lawyer St. Charles, MO residents recommend from the Legacy Law Center. Many often believe that estate planning is a cumbersome process. While this may be the case when managing the estate planning process on your own, with the assistance of a lawyer from the Legacy Law Center, estate planning can be much more straightforward than many might realize. Making sure that all the basics have been covered will be critical. The last thing you want is to develop an estate plan that may include all necessary aspects.
The following are a few components needed when developing an estate plan:
The Last Will and Testament
The last will and testament are one of the most critical components of an estate plan. Your will outlines your wishes in the event of your passing. A will incorporates information regarding how you would like your assets distributed in the event of your passing. Without a will in place, there is no guidance for how assets should be distributed to beneficiaries.
With strategic planning, fewer assets may be subject to the process when a will passes through probate. Be aware that a will must be updated when significant life changes occur, such as the birth of a child, divorce, changes in assets, and more.
Power of Attorney
There are two different types of attorney, medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney. Both of these are available should a person need another to step into making decisions for them. The medical power of attorney allows the appointed party to make medical decisions when a person can no longer do so themselves. A financial power of attorney allows another to step in when necessary.
In some cases, this may be available when someone is unavailable to make critical financial decisions. Such financial decisions may be required when a person is either incapacitated or unavailable to make such decisions.
Developing a Trust
A trust is a way for a person to avoid probate and dictate how assets are distributed when they cannot do so. A trust ensures that assets are protected and distributed in the way that you wish. There are two primary trusts to consider when a trust is established: an irrevocable living trust and a revocable living trust. An irrevocable living trust is something that cannot be modified once it has been created. A revocable living trust is something that can be managed and revised by a grantor throughout their lifetime. When a person passes away, assets can be distributed based on the grantor’s wishes.
Trusts Versus Wills
When planning your estate, you may be tempted to write your will and get it done with. In general, you probably know what assets you have and who you want those assets to go to. However, your estate planning does not need to stop at creating a will. You may not realize that it is in your best interest (and the interest of your beneficiaries) to create a trust. In some cases, you may even want to make both.
The estate planning attorneys from the Legacy Law Center want to ensure that when you work with us, you are getting exactly what you need. Below, we discuss the uses for will and trusts and walk you through which one may be best for your situation. To discuss more estate planning tools, contact our office for an appointment.
What is the main difference between a trust and will?
Both of these things may be incredibly important to you, so it is critical to decide early on if anything may exclude using a will or a trust. When it comes to wills and trusts, there are usually two main differences to keep in mind:
- A trust can help you avoid probate; a will cannot.
- A will can name a guardian for your minor children, a trust cannot.
What else is important to know about wills?
When you create a will, you create a document that does not go into effect until after you have died. Essentially, you are making a will because you want to ensure that your wishes are met when you pass away. You will want to use a will to direct your assets and who should have them. This happens once the person you have entrusted your will to (your executor) files your will with the probate court. If something happens to you while you are still alive (you become incapacitated somehow), a will does not direct your assets.
Things a Probate Lawyer Can Do for You
Assess the Will
If you are named as the executor of a will, you are responsible for handling the affairs of the estate of a deceased person. Hopefully the deceased individual has left a will, which makes the probate process much easier. A probate lawyer can assess a will and determine if it is legal.
If the will is determined to be legal and valid, the probate attorney can approve the executor appointment. These steps are important because these approvals mean an estate executor will be able to use the will in court. Hiring a probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO, can facilitate the probate process.
When someone dies, loved ones usually feel grief and suffer. However, if a will is contested, circumstances become even more difficult. Hiring an experienced probate attorney from a firm such as Legacy Law Center can help settle conflicts, whether the problem is between the executor and a beneficiary or among the beneficiaries.
Often, challenges to a will are based on charges that the testator was not competent. A knowledgeable probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO, can provide support and testimony to resolve quarrels perhaps even prevent lengthy, painful legal cases.
Offer Financial Advice
If the testator has left debts, the executor can turn to a probate attorney for advice. Usually, if someone leaves debts when they die, these debts become the property of the estate. Occasionally, specific debts may be handed on to other individuals, but usually they become part of the estate.
As executor, you would be responsible for paying debts using estate assets. There are numerous laws governing this process, however, and each case is unique. For example, student loans and mortgages have specific regulations. On the other hand, perhaps payments need to be made to beneficiaries from life insurance policies. A probate lawyer in Lake St. Louis, MO, is familiar with legal requirements regarding both debts and beneficiary payments, and trusting a knowledgeable professional for this process can reduce the chances of facing future challenges.
Ensure Proper Distribution
A probate attorney helps the executor of an estate with fiduciary duties. An estate executor is expected to act in good faith toward all beneficiaries and other parties, such as debtors, and distribute estate assets with integrity.
