Practice Areas

Estate Planning

Who Decides – You or the Court?

That is the essential question to ask yourself when considering whether an Estate Plan is important for you.  This is your opportunity to designate how your assets pass upon your death, without interference.  Our basic estate plan includes a will, financial power of attorney and health care directive.  In certain circumstances, a trust may be advisable to protect your property and hold it for future distribution.

Will

A Last Will and Testament is the estate planning document with which most people are familiar.  A will allows you to designate in advance to whom you want your belongings and/or money to go upon death.

You need a will so that your belongings are distributed according to your wishes, not by order of the court.

A Last Will and Testament allows your appointed personal representative to administer your estate without court interference.  The Court merely gives the personal representative you have selected the authority to close accounts, sell property, etc. and reviews what was done to make sure your wishes have been followed.

You need a will if you have children because guardians must be considered.  Do you want the court to do that?

A Last Will and Testament allows you to name guardians for your children.  Without a Will, if both parents die suddenly, the court will decide that.

Financial Power of Attorney

In an emergency or if you are incapacitated, who will handle your finances and pay your bills?  Are you elderly or disabled, or do you anticipate someone else handling your finances as you grow older?  Will someone have to go to court to be appointed?

A Financial Durable Power of Attorney will allow someone you trust to pay your bills and manage your finances while you are incapacitated.

Health Care Directive/Living Will

Most people want someone they love and trust to make medical decisions for them when they are beyond hope of recovery, not the court or the medical establishment.  A written Health Care Directive also helps to avoid disputes between family members regarding your wishes like what happened in the Terry Schiavo case.

A Health Care Directive/Living Will allows you to name a person you love and trust to make medical care decisions for you, if you are unable to make them yourself.  Naming someone you love and trust also gives you the comfort of being able to talk to him or her about your wishes.

Trust

There has been a lot of talk about trusts.  A trust is not for everyone.  Only an attorney, accountant or financial planner can evaluate whether a trust is right for you.  Only a licensed attorney can draft a valid trust agreement in most states, including Missouri and Illinois.

A trust allows living person(s) to hold property for future distribution, i.e. until a child reaches a certain age, or to maximize protection against the dreaded estate tax.  There are a variety of trust types.  The trust with which most people are familiar is the revocable living (inter vivos) trust.  The person who makes the trust (Grantor or Grantors) agrees to hold certain or all of his or her assets according to the rules set by the trust.  In a revocable living trust, bank accounts, property, cars and other items are titled in the name of the owner's trust.  At the same time, the Grantor controls all these assets as if they were still titled in his/her/their name(s).  Also the Grantor(s) can revoke this trust or change it at anytime while living.

A trust is administered by a trusted family member or friend, called a trustee, and it is not necessary to go to court to administer the trust.  Many people like this option for this reason.  In addition, if you have a large nest egg, there are a variety of methods which can help you pass more on to your heirs and less on to the federal government.  In addition, a trust can be an effective method to avoid probate altogether, if all assets are titled in the name of the trust before death. 

 

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