Should I Have a Will or Trust?

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Often clients ask if they really need a will at all, or if they should have a will or a trust.

The question is not always easy to answer because it really depends on the particular client's situation, and the answer may change over the course of the client's life.

However, I can give basic guidelines:

  • No Will - Basically this is generally the easiest for the client - because they have to do absolutely nothing to plan or prepare. However, it is the hardest for the family, in terms if time and money in dealing with your estate. Also, assets are not necessarily going where you would choose them to go. Even clients who have trusts or other non-probate tools should have a will to cover any assets that fall outside their plan.
  • Will - A will is the tool of choice for many clients. It does take some planning and preparation. It is a good idea to work with an attorney to ensure that the will is properly prepared. Lawyers prepare hundreds of these documents and can assist you in many ways. Generally wills are sufficient for younger clients, those with lower asset value and with less complex assets.
  • Trust - A trust can be used very effectively by some clients. Of the three choices, it is the most expensive and time comsuming. It is important to establish the trust well, and to take the time to maintain it thoughout your life-time. It can be a better choice for older clients, and for those with higher asset value (several million dollars), with more complex assets, e.g. real estate in other states, ownership interest in businesses, many types of property or investments, etc. While it is more time-consuming and expensive to establish and maintain a trust, it avoids probate, thus making it cheaper and easier for the family after death.
  • Non-Probate Transfers - no mattter which of the tools above is chosen, non-probate transfers can also be used in estate planning. Utilize the Pay On Death clauses on your bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc. Missouri also permits the Beneficiary Deed - allowing you an effective way to transfer real property outside of probate.

A Missouri attorney and an accountant can help you choose the best way to settle your estate in the most effective way for yourself and your loved ones.

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