You have worked hard for what you have, and you should have a say in what happens to it all when you are gone. However, if you don't write a will and put certain assets into a trust, you could be giving up that basic right. It's not easy to think about your own death, but doing so will give you peace of mind and ensure that your loved ones are taken care of after you are gone. We explain why wills and trusts are key elements of any estate plan.

Last Will and Testament

Last Will and Testament Paperwork and PenThe cornerstone of every estate plan is the will. While this is a fairly simple document, we discourage people from using a fill-in-the-blank form from the internet. For one thing, estate planning documents are state-specific, so you need to make sure your will is recognized in Missouri. In addition, you want to make sure your unique wishes and desires are reflected in your will—something a cookie-cutter form cannot do. When you work with us to draft your will, we will make sure you carefully consider your options as you name the following:

  • Executor. This person will oversee the administration of your estate. It is important that you choose someone you trust for this important duty and that you choose an alternate as well.
  • Heirs. Your will spells out who you want to inherit which assets—from sentimental heirlooms to set amounts of cash and valuable property. 
  • Guardians. If you have minor children, your will is the document that will name the people you want to become their guardians if something happens to both you and your spouse.

If you die without a will, the state of Missouri will name an administrator, choose guardians for your children, and determine who inherits your assets according to the laws of intestacy. While a will is an essential document, you can have even more say over how your assets are distributed after your death with a trust.

Why You Should Consider Setting Up a Trust

People often assume that only very wealthy people need to set up a trust to protect their assets. In reality, anyone who wants to avoid putting their heirs through probate, reduce the amount of taxes their estate will have to pay, or provide for a loved one with special needs should consider establishing a trust. The estate planning attorneys at Layton & Southard will help you decide which kind of trust makes the most sense for you. Types of trusts discuss with you include:

  • Revocable living trust. When you set up a revocable trust, you maintain control of the assets in the trust and can alter or terminate the trust at any time. Upon your death, the assets will go to your beneficiaries according to your instructions.
  • Irrevocable living trust. Often used to protect an estate from taxes, this kind of trust cannot be changed or revoked once it is established. With it, assets are transferred completely out of your name and into the beneficiary's name.
  • Special needs trust. If you have a child with autism or other special needs, this kind of trust can ensure that there is money for their care after you are gone.
  • Charitable giving trust. Designating funds to go to a charity can be accomplished through several different kinds of charitable trusts.

If you have strong feelings about how your heirs will receive their inheritance—for example, you want money to be set aside for college, or you do not want children to inherit until they reach a certain age—a trust will ensure that your wishes are honored.

Contact Our Estate Planning and Probate Attorneys Today

From our Cape Girardeau and Perryville offices, the team at Layton & Southard serves clients throughout Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. Please contact us online or call our Cape Girardeau office directly at 573.335.3359 to schedule your initial consultation.

Stephen R. Southard
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