One of the most commonly given reasons for not having a comprehensive estate plan in place is not knowing where to start. Basically, people are often intimidated by the concept of creating an estate plan. Once they get started, however, they usually find that estate planning isn’t as complicated as it seems once you understand some of the basic concepts. To get you started, the following are a few things you need to know about Wills and estates.
- Wealth does not determine the need for a Last Will and Testament. Almost everyone leaves behind an estate. The value of that estate does not determine the need for a Will.
- Age does not determine the need for a Will. Likewise, do not operate under the mistaken belief that you need to be “older” before a Will is necessary.
- If you die without at least a Will the State of Missouri will decide what happens to your estate. If you die intestate, or without at least a basic Will in place, the State decides who will inherit from your estate and in what proportion they inherit. Friends, charities, and more distant relatives will receive nothing.
- Most estate plans consist of more than just a basic Will. Although a Will typically provides the foundation for an estate plan, most plans also incorporate additional tools and strategies that help achieve a variety of goals and objectives.
- You could lose a substantial portion of your estate to taxes is you fail to plan ahead. The federal gift and estate tax rate is permanently set at 40 percent. Failing to plan ahead could result in the loss of a significant portion of your estate to taxes, meaning your family and loved ones receive less than you anticipated from your estate.
- Your Will does more than just decide who gets what. Yes, the primary purpose of a Last Will and Testament is to create a road map to be used to distribute your estate assets; however, you also make two other extremely important decisions in your Will. First, you appoint an Executor for your estate who will oversee the probate of your estate. Second, the only opportunity you have to formally name a guardian for your minor children, should one ever be needed, is in your Will.
- Probate could tie up your estate for months, even years. Even a relatively minor estate can take months, even years, to probate. In most states, creditors have at least three or four months (sometimes longer) to file claims, meaning it typically takes at least six months to complete the probate of an estate.
- Your estate could qualify for an alternative to formal probate. Most states, including Missouri, offer an alternative to formal probate for small estates that qualify. Using a small estate alternative typically shortens the time it takes to probate the estate and costs the estate less in the way of fees and costs associated with the probate process.
- An estate plan can plan for incapacity, long-term care, and much more. A well thought out estate plan can accomplish numerous goals, such as plan for the possibility of your incapacity, help ensure that you can afford long-term care, and protect your retirement assets.
- Working with an estate planning attorney almost always costs less, in the long-run, than going the DIY route. In today’s electronic age it is tempting to try and save money using DIY forms you find on the internet; however, given the frequency with which those forms are often challenged and/or invalidated, it usually costs your estate and your loved ones much more in the long-run than you saved by not working with an estate planning attorney.
The best way to get past your apprehension about estate planning is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who can provide you with sound advice and guidance.
If you have additional questions or concerns about Wills and estates in Missouri, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.