The laws of Missouri provide a default set of rules that mandate how much and to whom an estate will pass upon an individual’s death, as well as who will serve as the executor (personal representative) and guardian of any minor children. These default rules are seldom consistent with the individual’s idea of who should receive the assets, be named executor, or be named to serve as guardian for children. A carefully tailored estate plan ensures that personal preferences and objectives are clearly stated so that the individual’s intentions will be carried out exactly as desired.
If an individual does not have a Will or a Trust, upon his or her death, assets will pass according to the laws of the state which has jurisdiction over those assets. The “state plan” does not necessarily follow the wishes of the deceased and can result in higher estate taxes, greater expenses for family, and other difficulties.
Trusts can help one avoid probate, save on various taxes, retain privacy of family assets, provide creditor protection for beneficiaries, and increase control of the distribution and management of assets both during life and after death. It can be designed to meet the needs of large or small estates and costs the fraction of what probate or estate taxes cost.
Conditions and desires may change. Estate plans should be reviewed at least every two years, while an immediate review is necessary after major events, such as:
- Birth, death, marriage, divorce or disability of you or a beneficiary
- Large increase or decrease in the net worth of you or a beneficiary
- Substantial change in the type of assets
- Purchase or sale of a business
- Change of residence to another state
- Change in tax law
Estate planning is putting your affairs in order so as to achieve these three objectives
- To insure that your assets will pass at death to those persons designated in a manner which will give them the maximum benefits
- To reduce or eliminate the tax burden on your estate
- To provide for the passing of your assets at your death to your chosen beneficiaries without a minimum in cost, time, and inconveniences.