One of the biggest decisions clients face here in St. Louis and throughout the country over the course of their lifetime is their estate planning upon their death or incapacity. When just starting
out in a marriage and after having children, many couples and individuals are faced with the issues of choosing guardians to care for their minor children in the event of their death as well as
trustees to look after the assets of the estate for the benefit of the minor children. In fact, in my experience, the biggest stumbling block to a couple completing their estate planning process
tends to be the fact that they cannot agree on the person or persons to act in these capacities. Many times I have seen this result in the planning process being pushed aside to address it later.
Unfortunately and tragically this may often lead to unnecessary costs, expenses estate and income taxes and bad feelings when death or incapacity occurs before the estate planning process is
This result is because of the state's intestate succession laws. Intestate succession laws essentially dictate a set rule of how your assets will be split up, when each heir will receive his or her share and who has the right to administer your estate. As you can imagine, there are a great deal of 18 year old kids that think they can manage a great deal of money but few of their parents would agree (I know, I have an 25 year old son and a 21 year old daughter!).
The Estate Planning legal services which I offer to my clients here in St. Louis and throughout Missouri vary according to each client's specific needs. Some clients need Revocable Living Trusts and Pour Over Wills for each spouse or partner, Health Care and Financial Durable Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives. Other clients may only need Wills with testamentary trusts for their children and Health Care and Financial Durable Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives. In addition, for many clients I prepare Irrevocable Insurance Trusts and/or Family Limited Partnerships for estate tax and creditor protection purposes. Does a couple need Revocable Living Trusts or are Wills sufficient to accomplish their needs? The answer is, it depends but it has changed significantly in recent years. If you would like to read an article about whether you need a Revocable Living Trust click on the Revocable Living Trust link at the bottom of this page. Recently, the Missouri General Assembly passed legislation which was signed into law by Governor Nixon authorizing the use of a "Qualified Spousal Trust in Missouri. This is a great tool which I am able to offer to Estate Planning clients in St. Louis and throughout Missouri. For a general discussion of the use of a "Qualified Spousal Trust" click on the link at the bottom of this page. In addition to "standard" estate plans, I also prepare Special Needs Trusts for clients Special Needs Trusts are specially drafted trusts for clients that have children with disabilities. Properly drafted, Special Needs Trusts allow the child or children to continue to qualify for public assistance while still benefiting from the Special Needs Trust.
Will Rogers is credited with this quote: "The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets." Until January of 2013 the estate and gift tax system was truly in a state of flux. However on January 3, 2013 President Obama signed into law the "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" (ATRA) Here is a general summary of the new law:
Estate Tax: For 2016, the estate tax rate is 40 percent and the maximum estate tax exemption is $5.45 million (less any exemption used during the decedent's lifetime). The estate tax exemption is indexed and changes annually based on the cost of living index.
Gift Tax: The gift tax rate is the same as the estate tax rate as it is a unified system. The current gift tax annual exclusion is $14,000 per donor annually.
Portability: One of the biggest changes which became permanent by ATRA was the ability of a surviving spouse to elect to use the unused portion of his or her deceased spouse's estate tax exemption and add it to the surviving spouse's estate tax exemption. This election can only be made on the estate tax return of the deceased spouse although the IRS has allowed for curative elections in a recent Revenue Procedure.
For a great deal of estate planning services I charge a flat fee or fixed rate as opposed to an hourly rate. It has been my experience that most clients would rather know the cost up front rather then wait until the planning is complete to know the cost. For more information on my flat fees and fixed rate go to the fees page here. In addition, I am happy to review existing estate planning documents for compliance with current laws.
If you would like further information or if you have specific questions please feel free to email me. Remember, with respect to estate planning, the worst thing you can do is to do nothing.
Christopher M. Barclay, Attorney at Law
1110 Clayton Place Dr
Town & Country, Missouri 63131
Phone: (314) 985-5661
Fax: (888) 647-9702
Or use my contact form.
Check my website to learn more about Christopher M. Barclay, Attorney at Law and how I can help you with your legal needs.