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Why do I need a Will?

Posted on February 27, 2020 at 11:04 AM Comments comments (10)
In this day and age where just about everything can be found online, why do I need an attorney to create a Will for me?  The honest answer is that you don't!  However, the next best answer is that having an attorney will help you make sure that what you mean to leave to your family and friends actually gets left to the people that you intend to leave it to.  

It is true that you could actually just write out in your own handwriting or type up on a computer your wishes, however, do you know what needs to be in your Will to make it efficient and go through Probate without problems?  The answer is probably, No.

You can also go online and find a form for a Will, however, do you know if this Form is just for the State of Missouri or if it is a compilation of formats for a Will based on the laws in various states?

Do you know what a Will really is?  A Will really is a set of instructions to the Court as to how you want your assets and debts taken care of when you are no longer around to take care of them.

You say, well I don't need the cost of an attorney to create a Will and/or I don't need a Will at all because  I have a trust or all of my property is left to a designated beneficiary.  That may be so, but do you know how many times people set up their estate just like this and forget to include something in their Trust or forget to leave funds to take care of their last debts for their cremation or burial?  A lot is the answer and the unintended consequences of that is  that it costs their loved ones and friends in the end.

If you are interested in discussing any of this further to find out what you may not know or what else you may need, such as a beneficiary deed, Durable Power of Attorney or Health Care Directive.  Please give me a call at 314-260-7823.  I will be happy to give you a 10 minute complimentary phone call to discuss these issues so that you can determine if you need something more.

Why should I have an Estate Plan?

Posted on August 14, 2015 at 12:12 PM Comments comments (0)

As an attorney, I think a lot of people think that their assets aren't big enough and their life isn't interesting enough to warrant an estate plan. To the first issue: you would be surprised. You don't have to be "wealthy" to make an estate plan a smart move for you. As I have mentioned before for instance, having a small business (or any business) would make estate planning a must for you. You don't have to be wealthy to have a small business. Most people who have kids, a decent job, some savings, some retirement savings, a house, a spouse, a car or two, even someone with a special collection of collectibles—anyone with any one or any combination of these is a great candidate for an estate plan.
Also, to the "interesting" issue, in this day and age, divorce is not unusual. An adult being single also is not unusual. The combination is not unusual. These themselves probably make your life "interesting" enough. I know some adults who grew up being raised by their mothers and barely knew their fathers or vice versa. They don't realize that if they die prior to their parents, the one they like and the one they don't like could very well inherit their assets equally, when really what they want to do is give all their money to just the one who raised them. This particular problem can be fixed with a simple Will. The same goes for someone whose sole objective is to give a certain collection to a friend or family member who may appreciate it like they did throughout their life.
I know an "Estate Plan" sounds expensive. It sounds like something normal people don't need. But we need to get away from the intimidating sound of that and start planning. In fact, a simple Will can cost as little as $250.00. In our office that's the price at which we begin. You get a consult with an attorney so that you know what you need and that same attorney writes up your documents. You can sleep easy at night knowing that your wishes will be followed and that it was done properly. It can be quite a deal for the peace of mind it brings and far less expensive over time than life insurance or all the other types of insurance and things we buy to prepare for the worst.

Bottom Line: As the saying goes, "Hope for the best but prepare for the worst."

What are the Right Estate Planning Documents for Me?

Posted on February 19, 2014 at 2:14 PM Comments comments (0)
Estate planning involves planning for incapacity and death: The most common Estate Planning documents seem to be (1) the will (2) the durable power of attorney and (3) the health care directive. There are other less common documents or "instruments", but the vast majority of people should consider the above.

Death:

Most people need a will. It is a good idea for just about everyone to have a will or at least to look into the idea and have a discussion with an attorney to explore your present situation. What will happen when state law makes decisions about your estate rather than you making those decisions in a will?  Those laws determine the person that will take care of the distribution of their assets in their estate. Do you know who that person or entity would be right now without a will? If you do not, it is a good idea to find out. State law has a sort of "preset" rule for all different types of situations. Do you have any assets that you would like to specifically give to another person? You can make specific bequests in a will to make sure that person gets a keepsake or family heirloom. Lastly, do you have children? Who should be their guardian if something happens to you and your spouse? This is something you can take care of in a will. Some situations are more urgent than others and of course the need for a will is simply greater in some cases. You should at least know where you fall on this scale by having an initial consultation. It is a planning document for your family. Think of it as insurance: it is not fun to think about and you hope you never need to use it, but it is simply something a smart person has to prepare for the worst.

