Probate Lawyer Chesterfield, Missouri
If your loved one has passed away and you need advice in regards to their estate, a probate lawyer in Chesterfield, Missouri from Legacy Law Center can help during such a trying time. Dealing with probate lawyers should not be frightening, but it can seem overwhelming after experiencing a loss in your family.
Legacy Law Center was founded in 2012, and our goal is to provide seniors, veterans, and families with proper estate planning and a lawyer who understands the circumstances of estate planning. Legacy Law Center is founded and owned by Charles J. Moore, who has been practicing law since 2005—he started his career as an estate planning and probate attorney.
Right off the bat, you know that you have a lawyer with experience running this law firm. Legacy Law Center has received many awards for customer service and excellence in dealing with clients. Not only that, but Legacy Law Center’s owner and founder received notice from the American Institute of Legal Counsel, in 2018. Charles J. Moore was named one of the best estate planning attorneys in Missouri, out of ten. That’s quite an honor.
Mr. Moore has quite the education. He graduated from the University of Missouri–Columbia, that’s where he got his degree in history. From there, he went to the California Western School of Law in San Diego, to receive his law degree. He can practice law in California and Missouri, as well as at several federal courts, such as the Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis), the Southern District of California (San Diego), the Central District of California (Los Angeles) and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (Philadelphia).
Legacy Law Center has a passionate lawyer at its head, who is not only experienced in law but specifically in probate law and estate planning law. It’s what Mr. Moore is passionate about, or he’d not have made it his primary practice area.
Probate lawyers often execute wills, ensure that beneficiaries understand the probate process, and he can even help you identify estate assets, and where those assets are slotted to go via the will. How a probate lawyer is actually involved depends on a lot of variables. Did the decedent have assets—was there a last will and testament? In cases where there’s no will and testament, beneficiaries will file claims and sue for what they think they deserve.
Sometimes, even when there is a will, people will still challenge what was in the will. This is where your probate attorney would come into play. Furthermore, a shortlist of what this kind of lawyer can do for you:
- Collect proceeds from life insurance policies
- Identify estate assets and secure them
- Obtain appraisals for decedent’s real properties
- Assist in payment of bills and debt
- Manage the estate checking account
- Determine if any inheritance taxes are due
- Ensure inheritance taxes are paid
- Prepare to file documents required by probate court
- Make final disbursement of all assets to the beneficiaries after all bills and taxes are paid in full
The Benefits of Planning Your Estate Early
An experienced Chesterfield probate lawyer in Missouri will tell you that young or old, rich or poor, your estate consists of everything you own. Early estate planning allows you to think about those assets and make wise decisions about how you want them to work for you and your family during your lifetime and after your death. It also allows you to state your wishes and preferences regarding the types of medical care and interventions you want – and don’t want – in the event you become seriously ill, injured or otherwise incapacitated.
Obviously, no one can see the future. Nevertheless, accidents do happen, injuries do occur, and most people experience all sorts of unforeseen events during their lifetime. Beginning to plan early for how you want emergencies handled, if and when they occur, can give you enormous peace of mind. Not only are you protecting yourself, but also your loved ones.
Most people fail to recognize that buying life and other insurance is part of estate planning, probably the first “planning” that you do. Buying policies while you’re young makes good sense – and good dollars and cents. Premiums are quite low. And if you choose a plan whose premiums will not increase as you age, so much the better.
The same holds true for purchasing a prepaid funeral plan. You may be shocked to learn that funerals today cost between $7,000 and $9,000 depending on where you live. And that’s just for the funeral itself. It doesn’t include a cemetery plot, grave marker or flowers to place on the grave.
Last Will and Testament
Here’s another thing that may shock you. If you die without having made your last will and testament, the laws of the state in which you lived determine which of your family members get what portions of your probate estate. These laws may or may not reflect what you want. They certainly do not and cannot take into consideration any specific items you want specific people to have or charitable bequests you might wish to make. Your will, however, can.
The other main benefit of making a will at an early age, regardless of the amount of property and assets you have, is that you can use it to name the person or persons you want to finish raising your children if you and your spouse die together in an accident or other horrific event before they reach their respective ages of majority. It’s best to talk to a probate lawyer sooner rather than later to ensure that you’re protecting yourself and your family in the best way you can.
