Everyone needs to prepare a will – Your will determines how your property is distributed after your death. More importantly, your will provides for the care for your minor or disabled children and the management of their property. Some people avoid preparing their will because it makes them uncomfortable to think about their own death. This is not helpful to you or your family and heirs.
Your plan or the state’s – When a person dies without a will—or intestate, as it is called—the state essentially writes a will for that person and dictates who will inherit the property and how other issues are resolved. The state’s beneficiaries may not be the same ones you would choose. The attorneys at Kreamer Arney Wait & Bottaro, L.C. can help prepare a legal written will to make sure that your final wishes—not those of the state of Kansas or the state of Missouri—are carried out.
Estate administration – A will goes through a probate proceeding to establish its validity and officially appoint the executor named in the will. If an executor has not been named, an administrator is appointed by the court. The attorneys at Kreamer Arney Wait & Bottaro, L.C. assist executors in performing their many responsibilities including:
- Notifying heirs
- Managing and protecting the estate assets
- Collecting and conducting an inventory of estate assets
- Distributing the estate assets to beneficiaries
- Transferring legal ownership of real estate
- Continuing ongoing business of the estate
- Paying bills and creditors including medical bills of the decedent
- Filing income and estate tax returns and paying taxes
- Selling property so that funds are available for various estate obligations
- Handling challenges to the will
Some assets of the decedent are not subject to probate because ownership does not pass under the will. These assets may still be subject to estate tax. Ownership passes automatically upon proof of death for:
- Life insurance Property held jointly with right of survivorship
- Pay or transfer on death bank and security accounts
- Estate planning
It is probably more important than ever before to consult an attorney for an estate plan. Estate tax laws are in transition and very complicated. Tax rates on some estates are scheduled to revert to very high rates starting in the year 2011. Planning your estate with the guidance of a qualified attorney can make a big difference in the amount of taxes your estate pays or avoids. We at Kreamer Arney Wait & Bottaro, L.C. have a thorough understanding of the rules and know how to structure a plan that is best for your circumstances. This may be accomplished through gifting and transferring assets during your lifetime.
Trust Planning – An alternative to traditional estate planning relies on the creation of a revocable living trust. This method permits you to manage property during your lifetime and to pass property at your death without the intervention of a court and has several benefits and advantages:
- It allows you to deal with your estate’s concerns without causing a major change in your preferred way of doing things. In addition, it provides for the management of your assets in the event of a disability, or the assets you leave or assign to a child, grandchild or other person or entity according to your predetermined instructions.
- It eliminates the need for probating or administering an estate. Rather than requiring court appointment and approval, your designated trustee simply sets about making distribution according to the terms of the trust. Simply put, the trust contains what amounts to the same kind of language that appears in a will for making gifts and bequests, and the appointed trustee sees that it is carried out with no outside interference.
- With a revocable living trust, savings in costs and fees can be enormous. Instead of thousands of dollars in costs and fees for probating a will or administering an estate, a revocable living trust almost always will cost much less.
- Upon death, distribution can occur immediately rather than the one to three years involved in a court proceeding.
- It provides for privacy, rather than a public source of information regarding your holdings or that of family members or others who receive estate assets from you through a court proceeding.
- It sets up a simple means to pass trusteeship, i.e., it is easy to arrange for a successor in the event one is needed. That ability may be important in situations where a trustee is medically incapacitated or is unable or unwilling to serve for any other reason.
- It is flexible. You can amend it, or even terminate it. Most people find it unnecessary to make many changes, but circumstances can arise to make it advisable.
Elder planning – Our attorneys strongly recommend having a plan and supporting documents in place to provide for yourself or your elderly parents. Medicare, Medicaid, nursing home, and long-term care issues are extremely complex and advance planning can save time and money. Spending down of assets and gifting programs may save money. Medical care decisions in case you are incapacitated can be legally designated to another through preparation of a living will or durable power of attorney for healthcare decisions. Our attorneys offer comprehensive estate and elder care plans services including:
- Will preparation
- Powers of attorney
- Estate planning
- Estate tax returns
- Revocable and irrevocable trusts
- Estate probate
- Probate litigation
- Guardianships and conservatorships
- Living wills
- Durable powers of attorney for healthcare decisions
- Succession planning
- Elder law planning