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Frequently Asked Questions about Estate Planning in Missouri

What is Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship?
(in some states “Tenancy by the Entirety” when between spouses)

This is the most common form of asset ownership between spouses. Joint tenancy (or TBE) has the advantage of avoiding probate at the death of the first spouse. However, the surviving spouse should not add the names of other relatives to his or her assets. Doing so may subject the assets to loss through the debts, bankruptcies, divorces and/or lawsuits of any additional joint owner. Joint tenancy ownership also may result in unnecessary death taxes and capital gains taxes on the estate of a married couple.

What does Intestacy mean?

If you die without a Will (intestate), the legislature of your state has already determined who will inherit your assets and when they will inherit them. Unfortunately, nearly 70 percent of Americans pass away without a Will. This leaves the transfer of assets up to the Probate Court, which is associated with high fees and administration costs.

What are Beneficiary Designations?

You may avoid probate on the transfer of some assets at your death through the use of beneficiary designations. Laws regarding what assets may be transferred without probate (non-probate transfer laws) vary from state to state. Selecting appropriate beneficiary designations is an important decision that may require proper planning and consultation. Improper designations may result in unwanted tax consequences or hinder your estate plan from functioning as you anticipate. We advise you speak with a LifeGen Law Group attorney before making such designations.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney and when do I need one?

Durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone you know and trust to make your personal healthcare or financial decisions when you are unable. If you are incapacitated without these legal documents, then your family will be forced to petition the probate court to name someone as a guardian and conservator. This is the court proceeding where a judge determines who should make these decisions for you and requires that person remain under the ongoing supervision of the court. Naming a power of attorney agent keeps you in control, even when you can no longer manage your own financial or healthcare decisions, by allowing you to choose who you want to serve in that role.