Nalini S. Mahadevan, JD MBA

"Nalini goes well beyond the call of duty in helping her clients."

— D Narain, Monsanto

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Will & Trust Services (Missouri and Illinois)

  • Last wills and testaments
  • Powers of attorney for healthcare, living wills, durable powers
  • Powers of attorney for finances, living wills, durable powers
  • General powers of attorney
  • Joint trusts
  • Missouri qualified spousal trusts
  • Irrevocable trusts
  • Life insurance trusts

Frequently Asked Questions

Estate planning is the process of planning for your family, the titling of your assets, guardianship of your minor children and taking care of your future needs in case you ever become unable to care for yourself.

You do — whether your estate is large or small. Either way, you should designate someone to manage your assets and make health care and personal care decisions for you if you ever become unable to do so for yourself.

If your estate is small, you may simply focus on who will receive your assets after your death, and who should manage your estate, pay your last debts and handle the distribution of your assets and name a guardian for your minor children.

If your estate is large, we will also discuss various ways of preserving your assets for your beneficiaries and of reducing or postponing the amount of estate tax which otherwise might be payable after your death.

If you fail to plan ahead, a court and a judge will simply appoint someone to handle your assets and personal care. Your assets will be distributed to your heirs according to a set of rules known as intestate succession. The court process is called probate. If you die without a will, everything does not automatically go to the state. Your relatives, no matter how remote, and, in some cases, the relatives of your spouse will have priority in inheritance ahead of the state, ahead of friends and loved ones. This is especially important in informally blended families, same sex couples and domestic partners. It is also important for immigrants who may not have close family in the United States, where guardianship of minor children and trusteeship of assets accumulated in the United States may be in jeopardy without an estate plan.

A properly designed estate plan gives you much greater control over who will inherit your assets after your death.

Nalini understands your needs and fears, and is here to help you plan for your family and business.

An Estate Plan helps you determine:

  • How and by whom your assets will be managed for your benefit during your lifetime
  • Who will manage your assets if you ever become unable to manage them yourself
  • When and under what circumstances it makes sense to distribute your assets during your lifetime
  • How and to whom your assets will be distributed after your death
  • How and by whom your personal care will be managed, during your lifetime should you become incapacitated or unable to care for yourself
  • How health care decisions will be made during your lifetime if you become unable to care for yourself

An Estate Plan is more than writing of a Will. It, can also involve financial, tax, medical and business planning. A will is part of the planning process, but you will need other documents as well to fully address your estate planning needs.

If you are a small business owner, or are part of a closely held company, we can help with planning for transition of your business interests.

If you have business interests in multiple states, we can help you with your estate planning needs.

Some of the issues to be considered in an Estate Plan are:

  • What are my assets and what is their approximate value?
  • Whom do I want to receive those assets — and when?
  • Who should manage those assets if I cannot — either during my lifetime or after my death?
  • Who should be responsible for taking care of my minor children if I become unable to care for them myself?
  • Who should make decisions on my behalf concerning my care and welfare if I become unable to care for myself?
  • What do I want done with my remains after I die and where would I want them buried, scattered or otherwise laid to rest?

We can help you create an estate plan, and advise you on such issues as taxes, title to assets and the management of your estate.

If you are an immigrant or a US citizen, all of your assets. This could include assets held in your name alone or jointly with others, assets such as bank accounts, real estate, stocks and bonds, and furniture, cars and jewelry and business interests.

Your assets may also include life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts and payments that are due to you (such as a tax refund, outstanding loan or inheritance).

The value of your estate is equal to the "fair market value" of all of your various types of property, after you have deducted your debts (your car loan, for example, and any mortgage on your home). There are different rules for non US citizens.

The value of your estate is important in determining whether your estate will be subject to estate taxes after your death and whether your beneficiaries could later be subject to capital gains taxes. Ensuring that there will be sufficient resources to pay such taxes is another important part of the estate planning process.

