Peace of mind comes with a thoughtfully crafted estate plan. With the guidance of a qualified estate planning attorney, your estate plan should allow you to avoid guardianship and conservatorship during your lifetime, avoid probate at your death, help minimize taxes, and avoid delays in distributing your estate to you loved ones. At The Laiderman Law Firm, P.C., we can help to develop the best plan for you to ensure that you and your loved ones are taken care of in the future.
St. Louis Estate Planning Lawyers
Why Do I Need an Estate Plan?
Establishing an estate plan is one of the most valuable measures that you can take to ensure that you and your loved ones are taken care of in the future. Proper estate planning is essential in helping to alleviate the expense, delay, and frustration for your loved ones, all of which are associated with managing your affairs if you become disabled or when you pass away. At The Laiderman Law Firm, our St. Louis estate planning lawyers can assist you and your family with the following life events.
Planning for Incapacity
In the event that you become incapacitated, you will need to have someone else manage your financial affairs. St. Louis estate planning clients often have the misconception that their spouse or adult children can automatically begin the management of their finances in the event that they become incapacitated. In reality, your family will have to petition a court to declare you incompetent before they can begin to legally manage your finances. This process, called a Guardianship and/or Conservatorship, can be lengthy, costly, stressful, and will continue throughout the period of your incapacity. The way to prevent the need for a Guardianship and/or Conservatorship is for you to designate, through legal documentation, a person/persons that you trust to have the authority to manage your finances, including paying your bills, taking distributions from your IRAs, selling stocks, refinancing your home, withdrawing money from your accounts, etc.. Having a Will does not take care of this issue since Wills are only effective upon your death. At the very least you should have a Financial Power of Attorney, however, even these may be insufficient or unreliable as not every institution will accept them.
Preparing for Medical Decisions
Developing a plan for your medical care in the event that you become incapacitated is just as important as establishing your financial plan. A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to name someone that you trust, such as a close friend or family member, to make medical decisions on your behalf, as well as have access to your protected health information, in the event of your incapacity. Along with the Power of Attorney for Health Care, it is essential to have a Living Will that outlines your preferred medical treatments, including the measures that should be utilized should you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill.
Minimizing the Probate Process
Developing a comprehensive estate plan alongside a St. Louis estate planning lawyer will help to limit the Missouri probate process, which can be expensive and time consuming for your loved ones. When you leave your estate to your loved ones using a Will, everything that you own in your individual name will have to pass through probate. This means that the probate court will be involved throughout the process until the estate is settled and distributed. If you plan with a Will, you need to be sure that your spouse and/or children have immediate access to cash to pay for their living expenses during the settlement process, otherwise, they will have to apply to the probate court for money in order to cover their necessary and immediate needs. Depending on the complexity and size of the estate, the probate process can take weeks, months, or even years before the estate funds are fully settled and distributed. By creating a proper plan, you can ensure that your assets can be passed to your loved ones without undergoing probate, thus making the process quick, private, and inexpensive.
Providing for Minor Children
While it is hard to think about a situation in which you cannot be there for your minor children, it is important that your estate plan addresses their care. Parents with young children may want to consider a plan that alleviates the work burden for the surviving spouse so that he or she can devote more time to the children. In addition, you may want to consider what types of guidance the surviving spouse may need for the management of financial and legal matters and/or parenting services.
Another thing that must be addressed in an estate plan is what will happen to the minor children should both parents die at the same time or within a short time span of each other. This contingency plan should include who you would name as guardian for the upbringing of your children, as well as who should be the conservator to manage the assets that you leave for your children. If a plan is not in place, the court will determine the guardian and conservator for your children. Without a plan in place for minor children, the court-appointed guardian and conservator will have restrictions placed on them and will be required to provide an annual accounting of the assets and expenditures.
Planning for Taxes
The size of your estate and how your estate plan is set up will determine if your estate will be subject to any federal estate tax, and/or any state estate or inheritance taxes (if applicable in your state of residence). Reach out to our St. Louis estate planning lawyers to start the planning process early, there are many well-established strategies that can help lessen or even eliminate death taxes. For most people the federal estate tax is not an issue because of the recent increase in the exemption, however, there are things that can be done to save on future capital gains taxes.
Charitable Bequests – Planned Giving
Throughout your life, you may have developed connections with particular charitable organizations to which you would like to leave a portion of your estate. Your estate plan can provide for these organizations both during your lifetime and at your death. Through the use of certain charitable trusts, you can receive a steady stream of income for life, reduce your capital gains and/or estate taxes, and benefit you favorite charities. Discuss your charitable giving options with a St. Louis estate planning attorney.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.
The Laiderman Law Firm, P.C. assists clients with Estate Planning, Probate / Estate Administration, Business Law, Business Retainer Service, Real Estate Law, Special Needs Planning and Elder Law / Medicaid Planning in Missouri including St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, and Franklin County.