What is Estate Planning, and why do I need it, in Kansas City, Missouri

That is an excellent question, and it will take a little bit of explaining.  Estate planning is basically planning for the future.  A lot of people think of it as just a trust, maybe a will, and then move on.  But it’s actually a little more complex than that.

Am I Just Planning for My Death?

No, it isn’t really planning for your death.  Well, it kind of is, but not just that.  Estate planning is making sure that your loved ones (your spouse, your children, your grandchildren) have clear guidance on what to do when you aren’t there to help them figure out what you want.

It is planning for something bad happening.  Maybe your family has a history of Alzheimer’s, you should be prepared that you might need someone to make decisions for you.  You could do that with a Guardianship and a Conservatorship… but that only fixes it AFTER you can’t make a decision for yourself anymore.  You could get a Power of Attorney, but will everyone know where your assets are?  What about that life insurance or long-term care insurance you bought 30 years ago, do they know how to find it and use it?

That is what we do when we plan for the future.  We make sure that no matter what happens, your family is taken care of and that everyone knows what they need to know when the time comes.

That’s fine, but I already have a will.  Why do I need anything else?

Fantastic question!  A will is a wonderful thing to have.  It tells people what you want to have happen, it directs who gets what, but it doesn’t avoid probate.  And it might still cause some problems if you don’t have everything included.

Actually, a will might be all you need.  It depends on if you have children, if they are adults or young, or if they have impairments of some kind.  If you have a family business, if you have significant assets (likely over $1,000,000), have more than one residence, or if you have been divorced and re-married, then you might need something a little more robust than a simple will.  All of those things can have a very meaningful impact on what happens when the will goes to probate and how the Court deals with that stuff.

But if I have a will, I thought I avoided probate?!

Yeah, that is a pretty common misunderstanding.  Will’s don’t avoid probate, they just tell the probate Court what you want to have happen.  So, unless you say otherwise, there will be a bond in probate Court.  There will be Court fees, attorney’s fees, and management fees.  All of that has to come out of the estate.  A lot of people want to avoid probate, and of course there are ways to do that.  But, in all honesty that shouldn’t be your biggest concern.  Tax consequences, taking care of your family, and protecting what you have are more important than avoiding probate… but typically we can manage to do all of that at the same time.

Okay, but you still haven’t’ told me what Estate Planning is.

Right, fair point.  To put it simply, we are protecting what you have and what you will eventually get.  We are planning for the bad things that could happen.  We are making sure we have a good accounting of what you have saved, and where you are keeping it.  We are doing the work that will protect those you love.  It is not a simple process, and it isn’t easy to sum up.  Everyone has different needs, and we have a number of tools to make sure that you have what you need to solve the problems you might be facing.

If there is anything else I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Thanks for reading!

Good luck out there.

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