Incapacity:

Health care decisions: If you have any specific convictions about your healthcare decisions, you need to talk to an attorney to have your decisions put in writing so that your wishes are not overridden by someone else. Missouri is an absolute hotbed for healthcare decision lawsuits, many of which could have been avoided with a clearer estate plan. What do you want to happen if you are on life support? You can make very specific decisions about what types of life sustaining procedures you would like or not like, such as blood transfusions. Is there a point at which you want procedures withdrawn? These issues can be addressed in a health care directive or "living will".  Additionally, to cover all the potential decisions, you may appoint someone to make all other medical decisions when you cannot. This can be done in a separate durable power of attorney or a power of attorney that covers both finances and healthcare. If you have one person you can entrust both financial and health decisions to, it is recommended not to split the functions of healthcare decision maker and financial decision maker. At times, like when paying for a medical procedure, the two need to work in coordination and the simplest way is for a single person to have both functions.

Financial:  A durable power of attorney will appoint someone to take care of your financial decisions in the event that you are not able to make these decisions. As I mentioned above, this person can be the same or different from the person you appoint to make your healthcare decisions. You can also name an alternate in the event that your first choice is unavailable.

BOTTOM LINE: Even if you think that you do not need Estate Planning documents, scheduling a consultation with an attorney is an intelligent financial move to find out where you fall on the scale of needing Estate planning documents to meet your health, financial, and even emotional wishes (e.g. passing along an heirloom).

Why is it recommended that you update a will? 1 Reason of Many

Posted on May 30, 2013 at 3:49 PM Comments comments (2)
One reason to update a will may be that the guardian you initially chose is no longer appropriate, able, or willing. One obvious problem would be that a guardian is deceased now, where as he/she/they were not when the will was written. In this situation, you may have designated an alternate guardian, which is recommended. However this is not always the case. Sometimes there are situations that you cannot solve by writing into a will an alternate guardian.
For instance, perhaps your parents that you originally designated have become much older since the last time you wrote a will and so have your children. Maybe you doubt if elderly parents taking care of a willful teenager or multiple willful teenagers is in the best interest of your children or your parents.  Additionally, maybe you believed your parents or guardian could have taken care of the children into their teen years, but now a serious health issue has arisen, and you no longer think it is possible for them to take care of the children. Perhaps now, your much younger sister or brother who was too young at the time of the last drafting of a will, has a family and would be the more appropriate placement.
Lastly, sometimes you simply have a falling out with the guardians and think someone else might be a better candidate. Relationships change throughout the years. This is why it is important to take a look at your will and consider updating it.

Tip: The recommended time period for updating wills ranges between 3 and 5 years. This is recommended not only by attorneys but also by financial advisors

Why is it recommended that you write a will when you have your first child?

Posted on May 30, 2013 at 3:47 PM Comments comments (0)
There are more important considerations at play than just splitting up possessions when you write a will. Yes, splitting up possessions and assets can also be important. It can be important to allocate assets to a disabled family member for instance, or simply to pass on something that has sentimental value by making a specific bequest.
When a child is involved however, the most important facet of a will is guardianship. What will happen to your child if something happens to you? Who do you want to take care of your child if you cannot? For some people, this may be obvious, for instance grandparents or siblings. Many people have more than one sibling however and more than one set of grandparents. Which one do you think will best suit the needs of your child? Considering this, writing it in a will, and conversing with the would-be guardian is important to do for the future welfare of your child.

Additionally, there are situations where perhaps there is no obvious guardian. Perhaps your family and your spouse’s family are deceased, or you were both only children and your parents are elderly and in a nursing home. This is where you might want to write a friend into the will as a guardian. In situations like the ones considered here, where family is not an option, writing the friend into the will is paramount. The reason behind this is that otherwise, the friend or friends will likely not be considered as guardians at all, whereas if you had family, they would automatically be considered.