By Jeff Wagoner
W M Law President
Estate Planning in Kansas City is complicated somewhat by the Kansas/Missouri border that runs through our metropolitan area. At WM Law, we are licensed in both Kansas and Missouri and represent both Kansas and Missouri clients (even though sometimes we have to keep those Tigers and Jayhawks and Wildcats separated in the waiting room!).
One big difference in estate planning stems from the types of real estate ownership available in the two states. Both Kansas and Missouri offer tenancy in common and joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. However, only Missouri offers tenancy by the entireties. Tenancy by the entireties is only offered in about 20 states and that type of tenancy varies significantly among those states. Tenancy by the entireties is an old, rather odd concept in real estate ownership that dates back to the middle ages. Back then, when a man took a wife, the wife came with a “dowry” – maybe a cow, 5 pigs, and some chickens. Now, if the man was down at the local pub one night and got to gambling, he might incur a gambling debt that the winner would try to collect by coming to the homestead to take anything not nailed down (like a cow, 5 pigs and all of the chickens). So, the poor wife would lose all of the family’s property that they rely on for survival just to satisfy the debts of her husband.
Tenancy by the entirety prevented the wife from losing what was rightfully at least half her property. Tenancy by the entirety means that any property owned jointly by a husband and wife cannot be taken to satisfy the debt owed by only the husband or the wife (and not both of them). So, it was designed to protect the “marital” property. Many times, estate planning attorneys use joint tenancy or transfer on death and beneficiary deeds to avoid probate, so the differences in types of property ownership between the states plays a key factor. Other significant differences exist between Kansas and Missouri. Revocable and irrevocable trusts have differences between the two states. Probate work is done in both states via the county courts, but there are differing procedures in probate. Guardianships and conservatorships share many common features in the two states, but again, there are differences.
WM Law has been serving clients in both Kansas and Missouri since 1997, so we are well versed in the laws of both states. If you need a will or living will or trust or health care power of attorney or health care directive or durable financial power of attorney, we will have the correct forms to use whether you are a resident of Kansas or Missouri.