Estate planning

According to an MU Extension specialist, the cost of settling an estate can be high but it is even higher if a plan is not in place.

Talking about death can be difficult for most people. However, one thing is certain: it is going to happen, and someone else is going to get your property.

"If you do not have an Estate Plan, the courts or someone else is going to decide what happens to your property," said Nellie Lamers, family financial education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Another reason to have an Estate Plan is to determine what will happen to a parent's minor children if the parents die.

"It is easy to put off these decisions by thinking we have plenty of time,” Lamers said. “The truth is that we never know how much time we have."

It is easy for disagreements and misunderstandings to happen when someone dies and especially if the ownership of assets is not clear.

"The cost of settling an estate can be high but it is even higher if a plan is not in place,” Lamers said. “If you make a plan, talk with your family about it and get it written down. Doing so can help you avoid a lot of stress and many misunderstandings."

The first step is to make a list of everything a person owns and everything that is owed to create a net worth statement. Consider estate asset transfer methods, including, right of survivorship (title), non-probate transfers, wills, trusts, and gifts.

Other things to consider for successful transfer of personal property include determining what goals a person wants to accomplish. Lamers says it is also a good idea to identify sensitive issues and the meaning of objects, recognize distribution options and consequences and how to manage conflicts that may arise.

"Remember, the main enemy of estate planning is procrastination, start working on your plan today," Lamers said.

For more information, call the MU Extension office in Houston at 417-967-4545.

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