Simplicity and thoroughness are always the most important considerations when considering needed changes to estate planning documents. Where possible, an amendment to an existing document may be the simplest way to make needed changes—which is often the case for a Will or Trust. Other times, a new document is the best approach—which is quite frequently the case for power of attorney documents. When meeting with a client that needs a change to their estate planning documents (due to life changes, family changes, changed goals, etc.), my commitment is always to implement changes efficiently and in the most cost-effective manner. Of course, being thorough and accurate are also central priorities. In the end, a careful review of existing documents and a thorough understanding of needed changes provide the framework for how best to revise an estate plan.
A beneficiary deed transfers real estate to a named beneficiary upon the death of the property owner. In other words, when a property owner dies, their real estate can go to a desired family member (or someone else) without going through probate. A beneficiary deed can be a particularly desirable tool because it is relatively inexpensive to put in place, it feels “simple” and it does not need to be connected to a Will or Trust. While every situation varies, preparing and recording a beneficiary deed often makes the most sense when real estate is the main asset owned or when there is only one intended beneficiary. Of course, there are instances where a beneficiary deed is not advisable. Often, this might be in a situation with numerous intended beneficiaries or where the property owner ultimately desires the property to simply be sold.
A Will is one of the most basic elements of estate planning. In a word, yes—you do indeed need a Will. Good estate planning often involves much more than that (think powers of attorney, beneficiary designations, perhaps a living trust) but a Will is nearly always a basic and central part of an effective estate plan. A Will directs where your property goes when you die—while also including administrative designations, procedural directions and other important legal provisions. Additionally, for a parent of a minor child, a Will typically includes a nomination of someone to serve as a successor guardian. Of course, every situation is different and every person is different—and every estate plan is different. However, in nearly every instance, you do need a Will.
Every state in the country (including Missouri) allows a business owner to create a limited liability company (LLC). So what’s the point? Why operate your business as an LLC? An LLC, along with other forms of business entities, provide two key benefits. First, an LLC (when properly organized and properly maintained and operated) provides liability protection to its owners. In other words, liabilities of the company remain only liabilities of the company, while the owner(s) is not financially at risk beyond their investment/ownership in the company itself. There are important limitations to this, but it is a tremendous benefit and protection to a business owner. Second, an LLC allows for what is called “pass through taxation.” This means that the company itself is not liable for income taxes. Rather, income tax liability simply passes through to the LLC owners. This stands in contrast to some types of corporations that require a sort of ‘double taxation’ where both the business itself and the owners are taxed. Every business is different, but for many business owners, an LLC is an valuable tool—for the smallest one-person business to large international companies.
Cost is an important consideration for anyone planning to put in place an estate plan. It is worth noting that the court processes that result from not having any type of estate plan generally dwarf the cost of proactive planning. However, cost remains an important component of making the right decisions. Every individual’s situation is different and every family’s situation is different, so it makes sense that good estate planning is carefully crafted to the needs, goals and plans of each person. Accordingly, there are always some unknowns in cost planning until we are able to sit down and talk about these sorts of particulars (and in turn what type of planning will be most effective). As an experienced estate planner, my goal is always to create the most efficient yet comprehensive estate plan to meet the needs of my client. Minimizing cost is a central goal and is always front of mind as we talk through the possibilities of various tools and documents to create the best plan. With that in mind, a fair range of cost for a single person wanting to put in place a Will, a General Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive would be about $700-900. The same documents for a couple (two individuals) or family will often fall in the range of $850-$950 (total). A plan including those same documents but adding a revocable living trust will usually add about $1,000 (total) to the cost. Of course, fees can vary a bit depending on needs, goals and complexity but we commit to a fixed fee after our first meeting—which remains constant no matter how many changes, meetings, questions of drafts end up occurring along the way. And my initial meeting/consultation is always completely free of charge!