A will:

  • Names individuals or organizations who will receive your assets after your death, either by outright gift or in a trust.
  • Nominates a personal representative who will be appointed and supervised by the probate court or independently, to manage your estate; pay your debts, expenses and taxes; and distribute your estate according to the instructions in your will.
  • Appoints guardians for your minor children.

Most assets in your name alone at your death will be subject to your will. Some exceptions include securities accounts and bank accounts that have designated beneficiaries, life insurance policies, IRAs and other tax-deferred retirement plans, and some annuities, which may pass through beneficiaries.

Jointly owned assets pass directly to the surviving co-owner regardless of any instructions in your will. And assets that have been transferred to a revocable living trust would be distributed through the trust — not your will.

In Missouri, there are also assets that can be passed through the non probate process. This involves planning during your lifetime.

It is a legal document by which you pass the title to your assets during your lifetime, so that the probate process is avoided at death. With a revocable living trust (also known as a revocable inter vivos trust or grantor trust), your assets are put into the trust, administered for your benefit during your lifetime and transferred to your beneficiaries when you die — all without the need for court involvement.

Most people name themselves as the trustee in charge of managing their living trust's assets. By naming yourself as trustee, you can remain in control of the assets during your lifetime. In addition, you can revoke or change any terms of the trust at any time as long as you are still competent. (The terms of the trust become irrevocable when you die). Irrevocable means that the terms of the trust cannot be changed.

In your trust agreement, you will also name a successor trustee (a person or institution) who will take over as the successor trustee and manage the trust's assets if you should ever become incapacitated. Your successor trustee would also take over the management and distribution of your assets when you die. So your choice of trustee should be someone you can rely on and trust, because your successor trustee is not generally subject to court supervision.

A living trust does not, however, remove all need for a will. Generally, you would still need a will — known as a pour over will — to cover any assets that have not been transferred to the trust, in case you have for instance, bought a car that is still in your single name, at the time of your passing.

We can help you plan your estate so that you can avoid court supervision of your the distribution of your estate.

If you are an immigrant or a US citizen, all of your assets. This could include assets held in your name alone or jointly with others, assets such as bank accounts, real estate, stocks and bonds, and furniture, cars and jewelry and business interests.

Your assets may also include life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts and payments that are due to you (such as a tax refund, outstanding loan or inheritance).

The value of your estate is equal to the "fair market value" of all of your various types of property, after you have deducted your debts (your car loan, for example, and any mortgage on your home). There are different rules for non US citizens.

The value of your estate is important in determining whether your estate will be subject to estate taxes after your death and whether your beneficiaries could later be subject to capital gains taxes. Ensuring that there will be sufficient resources to pay such taxes is another important part of the estate planning process.

Probate is a court-supervised process for transferring a deceased person's assets to the beneficiaries listed in his or her will. Typically, the personal representative named in your will would start the process after your death by filing a petition in court and seeking appointment. Your Personal Representative would then take charge of your assets, pay your debts and, after receiving court approval, distribute the rest of your estate to your beneficiaries. If you were to die intestate (that is, without a will), a relative or other interested person could start the process. The process needs to be started in a timely manner.

In such an instance, the court would appoint an administrator to handle your estate. Personal representative is another term used to describe the administrator or Personal Representative appointed to handle an estate.

Simpler procedures are available for transferring property to a spouse or for handling estates in which the total assets amount to less than $40,000. The probate process has advantages and disadvantages.

One disadvantage, however, is that probates are public. Your estate plan and the value of your assets will become a public record. Also, because lawyer's fees and Personal Representative's commissions are based on a statutory fee schedule, a probate may cost more than the management and distribution of a comparable estate under a living trust.

Time can be a factor as well. A probate proceeding generally takes longer than the administration of a living trust.

Nalini invites you to discuss such advantages and disadvantages of an estate plan before making any decisions.

Yes. You should consider alternative beneficiaries in the event that your primary beneficiary does not survive you.

