What is Estate Planning?

Posted by Sheri Tucker, M.S., J.D.Jul 27, 20230 Comments

What is estate planning? It's all about you! Why do you need an estate plan? We've read the celebrity stories about famous people without an estate plan.  For example, Prince's estate of $156 million finally settled after 6 years of tense, terse, court battles.  A most recent horror story let us know that Aretha Franklin's handwritten Last Will and Testament was found tucked in a sofa cushion.  Her lack of formal planning opened her estate up to family feuds and creditors.  Without one, it's a toss-up between family feud and the price is right. You may say, “Well, I'm not famous or rich, why do I need a will or a trust?” Let's look at the reasons why you need to take charge of your estate plan.

Do You Really Need a Will?

A Last Will and Testament is your very last instructions you give to others.  A Last Will and Testament provides you the final opportunity to decide what to give to the people you love, or to leave it all to a non-profit / charity.  If you write a handwritten will such as Aretha Franklin, it may not hold up in Missouri Court.  MO law states what makes a valid will.  If you don't think you have an estate plan, you do—it's called Missouri's intestate laws.  Missouri will divide your property.  It's a long, lengthy, and often expensive process.  Rather than your cherished belonging going to a favorite person, that long-lost cousin twice removed may suddenly show up and be the beneficiary. 

A Last Will and Testament is a public record in the Court System.  The will is filed and admitted to Probate Court.  When a will is filed, your final wishes and instructions are a permanent and searchable public record. You may be tempted to not have a Last Will.  However, probate files for property without a will is still a public record.

Yes, you need Last Will and Testament.  You worked hard for what you have.  Maybe you own a generational heirloom or a collectible to pass on to someone else.  Don't leave it to the state to decide.  Be the boss of your estate plan.

What is a Revocable Living Trust?

A Revocable living trustis a tool you create to manage your assets during your life.  It's revocable and amendable. Your trust owns assets while you still are the owner. You make the same decisions about your belongings as normal.  It is a legal document, that sets out your beneficiaries at death.  It also allows legal arrangements for what happens to your belongings if you become incapacitated. What are reasons to have a Trust? There are several reasons to create a revocable living trust. Let's review just a few.

The Privacy Issue

If you want to keep your wishes and instructions private, put your estate in a revocable living trust.  A living trust has a will that catches assets you forgot to put into your trust. A living trust is NOT a public record filed and admitted to Court. The value of your estate and your assets is private.  How you distribute your property is kept private. We are a country that values privacy.  A Trust gives you that final act of privacy in life and death.  If you forgot an asset-no problem, it is poured back into your trust, keeping it private.

Incapacity and Living Trusts

If a person becomes severally injured with a permanent brain injury or a Senior suffers from dementia, or there's an adult with mental incapacity, the trust protects and provides. A successor trustee can step into your shoes and make sure that person receives care and money from assets.  It is a defense against financial exploitation. 

The Pet Trust

Your living trust sets up care for you during incapacity. It also may include a care manager for your beloved pets.  That's right, you can set up a Pet Trust, so your beloved pet does not end up on death row or shuffled through foster care.

Spendthrift Trust

Maybe you're concerned about a child with an addiction issue or gambling problem.  You can include provisions that keep him or her from getting all the money at once.  Your living trust gives you the legal power to add an extra layer of protection for that child.

Less Hassle to Distribute Assets

Overall, distributing assets with a revocable living trust is easier with a well-written trust, than taking your estate through probate court.  A Successor Trustee works with an attorney to transfer assets and to sell assets.  Retitling assets tends to be less difficult and time-consuming.   Ease and Peace of Mind for your is needed when people are grieving over a family member's death. With plan in place–you leave that gift of peace.

Your Estate Attorney

It's essential to work with an estate planning attorney to create your estate plan.  Don't settle for handwritten wills. Don't put it off until it's too late.  Your Estate Ally is a boutique law firm that gives you personal care and peace of mind.   If you're ready to start working toward your estate planning goals, this is the time to call Sheri Tucker at 314-332-0011 to book your complimentary consultation.