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Estate Planning
Estate Planning
Estate Planning is never anyone's favorite topic. However, it is an important protection for you and your family. You never know when you could have an accident, health issue, or a premature passing Another reason to create your Estate Plan is that it gives you an opportunity to share memories with your family by setting aside certain objects or property to each family member. Often there is a memory tied up with an object. When you set that asset aside to a particular person, it triggers the memory and connects you with that loved one for another moment even after you are no longer physically with them. This also reminds the person that you too remember the memory and treasured your time with them. 

We can help you meet your goals of protecting your assets, making life easier for the individual who will have to do the work to probate your estate, and sharing your memories with friends and family.
Last Will & Testament
In Missouri, you must have a written, signed and notarized Last Will and Testament. The law does allow you to add a list of personal property to be distributed so long as it is written, signed and dated. This can be done even after the Last Will and Testament is completed. While the goal of most people is to avoid probate, the Last Will and Testament is needed in case there are loose ends or if you have a more complicated family situation. If you have minor children, you will want to name a guardian as well. 

Often there is one asset that is forgotten and it tends to be a vehicle that does not have a Transfer on Death on the title. Further, in Missouri, you can allow your Personal Representative to serve Independently which means that the Probate Court would allow the Personal do accomplish many of the tasks necessary to gather and distribute the assets without Court permission. The Personal Representative would then only need to file for their Letters to officially grant them permission to move forward and an accounting to the court of the distributions. All heirs would need to grant permission for Independent Administration and sign off on the final settlement.  

Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney gives legal authority for another person to stand in the place of the individual and take care of their finances and/or health care decisions. You can give the person authority to act immediately or wait until one (or two) doctors make a determination you are incompetent. The incompetency could be for a short period of time like in the situation of an accident, stroke, or other medical emergency where you are not able to communicate your medical decisions or take care of your finances. If you become permanently incompetent, the powers are in place until the time of your death. 

This power can be given before incompetency if you just need some help with finances or you want a spouse or other family member to be given access to you medical provider and/or records to help make decisions. You have control over when the powers kick into gear and you can revoke them if you change your mind. The biggest decisions to make is if you want food and hydration removed if you no longer have a quality of life. We can talk with you about the different options to help you determine how we can tailor the document to your wants and needs.  

Beneficiary Deed
A beneficiary deed allows you to legally transfer your home or other real property immediately at death without the need for probate. This is a good option as long as there is one person receiving the property and they can refinance the property if needed. If there are more than one person receiving the property, you have to determine the ability of the Parties to work together along with other considerations. This is a good thing to discuss with your attorney to help you determine if this is the best method to transfer ownership of your home.  

For our EBook on Estate Planning, click below.
Trusts
Trusts are the best option when (1) the Party has significant assets and/or (2) the family situation of the Party is complicated and a straight division is not the goal of the Party. Probate bases it's costs on the value of the estate. To avoid spending too much money in probate, a trust can be created. Further, with a trust, you do not need to wait to begin administration of the trust. The Trust begins at creation and benefits the individual and subsequent beneficiaries after the individual has passed. The reasons and structure of a trust can be complicated and if you think this option might be what you need, it is important to have a consultation with an attorney.  

Why Choose Us?
Law In Kansas City really does have that unique perspective on sharing memories with your family. This can be just as important for most people as leaving some money or property to their family. After many years of practice, we can help you avoid the pitfalls of complicated family relationships and help you determine the best way for family to move past your death. We can also help you make sure that your wishes are carried out if you are incapacitated and cannot articulate your health care decisions.  
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are the Top 5 Reasons to Prepare My Estate Planning Documents? 
1. I Love My Family and Want to Make Things Easier for Them When I Die.
2. I want to Make Sure to Determine Who Receives My Property not the State.
3. I want to Protect My Assets and Avoid Some Fees in Probate Court.
4. I Want to Avoid Probate of My Estate and Transfer Property to My Heirs as Quickly As Possible.
5. I Want to Avoid the Unintended Consequences of Not Preparing a Last Will and Testament.

Who Needs to Do Estate Planning?
Everyone!  Certainly, if you have a spouse, your need is a bit less.  The problem is that you never know if you and your spouse could be in an accident or a weather related incident together.  Therefore, everyone should have a back up named in a Power of Attorney.  Even if the issue might be temporary, you could come home from the hospital facing Foreclosure, Repossession, Utilities Shut Off, Insurance Cancelled, or other serious financial issue as there was no person authorized to use your accounts to pay your bills.  

