The use of a Last Will and Testament can be a great estate planning technique to dispose of a testator’s property. Through a Last Will and Testament a Testator can dispose of his or her property to specific beneficiaries. A Last Will and Testament can also be a useful tool to designate a guardian for a minor child or to give a charitable bequest.
The most important aspect for an individual to remember is that a Last Will and Testament in Missouri does not avoid probate by itself. It is used in coordination with our estate planning techniques to avoid probate. The Last Will and Testament is only a mechanism for the probate court to follow should your property get to the court system. The court will then dispose of your property according to who you named in your Last Will and Testament.
Clients may also designate, in their Last Will and Testament, if they desire for independent or supervised administration. Independent administration is by far the more favored route. In this type of administration, the personal representative (who is named in the Last Will and Testament as well) handles much of the estate administration without court involvement. The personal representative is required to report to the court at certain times and to abide by their fiduciary duties. In supervised administration, the personal representative usually may only act with approval by the court. Therefore, this type of administration tends to be longer and can prove to be more costly.
The use of a Last Will and Testament should not be confused with a living will or healthcare directive. Living wills put in writing a declarant’s life prolonging wishes should they ever become incapacitated and enter a vegetative state. These individuals may also be interested in a Health Care Proxy or Durable Power of Attorney.