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Unclear estate planning and family disputes

In addition to the many stages of the grieving process that come with the loss of a close family member, some individuals experience tension between other family members regarding the deceased family's estate planning. One common way that family disputes arise in Missouri is when a family member fails to clearly outline the details of their will. Surviving family members are often left with a legal mess to untangle, which, needless to say, can spark tension over an already-emotional situation. 

The National Law Review recently focused on family disputes that arise from unclear estate planning, noting that these cases are all too common. In many situations, the deceased individual's successors must decipher whether provisions are directed at a partner or simply an assignee; assignees do not have the same rights as a partner. If there is no surviving partner, some Missouri residents choose to make arrangements for family partnership agreements, which enable the transfer of a partnership interest to another family member. While this approach is often successful, many family members nevertheless must analyze technical terms that officially refer those family members as partners. Family disputes can occur when successors disagree on passing partnership interests to a beneficiary, but the action is not clearly outlined in the provisions.

The importance of estate planning for singles

Much of estate planning revolves around the family, children and immediate loved ones. Passing assets in a large, closely-knit family seems natural, but if you live alone or aren't in close contact with family members, the future of your estate might not look as clear. What are your options?

As a single person, it is up to you entirely to choose the people and organizations you want to support, which can be an empowering task for those who want to take advantage of their estate planning tools.

Children at odds over use of famous father's songs

One of the reasons why St. Louis residents are encouraged to see to all matters related to their estates while they still are able to do so is to avoid any potential strife and disputes that may arise amongst their beneficiaries once they are gone. Yet as time passes, changes in the management of one's estate may force parties into positions that they never wanted, yet feel compelled to fulfill. Beneficiaries who may have initially been relieved to not be in a position of authority regarding the management of estate assets may end up having to assume such roles, which could lead to conflict with others who also have an interest in an estate. 

Such appears to be the case at the center of an ongoing dispute between the children of former singer Frank Zappa. A family trust was established to help manage the late icon's fortune. His son and daughter were asked by their mother to serve as co-trustees. They have since become involved in a feud with their older brother, who himself is a musician. He has claimed that the two have attempted to block him from being able to perform his father's music while on tour, or even performing under his own name. The brother serving as trustee disputes such claims, stating that he had never once tried to keep his brother from making a living, and that he is simply trying to fulfill the obligations of a role that was thrust upon him. 

Make the most of your money when buying a home

You are ready to make a big purchase. You have completed your education. You studied hard. You got that full-time job. You put in the hours, and now you are ready. You are going to purchase your first home. This milestone is huge. The accomplishment is great. You are proud of what you have accomplished and the purchase you are about to make. The process is one you are new to, so you want to get it right.

Buying your first home can be overwhelming. You will want to make sure you are prepared for the process that is about to take place.

The legal details of intestacy

The loss of any loved one in the family can come with its own set of challenges, including the handling of that family member's will. The process of determining a will is usually simple, but what if the person who died left no trace of planning a last will? Missouri's intestacy laws oversee these types of situations, and assists those who are left with the loss of a loved one and a sea of legal questions.

The Balance news breaks down the steps of intestacy succession laws in Missouri, stating that the Missouri Probate Code ultimately determines the outcome of one's probate estate. The outcome of each case depends on whether the surviving family is a spouse, child or other family member. If the survivor is a spouse or descendant, the spouse inherits $20,000 of the deceased's spouse's probate, pluse one half of the balance; descendants inherit the remainder. In the case that there are no direct descendants, Missouri law distributes the probate to grandchildren. 

Conservator accused of stealing $100,000 from wards

One of the main reasons why St. Louis residents are encouraged to see to their estate planning matters early on in their lives is so that they can retain control over how their assets are eventually managed and dispersed. Most put this important process off believing that they will have ample time to do it before their deaths. However, death is not the only event that can rob one of control over his or her estate. Being declared incapacitated or unfit may warrant the naming of a guardian or conservator to manage one's affairs. If such a privilege has not already been granted in one's estate planning documents, he or she risks it being given to a complete stranger. 