The same can be true regarding your assets after you pass away.  Again, if you do have a spouse you most likely have the assets going to them.  However, just as with the situation of a Durable Power of Attorney, you could have a common accident.  You don't want to put your family though fighting over assets, who will serve as the Personal Representative, etc.  If you have not yet been through this with a parent, I guarantee you will want to help your family avoid having to take their time and money to deal with Probate.  Most of my Estate Planning Clients that have been through Probate with their own Parents cannot get in my office fast enough to plan their own estates to make sure their family avoids what they have gone through with their own parent.  
What is a Power of Attorney and Do I Need One?
The Answer to this question is pretty long and is discussed in my eBook which is available to my clients and purchasers of our DIY Divorce and DIY Estate Planning Products.  The short answer is most people considering their estate planning are talking about Durable Powers of Attorney which give the Attorney-In-Fact (person named to help you) the legal authority to take action on your behalf regarding your finances and health care decisions at such time as you either become incapacitated or that you give them the power to do so.  You do not need to wait until you are completely unable to make your decisions.  Many people authorize a spouse, child, or other family member to assist them in making decisions long before they are totally unable to do by themselves.   This power is to act on your behalf in personal and business matters and to work with your doctors regarding medical decisions.  

Who Should I Appoint as My Power of Attorney?  
There are several factors to consider when choosing a Power of Attorney?
1.  Do you trust them?
2.  Do they have similar beliefs?
3.  Does the person have the time to handle your affairs?
4.  Is the person over the age of 18.
5.  Is the person live close to you so they will be available?
6.  Is the person have the mental capacity to help?
7.  What is their work experience, organizational skills, etc-- are they qualified and/or will they work with professionals that will help them manage your assets and health care decisions?
8.  How will this impact your relationship with other family members or the Power of Attorney's relationship with others in the family?
9.  What is their financial situation?  You don't want to put someone in temptations way to misuse your finances.
10.  Will they emotionally be able to make the hard decisions regarding your health?

What if I really don't have any money?
The most common mistake made is not having a person named for Transfer on Death of your vehicle.  You should make sure that you go to the DMV and have one listed.  Also, people tend to put others on their bank accounts as OWNERS rather than authorized users.  If they put the person on as an owner, they actually could close the account and take the funds.  Even if they would not do this, there is no requirement when you pass that they share any of the funds with another relative.  You still might need to consider learning more about Estate Planning to make sure you don't make any common mistakes.  
Are the Forms I Find Online Any Good?
 I could not comment on any online forms other than my own DIY Estate Planning Course.  However, the better question is if those forms are appropriate for you.  It is important to understand how things work so you can determine what is needed and the best options for you.  
What if I Die Without A Last Will and Testament?
If you are married...
If have no other children, they will receive all your assets.
If you have children, the assets will be divided between your children and your spouse.

If you are single and do not have any children, your assets will be divided in the following order:  Parents, Siblings, Grandparents, Other Relatives.

What is Required for a Valid Last Will and Testament?
 The document must be signed in front of two Witnesses and a Notary Public.  You must be 18 years old and of sound mind for your Will to be valid.  There are other things that could keep the Will from being valid such as too much pressure from a family member or promises that you will receive something upon signing of the Will.  Also, if you get married after your Will is prepared or possible have other children (if you do not provide for any children born after in the original document), then the distribution of your assets will likely not go according to the document.  
Can I cut someone out of my Will? 
Yes, but you need to be specific of your relationship to that person (child, brother, etc.) and that you are specifically not making a provision for them.  
If I have a Will and I Need to Make Changes, What Do I Do? 
You can do a Codicil to your Will; however, the best practice is to create a new one and destroy the old one.  
Can I Make a List of Personal Property and Who Will Receive It?
Absolutely!  You do not need to put this in your Will (although you can) and you can even do it AFTER the Will is prepared.  All that is required is that you sign and date it.  You can change the personal property list without changing your Will which is why this is the best option for making provisions of who will receive certain items.  This is a great way to share one last memory with those you love which will remind them of the story behind the particular item and why you gave it to them.  
In My Durable Power of Attorney, What Medical Decisions Will My Attorney In Fact Make For Me?
At such time the Attorney in Fact can make decisions, they will be able to make or assist you in ALL Decisions.  Therefore, it is important to have discussions about your desires regarding end of life decisions such as life support and withholding treatment.  People are usually one of 3 categories:
1.  I want to breath every last breath until God take me home.
2.  I want to live a life with some sort of purpose and if I can't have a good quality of life (especially if I am going to die no matter what the doctors do), I am ok with my Attorney In Fact doing things which will NOT continue or prolong my life.  I am even ok if they withdraw food and nutrition despite knowing that this might cause me pain.  
3.  I want to live a life with some sort of purpose and if I can't have a good quality of life (especially if I am going to die no matter what the doctors do), I am ok with my Attorney In Fact doing things which will NOT continue or prolong my life.  However, I know that withholding food and nutrition is a painful process and I do not want them to have the power to starve me to death.  I don't think I want my family to go through watching die this way either.  
Isn't the Power of Attorney the Hospital Has Enough?
The short answer to this question is that you should prepare your own document.  First, using this document assumes you have the time and capacity to execute the document at the end of your life.  Second, it may only cover health decisions and not financial ones. 
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