Choosing an estate planning attorney is a crucial step in protecting your assets and ensuring that your wishes are honored after you pass away. Estate planning involves creating a plan for the distribution of your assets, as well as making arrangements for healthcare and end-of-life decisions. Here are some tips for choosing the right estate planning attorney.
As we start a new year, it's natural to think about making positive changes in our lives. Many people set New Year's resolutions, with the goal of becoming healthier, more organized, or more financially stable. However, one important aspect of life that often gets overlooked is estate planning. This may not seem like an exciting or immediate priority, but it's essential to ensure that your assets and wishes are protected, both now and in the future.
Estate planning is an important process that allows individuals to control how their assets will be distributed after they pass away, and ensure that their loved ones are taken care of. However, many people make mistakes when creating an estate plan that can cause problems down the road. Here are the top 6 mistakes to avoid when creating an estate plan:
POD stands for “payable on death,” and TOD stands for “transfer on death.” They are both beneficiary designations that you put on an asset to avoid Probate Court and transfer that asset upon your death directly to the listed person. On bank accounts and investment accounts, you can add a POD beneficiary designation listing who you want to receive that account upon your death.
Like many estate planning attorneys, our office offers a free initial consultation that provides you an opportunity to meet with attorney Chris Cox and ask specific questions for your unique situation. We offer three convenient options for this free meeting:
- In-person at our Chesterfield, Missouri location near I-64 and Mason
- Via phone call
- Via Zoom video call
When a loved one dies, the family is faced with a sometimes overwhelming responsibility of managing that person’s affairs. There are many things to attend to, and that often adds more stress to an already difficult time. It is important to ask for help and delegate to other family members. While not all-inclusive, here are the top ten things to do after someone dies:
A number of people give sizeable financial gifts to family and/or friends on a yearly basis. Some do so to help their relatives, and some do so to reduce a large estate and avoid triggering estate taxes. Understanding how estate and gift taxes apply to your giving plan is an important part of any gift giving strategy.
I frequently run into new clients who have titled bank accounts, stocks, brokerage accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), and even real estate, jointly with their adult children as an estate planning technique. They reason that if something happens to them, that asset will automatically go to their children. I almost always counsel against this as there are numerous pitfalls in doing so.
Creating a comprehensive estate plan requires careful thought and planning. Numerous decisions must be made during the creation of that estate plan. Most people assume that decisions regarding the distribution of your assets are the most important, but the individuals who you appoint to carry out your wishes (referred to as fiduciaries) often make or break the success of your plan. For that reason, it is imperative that you understand what each fiduciary role encompasses so you can pick the proper person to serve in each role. You are usually picking one main person to act and then several backups in case the previous people are unable to serve. You also have the options of naming professional fiduciaries such as banks or trust companies to serve in some of those capacities.
When your son or daughter turns 18, it’s important to make sure they have the necessary legal documents in place to protect them and allow you to continue to guide them through young adulthood. On a child’s 18th birthday, they are magically considered an adult in the eyes of the law, and their legal status is different from when they were 17.
The short answer is yes, an attorney is needed for a probate matter in Missouri. Missouri law demands the Personal Representative, also known as an executor, be represented by an attorney when taking the deceased’s estate through Probate Court. The reasoning is quite simple if you think about it. It is not possible to represent one’s self (pro se) in probate court as that person is deceased. There are some practical matters why requiring an attorney for probate in Missouri makes sense.
You’re married and you’ve made the smart decision to draft a Trust for you and your family, but do you and your spouse create one joint Trust or instead each draft your own separate Trusts? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question as it is dependent on your particular situation. There are several factors in Missouri that weigh into such a decision:
Passing on personal possessions (e.g., household goods, knickknacks and family heirlooms) after a death is often difficult for everyone, particularly when no clear direction has been given on the decedent’s wishes. Personal possessions don’t have a clear retail value such as other assets like bank accounts, vehicles, etc. If you’d like certain people to receive specific possessions, it is a good idea to communicate this clearly before your passing, both in and out of your Estate Planning documents.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are the perfect times to discuss estate planning with your aging relatives. As the people left behind after a loved one’s passing usually bear the sometimes-chaotic repercussions of that person’s failure to have estate planning documents in place, it’s important that you have a candid talk with your aging relatives on this topic. A face-to-face private discussion is always the best way to handle this whenever possible. These holidays may be more restricted and subdued due to COVID-19, but the odds are that you’ll still have more contact with your relatives either on the phone or via Zoom, and you can use that opportunity to have such a discussion.
Covid-19 has forced attorneys to reinvent how they do business, and it’s definitely worked to the advantage and convenience of our clients. We consider our office to be on the cutting edge of these new procedures. Traditionally, we’d require our estate planning clients to come into our office for a consultation and then come back again at a later date for a formal signing before witnesses and a notary public. Covid has wreaked havoc on that traditional procedure. We take the health of our clients very seriously, and we never want to run the risk of unknowingly exposing our clients to this virus. As a result, 95% of the Estate Planning Process is now virtual, and our clients are loving it!! Truth be told, even after we’re beyond Covid, I doubt that the estate planning process will ever go back to what it was. These new procedures are simply much faster and more convenient for our clients.
