People work hard during their lifetimes to obtain wealth and maintain that wealth for the future of their families. It can often feel overwhelming to plan for your end-of-life care and for the distribution of your wealth after your death. However, effective and comprehensive estate planning has several benefits for you, your estate, and your family. When you work with a St. Charles estate planning attorney, you create a legally enforceable estate plan that covers needs specific to your estate.
What Is Estate Planning?
An estate plan is a set of various documents and beneficiary designations that ensure your wishes are followed at the end of your life and after your death. Documents include wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. Estate planning determines the future of your assets and estate, as well as who manages the distribution of the estate. It can also keep your estate out of probate court, which is the lengthy and expensive process where the state distributes your estate.
An estate plan can also assign guardians for minor children, provide specific provisions before assets are distributed to certain parties, and put individuals in charge of your medical and/or financial decisions if you are incapacitated.
Benefits of Estate Planning
There are several benefits to creating an estate plan, including:
- Protection for Yourself
If you are incapacitated or rendered incapable during your life or toward the end of your life, an estate plan can provide you protection. Powers of attorney can outline who you put in charge of your medical and financial decisions. Durable powers of attorney enable someone to pay bills on your behalf and manage your accounts. By providing these powers, your loved ones do not have to go through the court to get these legal powers at a crucial time.
A living will with medical directives can also lay out where you want to receive healthcare and what procedures you do and do not consent to.
- Avoiding Probate
Probate is an expensive, stressful, and long process, particularly for family members dealing with the loss of a loved one. If you do not have trusts in place to distribute your assets, your estate will enter probate. It will be distributed according to your will, but federal taxes, court costs, and debtor claims will limit the financial benefits for your heirs. Additionally, if you do not even have a will, your estate will be distributed according to Missouri’s intestate succession laws.
Your heirs will not receive the benefits of your estate until after probate has concluded, which may take months to years.
- Limiting Disputes Between Loved Ones
Loved ones and heirs to your estate can have a difficult time while grieving. This can lead to disputes about your wishes, especially if you do not have a clear and enforceable will and estate plan. Well-meaning people may contest your will because they believe it’s not what you really wanted or believe you did not have testamentary capacity.
A comprehensive estate plan that is legally enforceable is less likely to be contested and may limit disputes between your loved ones. If individuals do contest your will or estate plan, they are less likely to be successful.
- Control Over Your Assets
A comprehensive estate plan enables you to determine how to protect your assets and who you want them to benefit. By keeping the assets from probate, you are also keeping your assets out of the public record.
Q: What Is an Advantage of Having an Estate Plan?
A: The main reason most people make an estate plan is for asset protection. Estate planning enables you to name beneficiaries and alternate beneficiaries to all the assets in your estate. That way, you can feel confident that your assets are benefiting the individuals and organizations that you want them to benefit after your death.
Estate planning can also protect you at the end of your life or if you become incapacitated. If you are unable to make important legal, medical, and financial decisions, powers of attorney and other estate planning documents can help. They can place individuals in charge of those decisions and explain your wishes.
Q: What Are the Basic Parts of a Missouri Estate Plan?
A: Each estate plan will be unique to the needs of you, your estate, and how you want your estate distributed. Generally, a comprehensive estate plan includes the following documents:
- A will that lists the executor of your estate and the inheritors of your assets.
- Trusts, which can reinforce the terms of a will, name a trustee, name beneficiaries, and keep assets out of probate.
- Powers of attorney (POA) include durable and medical POA, which give a loved one or professional power to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf if you cannot.
- Medical directives, which outline the medical treatment you do and do not allow if you can’t make those decisions.
Q: Is a Will or a Trust Better in Missouri?
A: A will and a trust both put someone in charge of your estate to distribute assets among those listed as inheritors or beneficiaries. A will, however, does not have the same protections as a trust. A trust is a legal entity that can keep assets out of probate court, allowing your assets to pass directly from you to the trustee successor after your death rather than entering the state’s jurisdiction.
A will does not keep assets out of probate court. A will is a document that is entered into the public record in court. If the court determines the will is valid, the provisions will be overseen by the named executor. A will can be used in conjunction with a trust as a pour-over will.
Q: What Are the Three Primary Goals of Estate Planning?
A: Each individual’s goals for estate planning will vary, but the most common primary goals in comprehensive estate plans include:
- Providing loved ones or professionals you trust with legal authority and guidelines for your care if you become incapacitated;
- Limiting the expenses, time, and stress that your heirs and beneficiaries must face after your death and increasing their monetary benefits; and
- Protecting and maintaining your assets during your life and after your death.
Contact Stange Law Firm
It can be overwhelming to plan for your future. A qualified estate planning attorney can answer your questions and help you determine what your goals for an estate plan are. Contact Stange Law Firm today.