Sometimes mistakes are made not out of deliberate malfeasance but rather from lack of knowledge about proper procedures. Working with an experienced probate attorney from a firm such as Legacy Law Center reduces the chance of probate mistakes and possible legal ramifications.
5 Lesser-known Estate Planning Documents You Need
Most people are aware that estate planning includes a will. They may also be aware of powers of attorney and trusts. However, these are not all the estate planning documents you need. Here are some lesser-known papers you’ll want to have.
Digital Account Login Information
If you’ve been online for any amount of time, you likely have dozens, if not hundreds, of online accounts. From Facebook to bank accounts, your presence is everywhere. You may want to consider naming a digital executor in your will. That person would be responsible for taking care of your online accounts, including closing them after your death. A Legacy Law Center estate planning lawyer in St. Charles MO, can help you figure out how to handle your digital presence once you pass away.
Proof of Identity Documents
Your executor will have an easier time of probating your estate if they have all your proof of identity documents in one place. These documents include your driver’s license, passport, social security card, birth certificate, marriage license, divorce decree and armed services discharge papers. Make sure your executor knows where to find these documents.
Insurance Policies and Financial Documents
It’s a good idea to keep all of your insurance policy paperwork together. That includes homeowner’s, car, health and life insurance. Financial documents include records of checking and savings accounts, brokerage accounts, credit cards, mortgage, loans and tax returns. Your executor will have to file a tax return for your estate and will need all this information to do so. An estate planning lawyer in St. Charles MO, may have a checklist of all these documents to help you pull all the papers together.
Deeds and Titles
You may want to keep your deeds and titles together with your financial documents. These are the records of things you own, like real estate and vehicles. If you have a living trust, the deeds and titles should be in the name of the trust so they can avoid probate. An estate planning lawyer in St. Charles MO, at Legacy Law Center would be able to advise you on the ramifications of putting these papers in your trust.
You want to put your funeral wishes in your estate planning documents to help your executor give you the send-off you desire. You may prefer a somber, solemn occasion at church, a gathering of only family members graveside or a large party with all your friends and loved ones celebrating your life. Without specifying what you want your funeral to look like, your executor and heirs would have to decide on the details for you.
Using a Trust
On the other hand, you can use a trust while still alive to manage your property if you wish. When you place your assets into a trust, you can list yourself as the first trustee so that you can still manage any assets you have. Further, if you do become incapacitated, your successor trustee can then start managing your assets. This is an excellent benefit of having trust.
As noted above, the assets you place into your trust do not need to go through the probate court. Instead, the trustee can transfer property to any heirs you have listed upon your death.
The attorneys of Legacy Law Center know that you have worked hard for what you have and, because of this, you have a right to dictate how your assets are distributed. It is your responsibility to make sure that you have engaged in the estate planning process. This is best suited with a legal professional’s assistance who can ensure that your estate plan keeps your best interests at the forefront. It will be critical to get started today with your St. Charles, Missouri, estate planning lawyer at the Legacy Law Center as soon as possible.
Familial Conflict: The Risk of Not Developing a Clear Estate Plan
Estate planning with a St. Charles, MO lawyer is critical when developing these essential documents. While a person may continuously put off an estate plan, it’s vital to dedicate the time towards developing these documents. Estate planning offers advantages to all involved; not only is there a plan for everyone to refer to, but it ensures that you can have your voice heard and protect your assets for beneficiaries. Unfortunately, when a person passes away, it’s possible to experience familial conflict. Family members will believe they know what’s best for you and your assets. For some, developing a trust may be a possible solution. With assistance from the Legacy Law Center, our professionals will help ensure that your wishes are properly communicated and that you have identified a trustee who can help carry out what you have outlined.
Developing a Trust
A trust is when a person puts assets into a trust, allowing a trustee to hold assets for beneficiaries. There are many forms of trusts that may be appropriate depending upon the situation. Many people choose trusts to avoid some assets passing through probate and ensure that assets are distributed in the way someone wishes. There are two primary types of trusts: revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts. A revocable living trust is overseen by a trustee throughout a person’s lifetime. In most situations, the trustee is often the beneficiary, and they will handle their own assets until they pass away. Once a person has passed, the identified trustee takes over the trust and distributes assets accordingly. An irrevocable living trust is where the grantor places assets into a trust and takes effect when a person is still living. These types of trusts cannot be changed or revoked once they are put in place.
Identifying a Trustee
Estate planning St. Charles, MO, with our team, can assist in one of the most critical issues of developing a trust, identifying a trustee. You will want to make sure that you have communicated your wishes with potential trustees and that they are up for this great responsibility. Acting as a trustee over a trust is a long-term commitment, and making sure that the person you have identified is onboard will be critical. Additionally, you will want to ensure that you have identified alternates if the person you identified no longer wants to act as trustee.
