St. Charles Will & Trust Attorneys
Long before Estate Planning became an everyday term, a Last Will and Testament was often the one legal document someone might have prepared for themselves or their family. A will is a basic document that allows people to express their wishes in regard to how they want affairs handled and property distributed after their death.
For any will to be valid, however, it must go through a process called probate, which can be time consuming (12-18 months on average) and can be costly – perhaps up to 8% of the value of an individual’s assets. To bypass the probate process, more legal options have become available for people who wish to distribute and protect their assets. These legal documents are known as trusts.
Wills and trusts can work together and are important pieces of an estate plan. At Beck & Lenox Estate Planning & Elder Law (Beck & Lenox), we’ve served St. Charles County and surrounding areas for nearly 50 years. Our will and trust lawyers appreciate that every person’s situation is unique. Our goal is to make the process as simple as possible:
We will walk you through available options so that you can decide what is best for your family.
Intestate Administration in Missouri
In the absence of a will, state law determines how a person’s estate will be distributed among surviving family members. This process is called “intestate administration.” A person who dies without a will in the state of Missouri would be subject to the following conditions:
- For a surviving spouse and the couple’s child[ren]:
The surviving spouse is entitled to the first $20,000 in value, and one-half the rest. The other one-half would be split equally among children.
- For a surviving spouse and the decedent’s child[ren] from a previous marriage:
The surviving spouse is not awarded the first $20,000 in value. Instead, your spouse gets one-half the assets, and the surviving child or children split the other one-half equally.
If any surviving children are minors under the age of 18, a conservatorship would be established through probate court to oversee the management of assets for the children, until they reach the age of majority.
Last Will and Testament Benefits
A validly-drafted Last Will and Testament allows you to spell out your wishes, rather than leaving them up to state law. In addition to designating monetary assets, a will is the only document in which you can name the person(s) you want to appoint as guardians for your minor children.
Many states also allow you to prepare a list designating certain items of property to go to certain people. However, in order to be considered binding, this list must be referred to in a validly-drafted will.
While the free will options available online might sound appealing, it is important to consider what is at stake if the will does not meet all legal criteria. You may also miss out on financial opportunities that an experienced will and trust lawyer can help identify.
You may have heard of a Living Will, also known as an Advance Directive. A Living Will is NOT a will as defined above. A Living Will is a legal document that provides instructions regarding the medical care a person wishes to receive if they become incapacitated or seriously ill and cannot communicate their preferences themselves. The details of Living Wills often include considerations such as whether the person wants life-sustaining medical treatments or feeding and breathing tubes to be used.
Different Types of Trusts
Provisions of the trust can be altered or canceled because they remain in the grantor’s estate. Most trusts can be revocable.
Provisions of the trust cannot be revoked because they are moved out of the grantor’s estate. A grantor can choose to make a trust irrevocable.
An Irrevocable Trust is required in order to protect assets for certain government programs. Additionally, a person may choose an Irrevocable Trust to guarantee that no one can legally change their intentions regarding the disposition of those assets. One exception worth noting: An Irrevocable Trust can be changed if the person who created the trust and all beneficiaries named in the trust agree to the change.
Set up to designate specific funds or other assets to go to a charity of the grantor’s choice.
Set up to hold a family’s assets or to conduct a family business.
Specifically designed to protect a family farm and is usually irrevocable.
A special trust set up by parents for their children, that protects the assets from debt collectors, bankruptcy or divorce proceedings. This is typically revocable.
Designed to protect the grantor’s investments for Medicaid and VA qualification purposes and is usually irrevocable.
Designed to protect the primary residence and is usually irrevocable.
Special Needs Trust
Set up to provide essential needs-based care or government benefits for a beneficiary who is disabled.
Drafting Wills & Trusts to Protect Your Estate
A will is a great building block for any estate plan, but it may not enough for many people. At Beck & Lenox, our attorneys have helped thousands of families secure peace of mind that their wishes will be carried out upon their passing and that their survivors won’t have to deal with the stresses of legal action or invalid documents.
Our team of will and trust attorneys in St. Charles will meet with you in person to review your goals and determine what document(s) may be appropriate for your unique situation. Contact our office to schedule a free consultation.