Estate Planning FAQ’s

What does a typical estate plan include?

Typically an estate plan includes a will, a durable power of attorney for health care and a health care directive, a durable power of attorney for financial matters, and possibly a beneficiary deed.  If your estate includes a revocable trust, a pourover will is also included.

What happens if I die without a will or any estate plan?

If you have no will or estate plan in place when you die, the state intestacy laws determine how to divide your property and distribute assets.

What is a Will?

A will is a legal document that specifies your wishes at the time of your death.  The individual names a Personal Representative to administer your estate and the distribution of your property.  In your will, you can name a guardian and conservator for your minor children and any property left to them.  You can decide how your debts, taxes, and funeral expenses are to be paid.  You can also provide for the care of your pets.  If you die without a will or any estate plan then the state will decide all matters regarding property distribution. 

What is a Living Trust?

A Revocable (living) Trust is an agreement created by an individual, specifically providing how that person’s property is to be managed and distributed during his or her lifetime and upon death.  The terms of the trust agreement can be changed or revoked at any time during the individual’s lifetime.

The Trust is funded with property and all assets titled in the Trust avoid probate.  At the time of the Trustee’s death, the named successor Trustee will implement the terms of the trust and distribute property to beneficiaries accordingly.  

What is a “Pour Over” Will?

If you have a Revocable Trust as your main estate plan for the disposition of your estate, a pour over will is necessary.  A pour over will directs any assets not titled in the Trust at the time of the individual’s death, which would be subject to probate, be added to the Revocable Trust and disposed of according to the terms of the Trust.  Essentially “pouring” property over to the Trust to avoid probate.

What are the benefits of a trust?

Property held in trust avoids probate, reducing costs and time.  Your privacy is also protected because trusts are not a matter of public record.   

What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Health Care Directive?

This document states the individual’s desires concerning their health care treatment in the event a treating physician determines the individual is either terminal or unlikely to regain consciousness from a coma.  The document designates one or more individuals who are authorized to consent to, or direct the withholding of, health care measures.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Matters?

This document designates one or more individuals to have broad powers relating to financial, business, and other transactional matters, in the event of incapacitation.  The powers can be effective immediately upon signing or can be “springing”.  If the powers are springing, the designated attorney is only authorized to act in the event a qualified physician determines you are unable to conduct financial matters yourself due to incapacity.

I have a valuable piece of personal property that I want a specific person to get, do I put this in my will?

Personal property is anything movable except real property (land and buildings).  Examples of personal property include furniture, boats, collectibles, antiques etc.  You are free to specify in your will who gets what personal property.  However, we caution our clients in making specific bequests of personal property because people change their minds.  If you leave your grandfather clock to your niece, you will have to update your will to reflect any changes, this costs money.  Missouri allows people to write a list designating the specific item and the person to receive such item.  In all estate planning packages we include a list for our clients to keep with their documents and complete as needed.    

Vehicles are also personal property.  Missouri allows a “Transfer On Death” registration of vehicles to designate a specific person as beneficiary.  Registering your vehicle this way avoids probate and ensures the beneficiary you name automatically receives your vehicle at your death.

What is a Beneficiary Deed?

Sometimes referred to as a “Transfer On Death Deed”, a beneficiary deed is an instrument used to transfer real property to one or more beneficiaries.  A beneficiary deed takes effect upon the owner’s death and avoids probate.  The deed is recorded in the county recorder’s office where the property is located.

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The Wibbenmeyer Law Firm

1049 First Capitol Drive
St. Charles, Missouri 63301
Tel: 636-724-3355
Fax: 636-724-2480

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