In Missouri, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone decides what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you actually want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for actually implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these objectives.
In addition to decisions concerning the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For example, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your choice on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such decisions for you, if you are unable.
A qualified estate planner in Missouri may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Furthermore, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in Missouri
Estate plans in Missouri almost always have these features:
Will: If you've decided who you want to leave your property and money to after you die, you should make these wishes official, by writing a will. When writing a will, it's always a good idea to have the help of an attorney, since many problems can come up which might make the will much more difficult to implement, or they might even void it entirely. Common problems include ambiguities in the terms of the will (a term which is not clearly written, so it can be interpreted differently by reasonable people), as well as failure to follow the required formalities.
Power of Attorney: Sometimes, people fear that they may become incapacitated (because of injury, illness, or mental deterioration), and that they won't be able to make their own decisions. Thankfully, if you want, you can grant a family member or close friend (or someone else you absolutely trust) legal authority to make essential decisions for you, if you are ever incapacitated. This is known as "power of attorney."
Funeral Arrangements: Your wishes on this matter should be made clear to whoever is in a position to implement them early on in the estate planning process, and should not be included in a will. Because a will is often read days or weeks after the person dies, it may be too late by then to carry your wishes out.
Do I Need a Missouri Estate Planning Attorney?
To most people, these issues are crucial to their peace of mind during life. Accordingly, it's very important to make them with the help of a good Missouri attorney, to make sure that they have the best possible chance of being implemented.
Interesting Facts About Missouri
Missouri has a population of nearly 6 million and is the 18th most populated state in the U.S. It is commonly called "The Show Me State". Missouri also has a number of other informal nicknames, such as "The Ozark State" and "The Lead State". Former President Harry S. Truman was from Missouri, where he served as a judge in Jackson County for some time.
Missouri's court system is divided into three levels: the Circuit Courts of Missouri; the Missouri Courts of Appeals; and the Supreme Court of Missouri. Most claims begin at the Circuit Court level, with appeals being heard in the Appeals Court. The Supreme Court of Missouri was founded in the year 1841 and is located in Jefferson City. Missouri also maintains a municipal court system that processes minor violations and infractions.
Missouri is known for having one of the more lenient bodies of statutes among the states. Since Missouri is a leading producer of alcohol and tobacco in the U.S., its alcohol and tobacco laws are among the most non-restrictive in the country. Several law schools can be found in Missouri, including the University of Missouri School of Law ("MU Law") and Saint Louis University School of Law.
Lawyers in Missouri assist clients in many different legal fields. Missouri lawyers are knowledgeable of the state's unique set of laws and can provide legal expertise for specific matters. A Missouri lawyer can help you with any legal questions or legal disputes you may be involved in.