Probate & Trust Administration
What you need to know...
We come into this world easily, yet we do not often leave as easily. Most of the time, we leave behind friends or loved ones who are uncertain as to how they should proceed in handling your last expenses, submitting beneficiary claims, and administering your estate. In these circumstances, it is very important to consult an attorney experienced in probate and trust administration so as to obtain the most comprehensive advice and guidance as possible. If you plan in advance, the persons or entities you select will pay your final bills and distribute your assets to the beneficiaries you choose using powers granted to them in a legal document such as a will or a trust. This, in and of itself, is a gift.
Probate is a statutorily designed process to ensure that all your creditors are paid and all assets pass to your designated beneficiaries upon your death. Probate may be necessary when anyone dies with assets in their sole name, whether they either have a will or not. There are numerous reasons that avoiding probate may be desireable: (1) your will and all of your assets and debts become a matter of public record; (2) unless everything you own goes through probate, your planning may be “imperfect”; (3) probate is time-consuming and can be lengthy; and (4) probate can be expensive. There are many techniques that may be instituted to avoid probate such as owning assets jointly with others, naming beneficiaries on all insurance policies, IRA’s 401Ks, 403Bs, and annuities, putting transfer-on-death designations on all assets, or putting your assets in a trust.
Your Last Will and Testament will be filed with the probate court in the county in which you resided at the time of your death, and should be filed within one year after the date of your death. Filing a will does not create a probate in Missouri; yet if an individual passes away with assets in his or her sole name, and without any beneficiary designations, a probate will need to be opened to determine the individual(s) to whom those assets will be distributed pursuant to the individual’s Last Will and Testament or as designated by to the intestate succession laws of the State of Missouri if no Last Will and Testament is admitted to probate within the one year time frame.
It is especially important to check with your legal and/or tax advisor(s) prior to submitting any beneficiary claim forms for qualified plan assets such as 401Ks and/or IRAs. The benefits of proceeding with any particular course of action with respect to such assets can only be determined at the time of death as it is impossible to predict with absolute certainty: (1) what the applicable tax laws will be at the time; (2) what the total value of the deceased individual’s taxable estate will be; and/or (3) which family members and/or beneficiaries will survive the plan participant (and what any surviving individual’s personal estate and/or income tax situation will be at the time).
Investing in a trust-based estate plan often yields the most benefits during life and after death, so long as such a plan is suited to your circumstances and facilitates the achievement of your goals. A revocable living trust, for instance, is like a bucket that holds all of your assets during life. Upon your death, all the assets in the bucket will be poured out to the people or entities you designate after the payment of your final bills and expenses. Seeking the advice and guidance of an attorney experienced in trust administration is very important as such an individual will be able to facilitate and guide your family through the process whether you have a trust-based estate plan or a will-based estate plan.
The attorneys at Legacy Legal Group are not only experienced in the areas of probate and trust administration, they also understand that you or your family has suffered a loss and will guide you through an otherwise unfamiliar and often confusing process. Contact us today for assistance in seeing your loved ones’ affairs resolved and their final wishes fulfilled.