Every state has professional conservators and guardians the courts turn to in cases involving a question of capacity. While standards are in place for these professionals, the potential for abuse is still high. This fact was recently demonstrated in a case involving a professional conservator in Arizona who reportedly took over $100,000 beyond her standard expenses and fees from two separate clients. Her actions were discovered after one of these clients noticed a large deposit in his bank account (over which the conservator had control). The funds had actually been transferred from the accounts of the conservator's other ward (who had recently died). Authorities believed she made this transfer in order to maintain access to the deceased ward's assets. The transfer was reported to authorities and the woman was recently arrested. 

Common forms of home contamination

When beginning the process of buying a new home in Missouri, there are countless tasks and paperwork to complete prior to moving in. These fulfillments can range anywhere from selecting mortgage options to deciding what items to move in or to purchase. Another typical step in buying a house is arranging a proper home inspection. Yet what happens when a certified inspector approves all areas of the home, and the homeowner later discovers a hidden issue? Like most states, Missouri contains laws that require sellers to disclose any physical damage or other issues in written form, but the details concerning these issues can be complex.  

Knowing every angle about a prospective residence can save time and money in the long run. When it comes to disclosing previous methamphetamine production, an article in Realty Times confirms that buyers have the legal right to know if such dangerous drugs were manufactured in a home. The article goes on to share that, even after proper clean-up, there is still the possibility of methamphetamine contamination in the home. Missouri is one of many states that requires homeowners and real estate agents to disclose prior meth contamination, as state officials typically record contaminated homes in a database for public safety. 

Why getting a home inspection is a smart move

Purchasing a home in St. Louis is one of the biggest financial moves that many people will ever undertake in their lives. Therefore, it is important to know as much as possible about a property before committing to its purchase. No one wants to fall in love with what they think is their dream home only to later find out that a bunch of costly problems exist.

That is why many buyers opt to have the home inspected before the transaction is completed. According to, the home inspection is crucial for a few different reasons. For one, it may be the only opportunity the buyer has to raise any objections about the condition of the house or repairs that need to be done. If the inspector finds a major issue, the buyer can then negotiate with the seller to either have the problem fixed or to receive a credit at closing to cover the expense.

Understanding real estate arbitration

You are likley floating somewhere above Cloud 9 after having found your dream home in St. Louis. Yet suddenly, you have come crashing back down to earth after discovering that the seller put an artbitration clause in the closing contract. Countless clients have come to us here at TDD Attorneys at Law LLC wondering what such clauses mean and whether or not they should sign them. While reading the term "dispute resolution" might give you pause, remember that an arbitration clause is not necessarily an indicator that problems will arise with your home; it simply provides a method of resolving them if they do come up. 

The National Association of Realtors defines arbitration as a method of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties involved agree to accept the ruling of a third party arbiter as binding when dealing with a dispute. Say, for example, that shortly after moving into your new home, you discover mold in the basement. Your first thought may be that the seller purposely avoided telling you about it in fear that you knowing would make you not want to buy the house. You contact him or her asking that he or she pay for the remediation, and he or she refuses, saying that you agreed to buy the home "as is." An arbitration clause would then require you to argue this dispute in front of an arbiter rather than in court. 

What is a quiet title action?

If you are a Missouri real estate investor, you occasionally may need to file a quiet title action with regard to a piece of property you have purchased. A quiet title action is a lawsuit that you file for the purpose of establishing who owns a particular piece of real estate, including the land and any buildings on it. As explains, a quiet title action is a particularly good idea if you are an investor buying a piece of property in an estate sale or tax sale.

Quiet title actions are governed by state law and the precise requirements and procedures will vary accordingly. Normally you must notify all potential defendants that you have filed the suit. A potential defendant is anyone who may have an interest in the property, such as a potential heir in an estate sale situation and/or any institution or person who holds a mortgage on the property.

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