A Gun Trust, NFA Trust, or Firearms Trust is a type of Trust designed to make it easier to acquire, possess and use firearms during your life and to dispose of them after your passing. Such Trusts are commonly used to own suppressors/silencers, machine guns, short-barreled rifles and short-barreled shotguns (NFA items) as they are subject to the strict legal regulations of the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) and Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968.
The United States Congress blind-sided estate planners by recently enacting a new federal law (the SECURE Act) that may require you to amend your Trust. Greater detail is provided on the SECURE Act in the second half of this article, but the bottom line is that if you have any type of retirement plan (such as a 401k or IRA) and your Trust is, or may in the future be, named as the main or contingent (backup) beneficiary of that plan, you should have your Trust amended to comply with the changes in this law. If you don’t do so, depending on the current language in your documents, there could be substantial adverse tax consequences after your passing.
Missouri law allows you to put POD (payable on death) and TOD (transfer on death) designations on most assets. A POD/TOD designation is something you set up on each asset or account through the financial institution where it’s held (e.g., it’s set up with the bank or brokerage house, etc.) It allows you to designate who will receive that asset upon your passing. That asset will then avoid Probate Court and automatically go to the designation person upon your death.
Having a child is an exciting time. Expecting parents spend an incredible amount of time and money preparing for a new birth or adoption. Choosing a name, preparing the child’s room, purchasing clothing, diapers and the plethora of “accessories” you will need for a new child only seem to be the tip of iceberg. So why do parents avoid making one of the most important steps in preparing for a new child: creating or updating an estate plan? For many, it seems like a daunting task and no one wants to think about his/her death at a time like this. Nevertheless, estate planning is a caring act that you do for your family. Estate planning attorney Chris Cox makes this process much easier than you might think.
If you find yourself acting as the Trustee of a Trust created by your parents, grandparents or other relative, our office strongly recommends that you sit down to speak with an attorney before you start doing anything. Acting as Trustee without first retaining an attorney to assist you is often a recipe for disaster.
We’ve all heard the phrase that a person must of “sound mind” to draw up their Will, Trust or Powers of Attorney, but what does that really mean? Our office gets that question on a regular basis when adult children call to ask about drafting a Will or Trust for their parents or grandparents. One of the first determinations that must be made in such a situation is whether the person making the Will has “testamentary capacity” to do so and is of “sound mind.”
As the Holidays approach, it’s a time for family get-togethers and activities. It may be one of the only times of the year that family comes in from various parts of the country. This is a prime time to discuss estate planning with your family.
The anonymity of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency is one of the major draws of that asset. Nevertheless, when the owner dies, this sometimes becomes problematic.
Late summer is the time of year parents and recent high school graduates are filled with both excitement and some level of anxiety. Your “child” is entering the world of adulthood and is now legally considered an “adult”. Yikes!
This means all medical and financial decisions can legally be made by your child. In fact, the parent is no longer involved in just about everything without the express consent of your child. This is especially true when it comes to college.
While the main purpose of your estate plan is usually to provide for your family members, many people consider their companion animals to be part of their immediate family and also want to provide for their continued care. Missouri law allows you to provide for your pet in your estate plan by creating a Trust provision for their lifetime care. These provisions are usually a separate Article or paragraph contained within your Revocable Living Trust.
You’ll need to make many decisions in order to allow our office to customize your estate planning documents to your particular needs. While you don’t need to stress about immediately getting all of this information together, it’s good to review the items below as it allows you to begin the process of formulating your thoughts as to how you’d like your estate planning documents drafted.
When you leave our office, you’ll walk out with the original copies of everything you signed along with one extra photocopy. Our office recommends that your original estate planning documents be kept in a bank’s safe deposit box. If you’re married, your spouse’s name should also be on the box so that they can access it.
If your loved one’s assets are valued at $40,000.00 or under (after you back off liens, mortgages and expenses), those assets can be transferred through Probate Court via an expedited procedure commonly called a “Small Estate.” In that instance, an interested party completes an Affidavit for Collection of Small Estate, lists the assets, beneficiaries or heirs, and describes the property in detail along with copies of supporting documents. Those documents are filed in Probate Court.
For 2019, the Federal Estate Tax Exemption is set at $11,400,000 for individuals and $22,800,00 for married couples. These amounts are scheduled to increase each year with inflation until 2025. On January 1, 2026, the exemption amounts are scheduled to revert to the 2017 levels of $5,490,000 for individuals and $10,980,000 for married couples.
Most schools begin classes in September, including colleges and universities. If you have college aged children, you need to consider having an estate planning attorney create some basic documents to ensure their continued protection.
From time to time, I have conservations with people who are under the impression that a Will is a simple legal document and the services of an estate planning attorney are not necessary to create a Will. When I inquire about the motivation to use a do-it-yourself approach to a Will, cost is almost always the reason provided. This is a very dangerous approach for two reasons:
A divorce is often a stressful time, frought with emotion...and a lot of paperwork. After all the income/expense statements, parenting plans, and other documents necessary for a divorce you would think you're finished with lawyers once the divorce is finalized, but that would be a mistake.