Guide to Estate Planning in Missouri

Guide to Estate Planning in Missouri

Estate planning is something far too many people put off, but this is a mistake. It is far better to handle these matters now, when you are of sound mind and able to do so, to ensure your assets are protected, your family is provided for, and your end-of-life wishes are honored. It is not enough to simply tell others how you want your assets to be distributed, your children to be cared for, or how you want to be treated if you become incapacitated. In the case of your death or serious illness, it is essential to have formal estate planning documents that meet the requirements of Missouri law to preserve your property, provide for your family, and to lay out your wishes to make the administration of your estate as simple as possible for your loved.

A consultation with an experienced Missouri estate planning lawyer can help by ensuring that everything is done properly and that you have all the necessary documents to secure your assets and your legacy. To get started, the following is an overview of what you need to know when planning your estate.

What is Estate Panning?

Estate planning involves setting down in writing how your assets will be preserved, managed, and distributed after death. It takes into account how your properties and financial obligations will be handled in the event you become incapacitated and provides ways to reduce taxes and avoid a long and expense probate process. It allows you to name your children’s guardian in the event of your premature death. It minimizes the chances of family strife and ugly legal battles should individuals disagree on how your assets should be divided. It also states what you want to be done if you are terminally ill and allows you to determine who you want to make health decisions for you if you are no longer able to do so.

Why You Should do Estate Planning

There are many reasons why you should do estate planning before the need arises.  Proper estate planning is crucial because it:

  1. Protects your assets: Estate planning helps protect your assets from unnecessary taxes, creditors, and legal disputes. It allows you to pass on your wealth to your heirs efficiently and helps avoid probate, a court-supervised process of transferring legal title from a person who has died to their heirs.
  2. Determines distribution of assets: Without a clear estate plan, your assets will be distributed according to Missouri’s intestacy laws, which means the people you wish to inherit assets may not receive them. Estate planning allows you to utilize methods such as creating a will or trust, that specifies how you want your property to be divided among your beneficiaries.
  3. Establishes guardianship for minor children: Estate planning allows you to designate a guardian for your minor children so someone you trust and who is willing to take on the responsibility will be able to care for them in the event of your passing.
  4. Sets down health care decisions: Estate planning enables you to establish what care you want or do not want in case of illness or incapacitation and to appoint someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so.
  5. Helps avoid probate: Some form of Missouri probate is required for any estate that has an asset that is not transferred to a beneficiary via a non-probat transfer.  In Missouri, a large estate is any estate greater than $40,000, which will require “full” probate. However, there are certain types of property that are not subject to probate.  These include assets that are jointly held, transferred on death, payable on death and have living beneficiaries, or are listed under a trust.

What are Essential Documents for an Estate Plan?

Documents you need for estate planning depend on your individual circumstances and needs. In general, the following documents are the basis of a good estate plan for most people:

  • Last Will and Testament: A will is a foundational document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets, the appointment of guardians for minor children, and the executor of your estate.
  • Revocable Living Trust: This document allows you to transfer assets to a trust during your lifetime. You still control assets while you are alive, but the trust goes to your named beneficiaries when you die, potentially avoiding probate.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: This legal document authorizes someone to make financial decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacity.
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Advance Health Care Directive: This document appoints someone (usually a close relative or friend) to make medical decisions for you if you’re unable to make them on your own. Your living will also states your end-of-life medical directives as to your wishes on your medical treatment when there is no expectation of your recovery from a terminal illness or injury and you are unable to communicate those wishes.
  • Beneficiary Designations: You can designate the beneficiaries that you want your life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other assets to go to after your death, without having them go through probate.

How an Estate Planning Lawyer Can Help:

While it’s possible to create a basic estate plan on your own, there are several benefits to consulting with an experienced estate planning lawyer in Missouri. These include:

  1. Legal Expertise: Estate planning can involve complex legal issues and making difficult decisions. An attorney can customize your plan according to your specific needs, guide you through the process, ensure that your documents comply with state laws, and keep your plan up to date if Missouri laws or your specific situation changes.
  2. Probate and Trust Administration: In the event of your passing, an estate planning lawyer can assist your family with the probate process or trust administration, making the transition smoother.

Get Help with Missouri Estate Planning

Estate planning can seem daunting, but Girardeau, MO, estate planning lawyer Kelvin Birk is here to help. Kelvin Birk is a Certified Public Accountant as well as an attorney. This unique combination provides the broad knowledge and experience to solve both legal and financial issues that arise in estate planning matters.

The Birk Law Firm offers a free consultation to discuss your individual situation, so call Kelvin today at 573-332-8585.

Attorney Kelvin Birk

Attorney Kelvin Birk

Kelvin Birk is a lawyer as well as a certified public accountant, with more than 30 years of experience in accounting and tax and business consulting, and more than 20 years of experience in numerous legal matters. This combined expertise allows our law firm to provide a level of service above that of other firms. Whatever your legal situation, your attorney at Birk Law Firm can counsel you as to the tax implications. We have experience in providing myriad legal representation services to residents of southeast Missouri and other areas.. [ Attorney Bio ]