Wills and Trusts – Estate Planning

Estate Planning Lawyer — Establishing Your Will or Trust

A will is a document that assigns where and to whom your assets and property will go after your death, and is specifically directed to the Probate Court. Unfortunately, too many people think they can avoid probate by executing a will.

However, when written clearly and fairly, a will can direct the process by which a court apportions your assets according to your instruction. By contrast, a trust can be established during your lifetime for the benefit of anyone you choose under terms you define — for instance, to pay for a minor child’s education or the nursing care of an elderly spouse, and thus, if properly drafted and funded, can potentially avoid the whole probate process.

Do I Need A Will?

The short answer is “yes.” Even with a good trust, there may be assets that may not be subject to the trust. A will is a powerful planning document that can give the creator exclusive control over his or her assets and property in the event of death, including directing non-trust assets to be distributed to the trust. In Missouri, any resident over 18 and of sound mind can create a valid will.

Through a will, you can direct the court in the:

Distribution of assets and property
Selection of a guardian for your minor child or children or for an incapacitated adult in your care
Appointment of a personal representative or executor to manage the probate of your will and the distribution of your property

Amending Your Will

You can amend your will by drafting new language or replacing the original with a new document or “codicil.” We recommend amending your will, in consultation with an experienced attorney, to reflect any time your life circumstances change significantly due to divorce, marriage, remarriage, the birth of a child, adoption of a child, relocation to another state, or the acquisition or sale of real estate.
What Is a Trust?

A trust is a financial entity that exists to provide funds for children under age 18 or adults, usually relatives, who are disabled or cannot care for themselves. We deal with numerous kinds of trusts, including:

Children’s trusts. If you are a parent, you can prepare for an unfortunate circumstance, such as your death or incapacity, by setting up a trust for your child to pay for expected needs including food, shelter and education.

Health care trusts. You can set up a trust for yourself or a spouse to provide for any expected needs, including long-term medical care, if one of you dies or is incapacitated.

Special-needs trusts/supplemental needs trusts. Such trusts can be created to provide financial benefits to a disabled person, often without disqualifying them from Medicaid and Social Security benefits.

“Living trusts.” Although these financial vehicles are sometimes confused with a “living will,” they exist solely to shelter a person’s assets by circumventing both incapacity or death probate proceedings, avoiding or limiting tax payments and/or establishing the long-term management of a property, and the distribution of trust assets at death.