Having a proper and comprehensive estate plan is a key part of protecting the future of your heirs. An estate plan can instruct a court as to what you want to happen to personal assets or how you want a business to continue operations. When most people think about estate planning, they imagine crafting a will. While a will can certainly be a major part of an estate plan, there are other documents that can serve a similar but more effective purpose.
A Lake St. Louis estate planning lawyer may be able to help you provide a better future for your heirs. A dedicated attorney could explain the various available forms of estate plans and choose the one that is best for you. Finally, a lawyer could work to craft these documents so that they reflect your wishes and carry the intended legal effect.
What Is the Purpose of an Estate Plan?
An estate plan serves many purposes. Most people think that an estate plan only goes into effect when they die. This is true in many situations. For instance, the most common and traditional form of estate planning, the will, only has a legal effect upon a testator’s death. However, more modern forms of estate planning can transfer property and provide instructions before a testator dies. In essence, an estate plan can take effect as soon as the signatures go on the paper.
One prominent impact of an estate plan is to avoid the state’s intestacy laws. These regulations exist to instruct a probate court about how to deal with a decedent’s estate should they die without any planning documents. According to Missouri Statute § 474.010, a surviving spouse receives the full estate if a person dies without children. However, if the decedent has children and a spouse, the spouse will receive half the estate plus $20,000 while the children receive the other half. Clearly, this may cause chaos concerning a family home or business. A Lake St. Louis estate planning attorney could help create an airtight estate plan so that the state’s intestacy laws do not impact inheritances or create confusion among family members.
Common Examples of Estate Planning Documents
An estate plan can take on many forms. While the goal always remains the same, the means of achieving that goal can vary. The traditional form of estate planning is the will. Here, a testator describes what they want to happen to their property and assets after they die. While a will is certainly a valid option, more creative thinking could help to better meet a person’s goals.
A common alternative to a will is a trust. A trust places property under the care of another party, and that party has a duty to distribute those assets at a set time. This occasion could be before or after a trustee’s death. Trusts are useful because they can help avoid the complexities of the probate process and the tax issues that come with gifting property.
Estate planning could also help in situations where a person becomes unwilling or unable to make their own decisions. For instance, arrangements like a living trust or a guardianship can grant other people the power to make medical decisions or sell property on behalf of a testator. A dedicated lawyer in Lake St. Louis could help identify a person’s estate planning goals and draft the documents that make those goals a reality.
Contact a Lake St. Louis Estate Planning Attorney Today to Begin Protecting Your Future
Creating an estate plan is an essential part of protecting you and your family’s future. Anyone who does not have an estate plan could see their assets subject to a forced sale and years of animosity among family members.
Modern estate laws allow for a variety of estate documents. Traditional wills are still an option but trusts and powers of attorney offer potential alternatives. A Lake St. Louis estate planning lawyer could help you identify your estate planning needs and draft the documents to effectively protect your future. Contact an attorney today to schedule a consultation.