Last Will And Testament
A Will provides for the distribution of certain property owned by you at the time of your death, and generally you may dispose of such property in any manner you choose. While a Will provides your instructions, it does not avoid the Probate Court. Any assets titled in your name or directed by your Will must go through the probate process before those assets can be distributed to your heirs.
Aside from providing for the intended disposition of your property upon your death, a number of other important objectives may also be accomplished in your Will.
- You may designate a guardian for your minor child or children if you are the surviving parent and thereby minimize court involvement in the care of your child. Also, by the judicious use of a trust and the appointment of a trustee to manage property funding that trust for the support of your children, you may eliminate the need for bonds (money posted to secure a trustee’s properly carrying out the trustee’s responsibilities) as well as avoid supervision by the court of the minor children’s inherited assets.
- You may designate an executor (personal representative) of your estate in your Will, and eliminate their need for a bond and court supervision of the settlement of your estate.
- You may choose to provide for persons or entities whom the State of Missouri intestacy laws would not otherwise benefit, such as stepchildren, godchildren, friends or charities.
It is important to know the limitations of a Will. Your Will does not govern the disposition of your property that is controlled by beneficiary designations or by joint titling, therefore these assets pass outside of your probate estate. Such assets include property titled in joint names with rights of survivorship, payable on death accounts, life insurance, retirement plans and accounts, and employee death benefits. These assets pass automatically at death to another person, and your Will is not applicable to them unless they are payable to your estate by the terms of the beneficiary designations for them. Accordingly, a Will should almost always be accompanied by other non-probate transfer documents.
What happens if I die without a will or estate plan?
If you die intestate (without a Will), the Missouri Revised Statutes will determine who receives your property by default. The provisions of intestate deaths reflect the Missouri legislature’s best guess as to how most people would dispose of their estates and builds in protections for certain beneficiaries. The Missouri legislators plan may or may not reflect your actual wishes, and some of the built-in protections may not be necessary in a harmonious family setting. A Will allows you to alter the State’s default plan to suit your personal preferences. It also permits you to exercise complete control over the very personal and individual decisions that only you should make – not our Missouri legislators.
Please don’t leave the administration and distribution of your Estate in the hands of the legislators. Let Rouner Law Office review your specific Estate Planning needs to determine what is best for you and your family.
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