Estate Planning Attorneys in Chesterfield, MO, Providing Legal Guidance to Clients Looking to Safeguard Their Legacy
The average life expectancy in the United States is currently 77.2 years and is expected to climb every year as the country recovers from the pandemic and older citizens continue to live longer. It is no surprise that many people would rather focus on enjoying life than thinking about what will happen to their assets once they pass away. However, estate planning is an important component that can help people of all ages safeguard the future of their families and enjoy life to the fullest. Learn the facts about estate planning and see why working with an attorney is the easiest way to cross this important step off your to-do list.
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is the process of combining a variety of tools and techniques to preserve your assets for the next generation and determine how your property will be divided after you pass away. It can also include asset protection provisions to preserve your financial well-being later in life when you may need long-term nursing care or require Medicaid assistance.
The process of estate planning looks different for everyone because each person may have a unique financial situation and specific goals for their estate plans. Some may want to minimize taxes and focus on getting more control over the asset division process; others may want to focus on making sure they will have the means to receive end-of-life care and that their wishes will be respected if and when they become incapacitated.
Why Should I Consider Estate Planning?
There are many reasons why estate planning is crucial for anyone, regardless of their age or financial status. First, anyone who dies without any type of estate planning documents (such as a last will) will have died intestate, meaning the state of Missouri will be in charge of dividing their property to beneficiaries in accordance with state laws rather than following the decedent’s personal preferences.
Besides letting the state make asset division decisions for you and potentially exposing your assets to higher taxes, you may also be giving up your rights to decide other major issues, such as who should become the guardian of your minor children should you pass away unexpectedly. You will also be leaving your loved ones without any instructions on your preferences for medical treatment you prefer to receive while you are incapacitated. While estate planning may sound unpleasant and overwhelming at first, the consequences of delaying it or avoiding it may mean unnecessary headaches and uncertainty for your loved ones later on.
What Are Some of the Most Important Estate Planning Tools?
As mentioned above, there are a variety of estate planning tools to fit each person’s unique situation and goals. Some tools may work well for one person but not for another. Many times, a person may choose to use a combination of these tools to fit their needs. Last wills, trusts, healthcare directives, and living wills are examples of some of the most common types of estate planning tools.
Besides your financial situation and long-term goals, your family dynamics may also affect your choice of estate planning tools. For example, suppose you wish to leave a significant amount of money for your grandchild after your death, but you are not sure whether she will have the maturity to manage it properly and not spend it frivolously. If you simply wrote a last will, your grandchild would receive the money in a lump sum and would likely have to pay income or estate taxes on it, being left to spend the rest of the money as she sees fit. But if you had a living trust instead, you could determine that the money should only be made available for distribution after your grandchild turns a certain age or hits a particular milestone, such as entering college or getting married. An attorney can help guide you through the process of choosing the best estate planning tools to suit your needs.
How Can Estate Planning Help Me While I’m Still Living?
Another important and often overlooked aspect of estate planning is the fact that it can allow you to plan for your later years in life. The high cost of long-term nursing home care, home health care, or hospice care is well known and can truly endanger your ability to leave an inheritance for your loved ones.
Without proper planning, you may need to resort to Medicaid and expose your assets to Medicaid estate recovery later on. Lack of planning can truly endanger your wealth and financial well-being and result in little to no assets to pass on to the next generation. With proper estate planning, you can ensure you will be able to get the care you need to be comfortable later in life while still preserving your legacy for the next generation.
In addition, tools such as a living will and advanced healthcare directive allow you to record your wishes for how you would like to be cared for in the event you are temporarily incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. You can assign a family member as your healthcare proxy and leave written instructions expressing your preferences for doctors, hospitals, and type of medical care, as well as any religious or cultural preferences that may be important to you.
Is It Better to Hire an Estate Planning Attorney Instead of Doing It All Myself?
While it is true that a quick search online will likely yield hundreds of do-it-yourself estate planning solutions, taking this approach is often risky. Effective estate planning needs to be customized to the needs and goals of each person, and this level of care and customization can only be achieved by a skilled estate planning lawyer. There is no off-the-shelf solution that will ensure your estate plans are correct, valid, and will work the way you intended them to.
In addition, an attorney can also provide you with invaluable guidance concerning the tax implications of each estate planning tool and insights on how to combine tools and make them work together to achieve your goals better. It is also worth mentioning that estate planning is not a one-and-done process. Your financial situation and goals may change and evolve throughout your lifetime, and your estate planning goals may change as well. Your estate planning attorney can not only help you with the initial process of drafting and signing your estate planning documents but also revisit them periodically to make sure they still work for you.
At Mid-America Law Practice, LLC, our estate planning attorneys have served countless clients in the Chesterfield, MO, area and are ready to guide you on your estate planning journey as well. If you are ready to get started or simply have questions, reach out to our office at (314) 347-3567 and request a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you.