Estate Planning

A will can help transfer property and avoid tax burdens. Depending on your wishes and the size of your estate, your will in Missouri could be a single page or a lengthy, complex document. Plus, a trust can either be created during a person’s lifetime or after death, by a will. You can also declare your wishes regarding life-prolonging medical procedures in Missouri, among other things.

Missouri Durable Power of Attorney Laws

The durable power of attorney gives a named individual the authority to make important health care and end-of-life decisions on behalf of the principal (the person initiating the power of attorney). The principal must be of sound mind when the power of attorney is signed, although it is invoked when the principal no longer has the capacity to make these decisions.

For example, a middle-aged woman in perfect health (or at least with full capacity) may sign a durable power of attorney form declining artificial life-support and request that her body is used for medical research. Much later in life, she suffers a serious accident and is unable to convey these wishes. With the power of attorney, the named individual will make sure her wishes are granted.

Missouri law requires that a durable power of attorney be signed in the presence of two or more witnesses but allows the principal to revoke it at any time. Physicians who are unwilling to follow the durable power of attorney (perhaps due to moral differences) may arrange for a transfer.

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Missouri Wills Laws

A will is a legal document that allows you to state your preferences for how your estate should be handled after your death. Will laws are relatively similar among the different states in that they have certain requirements, such as capacity (being of “sound mind”) and witnesses (two for Missouri wills). Missouri law allows oral wills only if made right before imminent death (on one’s “death bed”). You must be 18 years old in order to write a valid will, with the exception of emancipated minors.

In addition to property specifically handled by your will, Missouri law allows you to include a separate list of tangible items and their intentions (this list may be handwritten). This can be useful when, after writing a will, you decide you would like to give certain personal items to specific people.

What Happens If I Die Without a Will in Missouri?

If you die without a will, your estate goes through the state probate process under Missouri’s intestate succession laws. Generally, any assets in your name only will be divided among your closest relatives. Some assets, including life insurance proceeds or retirement accounts, pass to the beneficiary named in each individual asset.Through the court you can modify support if there is a change in circumstances that results in an increase or decrease of 20% from the original calculated figure. It is best to consult with an attorney to determine a successful path that is most beneficial to you and your children.

Missouri Living Will Laws

Health care directives, commonly referred to as “living wills,” are not actually wills but legally binding documents that list the principal’s medical and end-of-life preferences should they become unable to communicate. Living wills differ from durable powers of attorney in that they don’t necessarily designate a caretaker. However, an individual with the power of attorney (for health care) is obligated to follow the wishes listed in the principal’s living will.

Missouri Probate and Estate Tax Laws

Probate is the legal process that occurs after a person (the “decedent”) dies, with or without a valid will. If the decedent dies with a valid will, then the property is distributed according to the will. If a person dies without a will, then Missouri’s probate law dictates how the decedent’s assets are distributed. Probate isn’t always required when someone dies, depending on what assets are in the estate.