Southwest Missouri Estate Planning Law Firm
Serving Clients in Aurora, Republic, Springfield and all across the Missouri Ozarks
Does the thought of seeing an attorney about estate planning intimidate you? Does the thought of making a will feel like a burden or are you unsure of the first step? Many of our clients tell us they felt that way before booking their Planning Session. Our clients also tell us how good it feels to complete their plan and how the process was far less painful (and even less expensive) than they had feared.
The complete estate plans at Ozarks Legacy Law, when properly drafted and executed, not only empower you and protect your assets, but they ensure your wishes will be carried out and allows for a smooth transition for your loved ones upon your passing. With our plans, we also keep you in control and benefiting from your assets while you’re alive.
There are many legal strategies involved in Southwest Missouri Estate Planning, including wills, revocable living trusts, LLCs, durable powers of attorney, and health care directives. In the absence of legal planning Missourians face the costly and unforgiving probate process. In probate, an estate will be distributed according to Missouri’s laws of intestacy. Of course, this is not be the plan that’s best for anyone or any family. A properly drafted estate plan will replace the terms of Missouri’s estate plan with your own.
Estate planning is largely adult planning-an act of self-care. Empower yourself and your family to break free from the rules of the government with developing a plan that is about you and what you want for your family.
What Documents Are In A Complete Estate Plan?
This is the main document in every complete plan; it serves as Your Rule Book others must follow! Clients can always change their trust anytime they want to make sure it meets their needs and matches their wishes. Trusts are dealt with privately and out of the public courts.
Trusts come in many “flavors” including Irrevocable Trusts, Testamentary Trusts, Special Needs Trusts. Trusts can be simple or complex and serve a variety of legal, personal, investment or tax planning purposes. At the most basic level, a trust is a legal entity with at least three parties involved: the trust-maker, the trustee (trust manager), and the trust beneficiary. Oftentimes, all three parties are represented by one person or a married couple. In the case of a revocable living trust, for example, a person may create a trust (the trust-maker) and name themselves the current trustees (trust managers) who manage the trust assets for their own benefit (trust beneficiary).
Depending on the situation, there may be many advantages to establishing a trust, including avoiding probate court. In most cases, assets owned in a revocable living trust will pass to the trust beneficiaries (or heirs) immediately upon the death of the trust-maker(s) with no probate required. Certain trusts also may result in tax advantages both for the trust-maker and the beneficiary. Or they may be used to protect property from creditors, or simply to provide for someone else to manage and invest property for the trust-maker(s) and the named beneficiaries. If well drafted, another advantage of trusts is their continuing effectiveness even if the trust-maker dies or becomes incapacitated. Contact our estate planning lawyer to find out if you and your family could benefit from establishing a trust.
2. Your Last Will and Testament
Your last will and testament is just one part of a comprehensive estate plan. If a person dies without a will they are said to have died “intestate” and state laws will determine how and to whom the person’s assets will be distributed. Some things you should know about wills:
- A will has no legal authority until after death. So, a will does not help manage a person’s affairs when they are incapacitated, whether by illness or injury.
- A will does not help an estate avoid probate. A will is the legal document submitted to the probate court, so it is basically an “admission ticket” to probate.
- A will is a good place to nominate the guardians (or back-up parents) of your minor children if they are orphaned. All parents of minor children should document their choice of guardians. If you leave this to chance, you could be setting up a family battle royal, and your children could end up with the wrong guardians.
3. General Durable Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document giving another person (the attorney-in-fact) the legal right (powers) to do certain things for you. What those powers are depends on the terms of the document. A power of attorney may be very broad or very limited and specific. All powers of attorney terminate upon the death of the maker, and may terminate when the maker (principal) becomes incapacitated (unable to make or communicate decisions). When the intent is to designate a back-up decision-maker in the event of incapacity, then a durable power of attorney should be used. General Durable Powers of Attorney should be frequently updated because banks and other financial institutions may hesitate to honor a power of attorney that is more than a year old.
4. Health Care Power of Attorney
Lastly, Southwest Missouri Estate Planning includes a Health Care Power of Attorney, which is a document that specifies the type of medical and personal care you would want should you lose the ability to make and communicate your own decisions. Anyone over the age of 18 may execute an advance directive, and this document is legally binding in Missouri. Your Health Care Power of Attorney can specify who will make and communicate decisions for you, and it can set out the circumstances under which you would not like your life to be prolonged if, for example, you were in a coma with no reasonable chance of recovery.
A document that goes hand-in-hand with your Health Care Power of Attorney is an authorization to your medical providers to allow specified individuals to access your medical information. Without this authorization, your doctor may refuse to communicate with your hand-picked decision maker.
With your plan in place with Ozarks Legacy Law, you’ve taken the needed steps to avoid both court and conflict. Your heirs should not have to pay an attorney thousands of dollars after your death to take care of your affairs and our plans save them from the horrors of probate court. Schedule a free consultation with Attorney David Payne today to create your Complete Estate Plan.