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Jim Schleiffarth
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Our Policy: Your Success
Our Policy: Your Success

61 followers
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What’s the point of a power of attorney? What happens if I don’t have it?

A general durable power of attorney grants a named individual (called the “attorney-in-fact” or “agent”) the authority to act on your behalf with respect to whatever matters are designated in the document. In other words, it is the process of naming someone to act for you if you are mentally unable to. This is usually prepared in anticipation of the possibility of someday being mentally incapacitated and unable to manage your own personal, financial, legal and/or business affairs. In the event that you have not prepared this type of document—and you then become mentally incapacitated—there would be some significant legal and practical challenges. In such an event, someone would have to seek the appropriate determination through a court process to be granted authority to make these types of decisions. This court process (called conservatorship) is costly and time-consuming. Furthermore, not having a document in place that you have prepared leaves greater ambiguity about who you want in that role and what limitations or specific directions you want to include with that authority. Given that preparing a power of attorney is fairly easy and is not very expensive, it is a very wise and simple way to accomplish important planning for your life and your family.
http://sch-law.com/articles/?p=283
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Who Do I Name? Choosing the Right Person in Estate Planning Documents

When preparing a Will, Trust or Power of Attorney, choosing who to name in different roles of control and decision making is undoubtedly a central priority. Who should I name to handle my affairs? Who do I trust? Who do I want in control? Who do I want making investment decisions? Similarly, the questions is often raised, “Should I name the same person in various roles?” While there is substantial differences among the different roles established by various types of estate planning documents, there remains a constant important consideration of naming the “right” person. Under a Will, the “personal representative” will be in charge of handling a probate estate. Under a trust, the “trustee” will likely be charged with handling investments or other property and may have some discretion in distributions to beneficiaries. Under a power of attorney, the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact” will often have wide-ranging authority to make decisions on your behalf. Naming the same person for each role can sometimes make good sense—other times it can be problematic. Understanding the details of each role is critical to selecting the right person to fill that role.

http://sch-law.com/articles/?p=280
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What to Expect from Your Lawyer

One of the major concerns or stumbling blocks for individuals to begin the estate planning process is not knowing what expect. What types of documents or planning would be helpful to me or my family (what do I need)? How much will it cost? What do I need to know before meeting? How long will the whole process take? How will I know if I am getting objective counsel? These are important questions that need to be answered.

At Schleiffarth Law Firm, we squarely address each of these matters in our initial meeting (which is always free of charge). Our goal is to provide objective, helpful information that will help each individual or client understand what estate planning options are available and what they could be used to accomplish. Our focus is always on information and guidance—not selling a product or service. We typically spend about 45 minutes discussing your family, goals, questions and ideas. We talk through basic estate planning documents (“tools”) and what the benefits could be. We are careful to give candid recommendations but also provide various options for consideration. Our fees are always flat fees (not hourly or adjustable) and we are very upfront and transparent about what cost will be involved.

You should be able to trust your lawyer and also trust that they will take the time and make the effort to understand your goals. We take these matter seriously and are eager to help.
http://sch-law.com/articles/?p=278

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Blended Family Estate Planning

Estate planning for “blended” families is particularly important and can present unique considerations. Often, spouses who marry each other later in life or after having their own children, bring with them unique assets and expectations. Goals and plans for what happens with their money and their property and how children are cared for and/or treated can vary widely between spouses. To implement a plan (or plans) that match the desires and expectations of each spouse, particular care and expertise are required. In many instances, separate trusts can be utilized to keep certain assets segregated and to be sure that the right property gets to the right heirs/beneficiaries. Furthermore, documents like power of attorney must be carefully considered and prepared to ensure the types of protections (and outcomes) that are important to each spouse.
http://sch-law.com/articles/?p=274
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The Keys to (Very) Satisfied Clients

During my years of practice, I have always deeply valued the importance of client relationships and client service. Ultimately, it is my clients that have built my business and it is my clients that allow me to do what I love. With each family, individual or business, I focus on the following principles:

1.Communication. Clear, timely, plain-language communication goes a long way! Follow up emails are great to keep clients posted on progress or to pinpoint additional needed information, but in-person meetings and phone calls are irreplaceable. I focus on keep keeping my clients informed on the status of our work and making sure to explain things in a straightforward and results-oriented manner.
2.Great Legal Work; Great Results. I understand that my clients hire me to help them. Focusing on a client’s need(s) helps lead to great results. There is no doubt that spending time in the details (without charging any more for it) makes a significant difference in getting the timely results that every client is looking for. Engaging in regular continuing education courses and writing topical industry articles help me stay on top of the field.
3.Long-term Commitment. When I begin working with a new client, I hope our relationship lasts for years. I am eager to stay in touch and meet with clients on an on-going basis. I typically do not charge any fee to meet or talk by phone to answer questions or provide ongoing guidance.
4.Fair Fees. Clients love clearly stated, fixed-rate fees. I generally forego “hourly billing” in favor of fixed fees that we establish upfront at our first meeting. We also provide an “engagement agreement” that spells out all our fees in writing. I am committed to reasonable, fair and transparent billing—no surprises.

http://sch-law.com/articles/?p=271
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What Estate Taxes Might Apply at Death?

There are three types of potential estate taxes that need to be considered when planning one’s estate:

Federal Estate Tax: The IRS imposes significant taxes on a descendant’s estate. Property subject to federal estate tax (called the “gross taxable estate”), includes most or all of a decedent’s assets, including assets held in trust or otherwise avoiding probate. There are key exemptions and credits that can eliminate this tax completely for many individuals.

Generation-Skipping Transfer (GST) Tax: gifts made to relatives more than one generation away (i.e. grandchildren, etc.) are subject to GST taxes.

Missouri Estate Tax: Missouri currently does not impose any state-level estate tax.

http://sch-law.com/articles/?p=265
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Does Having a Will Keep You Out of Probate Court?

Property that you own when you die is typically controlled by the terms of your Will, if you have one. There are numerous exceptions to this rule (such as the use of trusts, beneficiary designations and other planning) that can effectively help someone avoid probate.
A Will, when prepared and signed properly, will direct where your assets go—whether to family members, friends, a charity or somewhere else. However, many people mistakenly believe that having a Will effectively keeps their property and assets out of probate—believing that probate is only for people that had no Will. This is simply untrue. While a Will is effective at authoritatively directing the distribution of assets, such distribution is accomplished directly by the probate process and is subject to the cost and time required. Will or no Will, property would typically go through probate (or a similar court process) unless some additional planning has taken place prior to death. However, there are many estate planning options and tools to effectively avoid probate while accomplishing additional goals, as well. A Will can be an important component of planning—but a Will alone will not keep your assets out of probate.

http://sch-law.com/articles/?p=262
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What is Probate?

Probate is the court-supervised process for transferring property following the death of the owner. The goal of probate is to transfer a decedent’s (someone who has died) property to his or her heirs or other directed recipients. This would occur after paying debts owed to creditors. The probate process typically involves the following general steps:
1. Hiring of an attorney
2. Opening of the estate with the probate court (filing various documents)
3. Submission of the will (if there is one) to the court
4. Appointment, by the court, of a personal representative of the estate
5. Taking and reporting of the inventory of assets of the estate
6. Payment of debts of the estate and settlement of similar matters
7. Providing legally required notices to the public and to certain individuals
8. Distribution of the assets of the estate to intended or legally entitled recipients
9. Order of discharge from the court; closing of the estate

http://sch-law.com/articles/?p=259
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Probate for Smaller Estates

Very modest estates are often subject to a minimized probate process. For example, if a decedent’s total assets do not exceed $40,000 of value, an “affidavit of small estate” may be able to be filed with the probate court. With this process, much of probate’s formality is dispensed and the process is typically shorter and less costly than full probate. It is important to note that the $40,000 maximum applies only to assets that are part of the probate estate (whereas trust assets, life insurance proceeds and some other accounts are often not part of the probate estate). In some situations, additional options may also be available that could be even simpler—such as seeking a “creditor’s refusal of letters” or “spousal refusal of letters.” There are also situations where filing a petition for “determination of heirship” is appropriate and may allow for an expedited process through the probate court. When undertaking estate planning, our goal is almost always to avoid probate completely. However, when confronted with situations where probate is needed, we are committed to handling it as quickly and smoothly as possible.
http://sch-law.com/articles/?p=257
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