And if a beneficiary is too young or too disabled to handle an inheritance, you might consider setting up a trust for his or her benefit under your will or living trust.

Once you have decided who should receive your assets, it is very important that you correctly identify those chosen individuals and charitable organizations in your will or trust.

Many organizations have similar names and, in some families, individuals have similar or even identical names. An estate planning lawyer can help you clarify and appropriately identify your beneficiaries.

Talk to Nalini before you decided to name beneficiaries.

The choice is your decision. You could name your spouse or domestic partner as your Personal Representative or trustee. Or you might choose an adult child, another relative, a family friend, a business associate or a professional fiduciary such as a bank. Your Personal Representative or trustee does not need any special training. What is most important is that your chosen Personal Representative or trustee is organized, prudent, responsible and honest.

While the Personal Representative of a will can be subject to direct court supervision and the trustee of a living trust is not, they serve almost identical functions. Both are responsible for ensuring that your written instructions are followed.

One difference is that the trustee of your living trust may assume responsibilities under the trust agreement while you are still living (if you ever become unable or unwilling to continue serving as trustee yourself).

Discuss your choice of a Personal Representative or trustee with Nalini before a decision. There are many issues to consider. For example, will the appointment of one of your adult children hurt his or her relationship with any other siblings? What conflicts of interest would be created if you name a business associate or partner as your Personal Representative or trustee? And will the person named as Personal Representative or successor trustee have the time, organizational ability and experience to do the job effectively?

Personal Representatives and Trustees owe a fiduciary duty to your estate. A choice of a trustee or personal representative is crucial to your family's well being.

Talk to Nalini about making an Ethical Will. nsm@mlolaw.us

First of all, in your will, you should nominate a guardian to supervise and care for your child (and to manage the child's assets) until he or she is 18 years old.

Under Missouri law, a minor child (a child under age 18) would not be legally qualified to care for himself or herself if both parents were to die. Nor is a minor legally qualified to manage his or her own property.

Your nomination of a guardian could avoid a "tug of war" between well-meaning family members and others.

You might consider setting up a trust to be held, administered and distributed for the child's benefit until the child is even older.

Estate taxes are imposed upon estates that have a net value of $3.5 million or more. In 2010, the estate tax will disappear completely.

Then, unless Congress passes an extension, the exemption may revert back to $ 1 million in 2011 or remain at $3.5 million. For estates that approach or exceed these amounts, significant estate taxes can be saved by proper estate planning, usually before your death or, for couples, before one of you dies.

Keep in mind that tax laws often change. And estate planning for tax purposes must take into account not only estate taxes, but also income, capital gains, gift, property and generation-skipping taxes and your business interests as well.

Talk to Nalini about your estate planning needs. nsm@mlolaw.us

Yes. The nature of your assets and how you hold title to those assets is a critical factor in the estate planning process. Before you take title (or change title) to an asset, you should understand the tax and other consequences of any proposed change. Your estate planning lawyer will be able to advise you.

  • Community property and separate property. Missouri is not a community property state, however you may hold property in a community property state.
  • Tenants-in-common. If you own property as tenants in common and one co-tenant (co-owner) dies, that co-tenant's interest in the property would pass to the beneficiary named in his or her will. This would apply to co-tenants who are married or in a domestic partnership as well as to those who are single. This may mean that you may have a new co-tenant, whose ideas may be different from your own.
  • Joint tenancy with right of survivorship. Co-owners (married or not) of a property can also hold title as joint tenants with right of survivorship. If one tenant were to die in such a situation, the property would simply pass to the surviving joint tenant without being affected by the deceased person's will. This title designation should be used carefully to avoid unwanted outcomes.

However, if your assets are titled properly, if your spouse or domestic partner were to die, the property would pass to you without being affected by the deceased person's will.

