estate planning attorneySuccess isn’t a matter of luck or chance. Your accomplishments are the result of hard work and careful planning. With the help of our estate planning attorneys, you can continue to protect your assets and your loved ones no matter what the future holds.

Why Estate Planning Matters

Estate planning is important for everyone—regardless of age, marital status, or income level. Creating an estate plan can help you:

  • Determine who will receive your assets after you pass away, including financial accounts, investments, real estate, and personal items with primarily sentimental value
  • Reduce tax liability so your loved ones receive the inheritance they deserve
  • Designate someone to handle your financial affairs or make medical decisions on your behalf if you become ill or incapacitated
  • Preserve your eligibility for Medicaid benefits if you require long-term nursing home care in the future
  • Legally protect family wealth from creditors, lawsuits, and other threats
  • Prepare future generations for the wealth they’ll eventually receive
  • Plan for your philanthropic goals

Services We Provide

Effective estate planning must be personalized to meet individual needs. However, there are a number of services Layton & Southard can provide. For example:

  • Drafting and executing wills. A will is an essential component of any estate plan. It names an executor of your estate and outlines how your assets should be distributed. We can create a will on your behalf, update your previous document, or execute a will on behalf of someone who has recently passed away.
  • Choosing a guardian for your child. If you’re a parent with a minor child, naming a guardian who can care for them if you pass away is one of the most important functions of your estate plan. We’ll help you make your choice clear and ensure your selected guardian has the resources necessary to provide for your child’s daily needs.
  • Gifting. In some cases, gifting assets can help you reduce your estate tax burden. We’ll explain how the annual gift exclusion, lifetime gift exclusion, and gift tax exemptions affect your planning needs and help you avoid common gifting mistakes such as providing cash gifts to heirs for their postsecondary education instead of contributing to a 529 Plan or making tuition payments directly to the institution.
  • Trusts and trust administrationTrusts are frequently used to protect assets, avoid probate, reduce taxes, and allow for more control over how beneficiaries may use their inheritance. We can create a new trust as part of your estate plan or assist with the administration of an existing trust.
  • Guardianships and conservatorships. A guardian has the legal authority to care for another, while a conservator has the ability to manage another person’s financial affairs. We can create documents that will allow the individual or individuals of your choice to assume these duties if you become unable to make your own decisions due to illness or injury.
  • Special needs planning. When you have a loved one with special needs, leaving a direct inheritance can put the government benefits they rely on at risk. Let us help you create a special needs trust that will ensure your loved one enjoys the highest possible quality of life while retaining access to programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for their essential medical services and daily care needs.
  • Ordering of affairs for the terminally ill. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness, we can help you get your affairs in order before your condition deteriorates. You’ll be able to make your wishes known and ensure that your loved ones won’t be burdened with unnecessary taxes or complex legal processes after your death.
  • Probate. Probate is the court process that involves inventorying assets, paying existing debts, collecting money owed to the estate, and distributing the remaining assets to the heirs listed in a deceased person’s will or in accordance with intestate succession laws if the individual did not have a valid will at the time of their death. If you’ve been named the executor of a loved one’s estate and need assistance with the probate process, we are well-equipped to handle any issues you may encounter.

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. Contact us today to learn how we can help.