Probably the most basic estate planning document is the will. In a sense, it is a roadmap for what is supposed to happen on your death. It is a set of instructions to a trusted friend or family member about what you want to have happen to your stuff when you’re gone.

If you don’t take the time to write a will, don’t worry; the state has written one for you. You probably won’t like what it provides, but the state doesn’t want unclaimed property just laying around, gathering dust. And they don’t want people just running off with a deceased person’s property. (Remember the three characters in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol who were hocking his bed curtains and candlesticks after his death?) So they provided that part of the property you own when you die will go to your spouse and part to your kids (depending on their ages - the kids, not your spouse’s age). In speaking of your kids, the state has a way to decide who will get them. And the property that is distributable to them will end up in a conservatorship estate if they are under 18. That will require annual accountings to the court and will severely restrict investments (as in basically only CDs) and will only permit distributions with court orders.

If your children are over 18, then they get to bypass the conservatorship and receive the money outright. We all know that your average 22-year-old will make intelligent, prudent, long-range kinds of decisions with respect to their inheritance that you have worked so hard to accumulate over the years. Wait! Who were we fooling? They’ll probably blow it all on fancy cars and parties. This really isn’t a good plan.

With a will, you get to say who is going to be going through your stuff when you’re dead. I have found that most people don’t want complete strangers (or even certain family members) going through their stuff even when they’re dead. And that’s what a personal representative has to do. They have to go through all of your paperwork and things to find what you have and to decide what to do with it all. It’s actually a lot of work.

With a will, you also get to name the guardians of your kids. This is often the hardest decision for young couple. Who’s going to raise the kids? Although a court will not appoint a felon who you may name as the guardian, they generally will follow a parent’s wishes. That way, even after you’re gone, you can still have some say (albeit indirect) in how your kids are raised.

Also, with a will, you can say what happens to your property when you’re gone. A typical plan is for the property to be divided equally among the kids. But what if the kids are too young or too irresponsible to handle large amounts of money? Large, of course, is a relative concept, and even a small amount of money can ruin a young person. It would make sense to at least put a child’s inheritance into a testamentary trust with a trusted friend or family member in charge of it.

So even if you don’t think that you have enough money to worry about, you might want to pick your personal representative who will go through your stuff when you’re gone; or you might want to be able to name guardians for your kids. If you have some assets (even if it’s just life insurance), you might want to plan for how that money will be distributed to your kids.

Even in a small estate, a basic will makes a lot of sense.

I had just turned 50 and I wanted to get things done with Estate Planning. Fred made things easy and it was very nice working with him. Everything was on time and I am very happy with his services. I would defiantly hire Fred again as well as recommend him. 

— Mark Walczyk

In you live in Missouri, especially in St. Louis, or the surrounding areas such as O'Fallon, Arnold, Festus, Chesterfield, Wildwood, Fenton, or other cities in Missouri, contact me today for your first free appointment to learn more about how a will can help you and what it will cost. Please call Fred Vilbig at (314) 241-3963 or complete the form on the right. Don't wait! No one knows exactly when we'll need a will.