Yes. Certain kinds of assets are transferred directly to the named beneficiaries. Such assets include:

  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Qualified or non-qualified retirement plans, including 401(k) plans and IRAs
  • Certain "trustee" bank accounts
  • Transfer on death (or TOD) securities accounts
  • Pay on death (or POD) assets, a common title on U.S. savings bonds

Keep in mind that these beneficiary designations can have significant tax benefits and consequences for your beneficiaries — and must be carefully coordinated with your overall estate plan.

In Missouri, there are also assets that can be passed through the non probate process. This involves planning during your lifetime.

You can help determine what will happen by making your own arrangements in advance. Through estate planning, you can choose those who will care for you and your estate if you ever become unable to do so for yourself. Just make sure that your choices are documented in writing.

If you set up a living trust, for example, the trustee will provide the necessary management of those assets held in trust. You should also consider setting up a durable power of attorney for property management to handle financial transactions and to deal with assets that may not have been transferred to your living trust. By doing this, you designate an agent or attorney-in-fact to make financial decisions and manage your assets on your behalf if you become unable to do so.

And by setting up an advance health care directive/durable power of attorney for health care, and a waiver to the healthcare provider to share medical information, you can also designate an attorney-in-fact to make health care decisions for you if you ever become unable to make such decisions.

In addition, this legal document can contain your wishes concerning such matters as life-sustaining treatment and other health care issues and instructions concerning organ donation, disposition of remains and your funeral.

Both of these attorneys-in-fact lose the authority to make decisions on your behalf when you die, they can also be separate persons or the same person as your trustee.

If you have not made any such arrangements in advance and you become unable to make sound decisions or care for yourself, a court could appoint a court-supervised conservator to manage your affairs and a court appointed guardian be responsible for your care.

The court's supervision of the conservator may provide you with some added safeguards. However, conservatorships can also be more cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming than the appointment of attorneys-in-fact under powers of attorney, which are included in your estate plan.

In any event, even if you appoint attorneys-in-fact who could manage your assets and make future health care decisions for you, you should still document your choice of conservators in case a conservatorship is ever necessary.

Talk to Nalini about these choices.

In Missouri, the law allows you to pass assets through the non probate process. This involves planning during your lifetime.

The process usually involves drafting of instruments as part of your estate plan, so that transfer of your asset takes place after death. Some instruments such as a beneficiary deed to transfer real estate, needs to be recorded. Other non probate transfers, do not.

Talk to Nalini to decide what is best for you, your family and your business.

Seek advice only from professionals who are qualified to give estate planning advice. Many professionals must be licensed by the state.

Ask the professional about his or her qualifications. And ask yourself whether the advisor might have an underlying financial incentive to sell you a particular investment, such as an annuity or life insurance policy. Such a financial incentive could bias that professional's advice.

Unfortunately, some sellers of dubious financial products gain the confidence and private financial information of their victims by posing as providers of estate or trust planning services.

Report high-pressure tactics, fraud or misrepresentations to the police or district attorney immediately.

Nalini advocates that her clients include an ethical will with their estate planning documents. By this document, you explain your decisions to your loved ones. Often, that practice explains the decedent's decisions to heirs and legatees, and avoids will contests and litigation.

  • Pre Nuptial Agreements
  • Buy and Sell Agreements
  • Special Needs Trusts
  • Other specialized documents to customized to your needs

It depends on your individual circumstances and the complexity of documentation and planning, required to achieve your goals and objectives.

Our costs include consultation, document preparation and ongoing support, as needed. Our law firm strives to promote upfront fees to ensure certainty and cost effective representation. In general, we charge a flat fee for estate planning services.

Nalini will help you with documenting your assets and liabilities, so that you can decide what estate planning documents are suitable for you and your family.

You can avail of a customized estate plan that addresses your needs, so that you have peace of mind, assured that you have taken care of your family and business, should you pass or become incapacitated.

If you have a domestic partner or are co-habiting, or are an immigrant, you need estate planning to make sure your loved ones are protected after your passing.

All our estate plans have upfront fees.