Communicating Your Wishes
Whether you are in the process of developing a trust or have just completed your estate plan, there is one factor that should be your top priority- communicating your wishes. When a person passes away, conflict amongst the family is a problem that arises no matter how strong the relationships are. Family may have conflicted viewpoints over what they believe should happen with a person’s estate or their final wishes. As a testator or grantor, you must speak with family members about your plans. Communication ensures that there is no confusion over the estate plan that has been developed. If you have eliminated someone from your plan, communicating your reasons can prevent problems from arising later on. By making sure that all involved know your plan, you can mitigate the possibility of your will being disputed during the probate process. When the family is in disagreement, there are several issues that arise. The last thing any person wants is discord within the family because they are in dispute. When families are not clearly communicated with, fractured relationships may result, which is the last thing you would have wanted when they are grieving your loss.
3 Benefits of a Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney may be one of the most critical parts of your estate planning documents because this document will control your medical decisions while you are alive. Here are some benefits of having a medical power of attorney.
1. Plan For Your Care
Anyone can become seriously ill without warning. By making a medical power of attorney, you can plan for a possible illness that may cause you to become incapacitated. At Legacy Law Center, you can meet with an estate planning lawyer in St. Charles, MO, to discuss your planning options. In your medical power of attorney, you can provide a structure for a wide range of health care decisions, including where you live while you receive care and from whom you receive care.
2. Choose Your Decision Maker
You will need to choose at least one agent to make medical decisions for you. The agent that you appoint in the document will be required to follow the instructions set forth. However, you may not be able to give specific instructions on every possible healthcare decision. If the action is not defined, your medical decision-maker will have the authority granted in a power of attorney to exercise their judgment. It would be best if you had confidence in your agent’s decision-making ability when you name them as your healthcare proxy. Your estate planning lawyer in St. Charles, MO, with the Legacy Law Center, will include general guidelines that will allow your appointed agent to make decisions that are consistent with your desired treatment.
3. Specify Your Treatment Options
Most people have strong feelings about various treatment options that are available in the event of an illness. You may prefer to have only pain-relieving measures and no other medical interventions. You can specify if you want to have palliative or more aggressive treatment in a medical power of attorney. You can also direct your agent to allow or not allow your providers to put you on artificial respiration or other life support. If you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself and do not have medical power, your treating physician will decide your treatment. You can avoid unwanted treatment or interventions you disagree with by providing directions in your medical power of attorney drafted by an estate planning lawyer in St. Charles, MO.
A medical power of attorney is a critical tool to allow you to maintain some control over your life decisions even if you are incapacitated.
Reasons to Have an Estate Plan in Place
Some people think estate planning is only for those who have a lot of assets, especially because of the word “estate.” This is not necessarily the case at all. Estate planning is the process of determining who will inherit your financial assets and other personal property. Without a plan in place, you do not have the option to choose who receives what after you pass away. Each person’s situation is unique, which means your estate plan will vary as well. Speaking with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer in St. Charles MO can help you develop the best estate plan for your individual situation. Here are six reasons to ensure you have an estate plan in place:
Override the Default Intestate Laws
If you do not draft a will, the state you live in sets forth guidelines on how your assets will be distributed upon your death. This is known as dying intestate. Most likely, your assets will not be distributed how you would have chosen if you had a valid will in place. You can prevent this default distribution by having a valid will, creating a trust, or having assets held in joint ownership.
Protect Your Family
One of the main reasons to have an estate plan in place is to protect your family. This is especially important if you have young children. No one wants to think about dying at a young age, but it can happen. If you have children, you absolutely need to be prepared for a potential tragedy. You want to make sure your family is well taken care of, and you can also name a guardian for your children in the event something happens to you. A St. Charles MO estate planning lawyer can make sure that the right documents are in place to ensure your wishes for your children’s future will be established in your estate plan.
Avoid Overpaying Taxes
Aside from ensuring the assets are distributed according to your wishes, another reason to have an estate plan in place is to minimize the potential taxes. Taxes can take a chunk out of your overall estate, which means less goes to your intended beneficiaries. There are several ways you might be able to avoid estate taxes completely. This is another reason you want to work with a skilled estate planning lawyer.
If you plan your estate right, it will not need to go through the process of probate. Probate is a court-supervised process in which your will is authenticated. The court will place a value on assets, ensure remaining bills and taxes are paid off, and then it will distribute the remaining assets to your rightful heirs.
Name Someone to Make Healthcare Decisions
In the event you become incapacitated, you will need someone who is capable of making medical decisions for you. A St. Charles MO estate planning lawyer can create a power of attorney agreement for you that names a family member, spouse, or friend to act as your agent in the event something happens. You may also allow this individual to decide on life-saving measures if you are facing a terminal condition, like a vegetative state.
Our team at Legacy Law Center will work tirelessly to ensure that you have explored all of your options. Receive the help you need by choosing our team to assist with your St. Charles, Missouri estate planning needs.