Missouri Wills, Trusts, and Probate
Estate planning mechanisms, though not often a concept that crosses our minds, are of great importance to ensure that your family, friends, and other loved ones are taken care of after your death. The most commonly used estate planning tools, wills and trusts, are complicated tools that often require professional help to ensure their legal validity. Regardless of your age, wealth, or marital status, one should seriously consider preparing for the distribution of his or her estate upon death. The information provided below will help you gain an understanding of the different estate planning mechanisms and processes in Missouri. When creating a will or trust, a Missouri estate planning attorney should be consulted to ensure that a person's estate and well-being will be properly taken care of after his or her death.
A person's will must adhere to all of the requirements under Missouri law in order to be legally recognized in court. You should speak with a Missouri will attorney to insure your will is valid. Missouri has two types of wills:
Changing a Will in Missouri
The following options are available to change a will in Missouri:
Through the first option, creating a subsequent will revokes the first will in whole or in part (depending on what is expressly or impliedly revoked by the second will). The only exception to this is that the circumstances of the second will conveys that the testator intended for the first will to take effect. Through the second option, physical destruction of the will revokes all or part of it, depending on the nature of the destruction. The final option of divorce or annulment will revoke any provisions in the will that benefit the now former spouse.
Problems, questions, or concerns that arise during the creation of a will should be addressed by consulting a Missouri wills attorney.
A trust is another estate planning mechanism that allows you to distribute your assets at a specific time and in a specific manner. The variety of trusts recognized in Missouri includes private foundations, life insurance trusts, charitable trusts, and split interest trusts. In regard to charitable trusts, the following charitable purposes are recognized under Missouri law: a) relief of poverty; b) advancement of education or religion; c) promotion of health; d) governmental or municipal purposes; or e) other purposes that benefit that community.
It should be noted that Missouri law allows the creation of an oral trust as long as the terms of the trust are shown by clear and convincing evidence. When creating a trust, many questions arise that may require the advice of counsel. As such, one should consult a Missouri estate planning attorney to help you create your ideal trust that fits your particular needs.
The probate process takes effect upon one's death. During this process, one's estate will be distributed according to either the testator's wishes in the will or according to intestate succession. If the deceased left a will, then the distribution will be according to the will. Otherwise, a Missouri court will distribute the assets according to intestate succession when no will is left.
Missouri's intestate succession law allows the following people to hold interests (non-exclusive):
A few things should be noted regarding certain classes in the intestate succession hierarchy. In regard to children, a child claiming intestate succession must show that a parent-child relationship existed in order to inherit from the testator. If a child is adopted, the adopted child is considered the child of the adopting parents and not the natural parents. Additionally, posthumous children (child born after a parent dies) inherit the same as children born in the lifetime of the testator. Therefore, posthumous status does not affect a child's inheritance. In regard to spouses, a former spouse's inheritance is nullified upon divorce or annulment of marriage from the testator.
Due to the importance of the probate process in the distribution of your estate, you should consult a Missouri estate planning attorney when deciding whether to create a will or trust.
Title XXXI—Trusts and Estates of Decedents and Persons Under Disability