I’m a note-taker. Usually you will find me with a blue ink pen and legal pad in hand, ready to take notes on whatever is being discussed. Recently, I came across one of my legal pads that had the following notes: Top 10 Reasons for Creating an Estate Plan from “The Everything Wills & Estate Planning Book” by Deborah S. Layton. I like the list because she outlines some of the major benefits of estate planning in layman’s terms.
- A sound estate plan can save your family thousands of dollars in taxes and legal fees.
- If you don’t have a plan, the government will decide who will receive your property.
- If you don’t have a plan, your spouse or partner may not receive the property you intended to provide.
- Most people can avoid or reduce estate taxes with the right plan.
- Naming a legal guardian in your will is the way to choose who will raise your minor children if you are gone.
- Creating a durable power of attorney ensures that someone can pay your bills and sign legal documents if you become disabled.
- Have a medical directive will provide guidance about your health care wishes in the even you become incapacitated.
- You can avoid the unexpected results of owning property in joint name when you understand the rules.
- You can make gifts to your favorite charity to reduce estate taxes but still provide for your family.
- A good estate plan can preserve your assets for your children’s use and prevent them from wasting those assets.
We are happy to work with your financial advisor. In fact, comprehensive estate planning often requires that we work with your financial advisor, accountant, and insurance professional. One local financial advisor breaks down wealth management into 13 parts. We are actively involved or responsible for 8 of the 13 parts (as shown by the *). The 13 parts are:
- Qualified retirement plans / IRA plans
- Corporate executive stock options
- Business succession planning *
- Durable power of attorney *
- Gifting to children and descendants *
- Charitable gifting during life *
- Titling of assets *
- Executor/successor trustee issues *
- Distribution plan to spouse/beneficiaries at death *
- Charitable inclinations at death *
Financial planning and estate planning go hand-in-hand. You need both.
While we do not give investment advice, we often encourage clients to contact a trusted financial advisor. For example, many clients have money invested in CDs at their bank (Certificate of Deposits) earning very little. Many financial advisors can find a safe investment that doesn’t earn a lot, but earns 2 to 3 times what the client’s CD at the bank earns.
That’s part of our difference. As estate planning professionals we handle powers of attorney, wills, and trust issues. Then we work with your existing financial advisor, accountant, or insurance professional to help you are get the most from those relationships as well.
In Missouri, there are 5 requirements for a will to be valid:
- It must be in writing;
- It must be signed by the testator (the person making the Will) or by someone by his direction and in his presence;
- Testator must be over age 18;
- Testator must be of sound mind; and
- It must be witnessed or attested to by two or more competent witnesses who also sign the will in the presence of the testator,
Most Wills today are also self-proving. This means that the testator and the two witnesses appear before a notary public and state something substantially similar to:
- The testator signed and executed the instrument as his last Will;
- The testator willingly signed or willingly directed another to sign for him;
- The testator executed it as his free and voluntary act for the purposes therein expressed;
- That each of the witnesses, in the presence and hearing of the testator, signed the Will as witness; and
- That to the best of the knowledge of each witness, the testator was at that time eighteen or more years of age, of sound mind, and under no constraint or undue influence. (see RSMO 474.337).
Having a self-proving will simplifies and expedites the probate process.
Clients sometimes ask how they can revoke a prior Will. Missouri statute 474.400 contains the answer:
“No will in writing, except in the cases herein mentioned, nor any part thereof, shall be revoked, except by a (1) subsequent will in writing, or by (2) burning, (3) cancelling, (4) tearing or (5) obliterating the same, by the testator, or in his presence, and by his consent and direction.”
Clients often contact me asking for an appointment to make a Will. While visiting together, it becomes clear that what they are really interested in is avoiding probate. Often, much to the client’s surprise, they learn that a Will does not avoid probate. I’ll repeat that again because it is so important: a Will, by itself, does not avoid probate. To avoid probate, consider a Revocable Living Trust and Beneficiary Designations.