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We all look for ways to save money and still get the most we can.  In recent years, many people have looked into the use of online legal forms.  In fact, in today’s digital world one can easily find so called providers of do-it-yourself legal services for bankruptcy, business formation, contracts, divorce, real estate, wills and other areas of law.  However, there can be many risks associated with creating legal documents without an attorney who has taken the time to learn about your specific goals and needs.

One simple mistake can cost your estate and beneficiaries many times more than the cost of an experienced estate planning attorney.  Consider this: you are taking the steps to create legal documents in order to ensure the protection of your loved ones.  Imagine the devastating tragedy if you loved ones were not protected as you intended due to a faulty legal document.  It happens more often than you may think.  Many online legal forms are not enforceable because they are not legally valid.  This can have dramatic consequences to the assets you thought you were leaving your beneficiaries.

Online legal form providers are primarily interested in the sale of the forms to a large audience.  Any interests in your legal needs are secondary at best.  In fact, these forms are overly broad and generalized by design, in order to appeal to a large, national customer base.  These forms do not take into account the specific estate planning laws of each state, which can vary greatly.  More importantly, these online legal forms providers do not keep current with the changes of estate planning law since these providers are not actually working in the estate planning law field.

An experienced estate planning attorney will take the time to learn about your specific goals and needs.  Only then, can the estate planning legal documents be created.  A customized estate planning plan ensures the use of all appropriate legal documents as well as the proper administration of the trust.

A trust is a legal instrument used to ensure the people you care about are financially taken care of, according to your wishes.  Generally, a trust cannot be modified after your death.  An important part of any trust is the administration of trusts.  If a trust is not properly administered, your beneficiaries will not receive the financial support you intended when creating the trust.

An experienced estate planning attorney can work with you to ensure the trust is properly established, clear in delegation of assets and administered correctly.  As an attorney with more than 30 years of experience, Michael Watkins will help you avoid problems related to your estate planning needs.

Responsibilities of a Trustee
A trustee is the person charged with managing the trust to ensure your wishes are carried out.  An important quality of a trustee is attention to detail and impartiality toward the beneficiaries of the trust.  Responsibilities of a trustee may include:

  • Communication with the beneficiaries of the trust regarding the state of the trust and actions that affect the beneficiaries
  • Payment of debts relating to the trust
  • Inventory and management of the trust assets
  • Distribution of assets and/or income from the trust as directed by the trust document
  • Filing and payment of taxes related to the trust

In many cases, the person assigned as the trustee may not have the time or expertise to appropriately manage the trust.  This can be a confusing and stressful responsibility as laws, including taxes, vary from traditional income tax law.  Additionally, a trustee may feel additional stress as any mistake made by the trustee regarding the management of the trust will impact all beneficiaries.

As estate planning attorney can ease the burden associated with the role of trustee.  An experienced trust attorney will assist a trustee by providing helpful services, such as:

  • Financial accounting
  • Record keeping
  • Legal advice regarding distribution methods, questions regarding the trust document and many other concerns related to the administration of trusts
  • In some cases, a reduction in estate taxes may result from a properly managed trust
  • Serve as a completely non-biased counselor since the attorney likely has no connection to the family

Special circumstances require additional consideration when thinking about estate planning.  When family members have a mental disability, physical impairment or other special circumstance you may need additional financial safeguards in place to ensure the family member has the financial resources to sustain a quality of life he or she is accustomed to living.  A special needs trust is effective in providing this level of protection.

Special needs trusts ensure proper funding and asset preservation for things such as:

  • Educational costs
  • Medical treatments
  • Mental and/or physical rehabilitation
  • Transportation needs
  • Food and living expenses

Types of Special Needs Trusts
Since this is a highly specialized area of estate planning law, you’ll want to seek the counsel and assistance of an experience estate planning attorney.  An experienced estate planning lawyer will be able to assess your goals and special needs in order to determine the best type of special needs trust.  The most common types of special needs trusts include:

  • Supplemental Needs Trusts
  • Self-Settled Supplement Trusts
  • Third Party Funded Special Needs Trusts

There are specific limitations to special needs trusts, so be sure to work with attorney familiar with special needs trusts.  With more than 30 years of estate planning experience, attorney Michael Watkins has the knowledge and expertise to create an estate plan c

Estate planning can involve a number of estate planning legal documents, including wills, trusts, healthcare directives, powers of attorney and other legal documents.  An experienced estate planning attorney will know the appropriate documents needed to create an estate plan customized for you.  Your estate plan will need to include three important roles to carry out your wishes:  personal representative, guardian and trustee.  All three functions can be carried out by one person or by different persons.

Personal Representatives (formerly known as Executors)
A personal representative’s duty is to ensure the instructions of your will are carried out as you instructed and handles any legal formalities regarding your estate.  Personal representative duties may include:

  • Keeping beneficiaries informed regarding the estate
  • Maintaining full and accurate records/accounts
  • Paying all required taxes in a timely fashion
  • Assembling all assets of the estate
  • Executing the funeral arrangements of the deceased
  • Ensuring accurate distribution of estate assets
  • Selling any property of the estate
  • Handling the claims of creditors

It is important to select a person that you believe is competent and can successfully complete tasks associated with being a personal representative.

Trustees
A trustee is the person responsible for administering the trust.  This role may involve making investments of estate assets along with distribution of money from the trust.  The role of trustee may be assigned to more than one person.  This is common with particularly large estates or estates with a number of different assets.  Trustees may have the power to hire professionals to assist in the administration of the estate, such as attorneys, investment advisors and tax professionals.  Any action taken by the trustee must conform to the instructions of your will.  Clearly the choice of trustee(s) is important and should be a person who is ethical and will respect your wishes.

Guardians
Persons with minor children will need to think about whom will care for the children should you and your spouse die.  This care-giver of minor children is known as a guardian.  The guardian is the person who will raise your children and make the daily decisions that impact your children until they reach the age of 18 years old.  Examples of these legal decisions include education decisions, spiritual and religious development as well as many other decisions.  While the court does have final approval of the guardian of your child(ren), most courts follow your wishes detailed in your estate planning documents.  It is important to note that a guardian does not need to be a family member, although this is by far the most common arrangement.

What Our Clients Say About Us...

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet with us. You went above and beyond in answering questions asked and some we hadn’t even thought of. Everything you did is very appreciated.

R.W.

This is to express our sincere gratitude and thank you for all your help in our family situation. We very much appreciate all the time and effort you expended in this marathon, unique case.

B.D.

I would like to express my appreciation for your legal representation in m recent family law disagreement regarding child support. Your familiarity with my case, knowledge of family law, attention to details, direct communication with me, and frankly, aggressiveness all contributed to a positive and fair outcome for my children and myself.

M.B.

Thank you so much for a service above and beyond. Your interest and professionalism reflect upon a decent man. In today’s world, people of your kind are a rarity. Stay like you are.

G.B.

I want to thank you for your time the other day talking about my setting up my business. The best money I ever spent. You were a huge help, and I appreciate it very much. You also showed interest in what I am doing, which is the key to me of you and I having a long-term relationship.

J.S.

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O’Fallon, Missouri 63366
Phone: 636.625.6448
Fax: 636.625.3721

Disclaimer

Watkins Law Firm, P.C. provides the information in this web site for informational purposes only. The information does not constitute legal advice. The use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. Further communication with our attorney through the web site and email may not be considered as confidential or privileged. Please contact our attorneys if you wish to discuss in more detail the contents of this web site. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.