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Common misconceptions about wills

Estate planning is more important than most people think. Creating directions for your legacy is crucial for both you and your family. However, there are many misconceptions surrounding wills and estate planning. It is a complicated process and not everyone knows how to navigate it. Being aware of these misconceptions can help you avoid creating more problems for you and your family.

Here are four common misconceptions people have about wills and creating their estate plan.

Tenants and potentially dangerous dogs

Being a landlord can be tough for many reasons, as we have discussed on our blog (non-payment of rent, etc.). However, some landlords find themselves in very unique circumstances and they are completely unsure of which course of action to take. For example, you may have a tenant who has a potentially dangerous dog and you could be worried that this animal will attack someone and you will be held responsible. In some instances, landlords have been held responsible for a tenant's dog attacking someone. As a result, it is critical to go over your options and deal with this properly.

In some cases, landlords are able to simply talk with their tenants and resolve the issue. Also, landlords can take preventative measures to prevent this problem by changing the terms of future lease agreements. However, this is not an option for some landlords and it may be necessary to take further steps to address the situation. In some cases, a landlord may want to fence in their yard to prevent a tenant's dog from attacking a passerby. Or, a landlord may want to post warning signs around the property.

HOA fees and credit reports

People who own units in townhome and condominium developments in Missouri must join the homeowner's association. Even many people who own single family residences find themselves members of HOAs. These groups provide oversight to many elements in a neighborhood and say that they help to maintain property values for homeowners. In turn, homeowners must pay regular dues to these associations.

According to the San Francisco Gate, homeowners' associations themselves have not historically reported payment histories to credit bureaus. This is because the cost to do so is generally too high to justify the benefit for these organizations. This, however, does not mean that a person who owns property that is part of an HOA can miss or be late on payments without fear of negative ramifications on their credit.

What should I put in a lease?

If you have a rental property in Missouri, one of the main documents you must create is a lease. The lease protects you and your tenants. It ensures everyone understands the terms of the rental agreement and can prevent serious problems in the future. Because this document is so important, you must ensure you include the right information when you write it.

According to the Missouri Attorney General, there are some pieces of information every rental lease should contain. Of course, you may also include information beyond these items, but these are the bare minimum to offer the maximum protection. You should always include your name and contact information along with the rental property address.

Potential heirs continue to battle over James Brown's estate

Most estate planning experts in Saint Charles would likely agree that one should start their estate planning early on in their adult life. Yet estate planning such not be viewed as a singular event, but rather a process that plays out over several years. One is certain to experience several life changes that would necessitate them amending their will in order to accommodate their most current situation. A failure to do so may almost certainly guarantee there to be discord amongst one's heirs when they are gone. 

One need look no further than the ongoing battle over the estate of the legendary singer James Brown to confirm this fact. Brown's many potential heirs have been battling for years over several different issues related to both his fiscal estate and his catalog of songs. One of the issues currently being fought over is whether the man claiming to be Brown's son from his fourth marriage is indeed his child. The man reportedly has taken multiple DNA tests that confirm his legitimacy. Brown's children from his previous marriages, however, claim that the singer had a vasectomy in the early 1980's, several years before this other supposed son was born. There is also an ongoing dispute over whether Brown's surviving spouse is even his spouse at all. The woman was indeed married to another man at the time she married brown, yet questions over the validity of that marriage have been raised as well, as her other husband was also reported to be married to multiple women. 

Regular wear and tear or serious damage? When to act against a tenant

It’s reasonable to expect there to be signs of normal wear and tear when a tenant moves out of a rental property. There are just certain parts of a property that wear down.

However, not all damage is minor or normal. In some cases, tenants may try to hide major issues and leave without paying for their own negligence. As a landlord, it is important to know the difference between normal wear and tear and damage.

How can you revoke a will?

If you have taken the advice of estate planning experts in Saint Charles and already drafted a will and other documents related to the dispersal of your assets, you might feel as though your work in this regard is over. Yet the hope is that you still live for many more years, during which time your circumstances can change. Such changes may prompt you to decide to modify the management (and eventual administration) of your estate. Changes such as these, however, can often prompt discord, with one or more of your beneficiaries contesting their validity (an easy challenge to make if you are not around to refute it). 

How, then, are you to make changes to your will (or revoke an older version in favor of a newer one)? According to Section 474.400 of Missouri's Revised Statutes, only a new modified version of a will is recognized as invalidating an earlier one. Some states allow amendments to be made, yet local law is very clear that even modifications to a will must be presented in the form of an updated document. For example, say you stipulated in your will that you wanted your collection of vintage baseball cards to go to your son. However, since that time, you have decided to instead leave them to your grandson. Only by submitting a new will with this amendment will legitimize that change. 

What are the basics of estate planning?

Missouri residents who are left handling matters of the estate may find themselves with a lot of questions. This is especially true if you have never had to deal with estate management or planning before. If that's the case for you, take a look here for some basic information about estate planning that you should know.

FindLaw defines estate planning as the path in which one's final health care and property wishes can be honored. A comprehensive estate plan will cover whether or not the person in question owes money toward anyone, who they want their property to go to, how they wish for their assets to be divided, and what their financial state was. In the event that minors may be left without care, it will also determine who will take care of the child.

Is there a right way to complain to your HOA?

When you live in a shared community, there are many valuable benefits that you get to enjoy including things like access to public amenities and assistance with maintaining the grounds around your residence. Often, these areas are governed by a homeowner's association, otherwise known as an HOA. When you are unhappy about something that requires you to communicate your concern to your HOA in Missouri, going about it the right way can help to reduce conflict and expedite the process of finding a viable solution. 

The worst thing you can do is to be ignorant or react irrationally to an issue you may have. Doing so could compromise your standing with the HOA, as well as the opinion that your neighbors may have of you. Rather, as soon as you discover something that you are unhappy about, make the decision to go about raising your concerns in a manner that is respectful and fair. 

Working with authorities to evict a tenant

While the relationship between a landlord and a tenant is technically a professional one, it differs from other such relationships in that it involves personal matters. For this reason, tensions between these parties can easily escalate to the point where the potential for violence exists. This often prompts landlords to involve law enforcement to help guarantee their safety when trying to evict. They must, however, receive a judgment from a court authorizing them to commence eviction proceedings before petitioning for police assistance. 

Per the St. Charles County Sheriff's Office, the department's Civil Process Sergeant schedules eviction assistance appointments (typically within a week of a landlord submitting a petition. On the scheduled day, landlords are expected to meet with their assigned representative from the sherrif's office with tools to gain entry to the unit, as well as new locks (or a locksmith) if forced entry is needed. The law enforcement officers will then announce his or her presence to the occupants and asked to be allowed to enter. If there is no response, he or she will enter through the means provided by the landlord and inspect the premises to ensure there are not threats to safety before allowing others inside. 

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