Updating Your Estate Plan
However simple your initial estate plan may be, you would do well to update it any time your life situation changes. For instance, an estate plan update is called for in the following situations:
- You move to a different state.
- You have another child.
- You get a divorce.
- Your spouse or a child dies.
- Your income changes significantly.
- You receive a significant inheritance.
- The tax laws change significantly.
Whether beginning an estate plan or updating your existing plan, contact an experienced probate lawyer and allow them to be your greatest help and ally.
What does a probate lawyer do?
Specifically, here are some of the common tasks a probate lawyer may assist an executor and beneficiaries with during the probate process:
- Collecting proceeds from life insurance policies
- Identifying and securing estate assets
- Obtaining appraisals for the decedent’s real property
- Assisting in the payment of bills and debts
- Preparing and filing all documents required by a probate court
- Determining if any estate or inheritance taxes are due, and making sure those debts are satisfied
- Resolving income tax issues
- Managing the estate checking account
- Transferring assets in the decedent’s name to the appropriate beneficiaries
- Making a final disbursement of assets to beneficiaries after all bills and taxes have been paid
What happens once probate is granted?
Once Probate has been granted, the Executor must collect the deceased’s assets and take steps to pay any debts or taxes – including income tax – owed by the deceased.
Funeral expenses are to be paid first and there is a particular order in which any other debts must be paid. Legal advice is required to ensure that the proper assets/beneficiaries bear the burden of these liabilities. After funeral expenses are paid, the Executor is entitled to claim any expenses relating to the administration of the Estate before other debts are paid.
Once debts have been paid, assets are either distributed according to the terms in the will or they are sold so that money can be divided among the beneficiaries. The Executor might have to contact financial organizations’ and companies in which the deceased had money invested in order to realize those assets, and become involved in selling various pieces of the deceased’s belongings such as jewelry, a boat or car.
A bank account will have to be opened, in the name of the estate, into which all funds owed to the estate must be deposited and from which debts must be paid.
Distributing the Assets
When all assets have been identified and, if necessary, sold to raise cash, and all debts have been paid, the remainder of the Estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries. The Executor must prepare a report and statement of the beneficiaries – given to them when they receive their share of the Estate – showing what the assets were, how much money they raised and what expenses and debts were paid from the proceeds.
Finally, the Estate is wound up. This involves drawing up accounts – showing money paid into the Estate and money paid out – which are sometimes required to be lodged with the Probate Registry.
Why a Will May Be Contested
A beneficiary cannot contest a will just because they don’t like what the terms list. However, there are valid reasons for contesting a will. The most common reasons why a will may be contested include:
Not Properly Signed Will
Every state has laws regarding how the last will and testament should be signed. For instance, the will has to be signed by the trust creator, or testator, in the presence of witnesses. The testator and witnesses may have to be in the same room at the same time, and must watch the others provide their signatures. Failing to sign a will based on state laws is a prevalent reason why the validity of a will ends up in court.
Testator Lacked Capacity
A testator must have been of sound mind and body when he or she created and signed the last will and testament. The term “testamentary capacity” means that the testator understood what was in the estate and the legal effect of signing the will. Contesting a will because the testator may have lacked capacity is a tricky claim. Let’s say that a person was diagnosed with dementia and had it while the will was written, edited, or signed. The court will not automatically assume the will wasn’t valid. More proof and support for these claims will have to be presented.
As people age, they become mentally and physically weaker. This means they are more vulnerable to the influence of another. Did someone influence the testator in a way where they felt so pressured that under duress that they had to succumb to the influencer’s will? In many cases, someone who is attempting to take advantage of an aging person will isolate the testator from their loved ones. Undue influence can be difficult to prove without guidance from a seasoned lawyer, as the court system doesn’t take lightly to contested will claims.
Call Legacy Law Center Today
If you have a query relating to any of the information in this piece, or you would like to speak with one of our Chesterfield, MO probate lawyers about your estate administration matter, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Legacy Law Center.