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Discussions With Family Prior to Estate Planning

By Ana Ballesteros, W M Law Paralegal

Estate Planning can be a difficult conversation to have with your love ones. People generally do not like to think about what would happen if a loved one were to pass away either suddenly or expectedly. What would happen to the house? The cars? How would the sentimental things get distributed? The purpose of an Estate Plan is not only to ensure that the transition moves as peaceful as possible without having any fights between siblings or step-family members but also to give you peace of mind that your wishes are being respected. Here the 5 things to talk about with your family when preparing for your Estate Plan.

How to plan your Estate Plan: The reason for an estate plan, is to ensure that your belongings do not go through probate. A death is already difficult, not to mention having to go through a legal process for your family to keep what already belongs to them, your legacy. Talk to them about what will need to be included and what you think is best to pass on right away. If you do not feel comfortable letting them know what each will get, you do […]

By | February 22nd, 2018|0 Comments

Two Misconceptions about Estate Plans

By Doug Sisson, W M Law Paralegal

Misconception #1 – Estate Planning is only for old people

Accidents happen, unless you are immortal…  A living trust is an important tool to safeguard a single person or family of any age.  Think of a trust as your “invisible buddy” that can speak for you when you are unable to. A living trust not only guards your assets, it guides your loved ones and keeps them from guessing as to your intentions. Another valuable tool is managing money should you leave your estate to a young person or even a minor child. With a trust you can appoint a person to manage the trust until your children (or grandchildren) are of an age you decide.

Misconception #2 – Estate Plans are for the Ultra Wealthy 1% of the Population

If you own property, you need an estate plan. A Revocable “Living” Trust is a very versatile tool to help divide and protect your assets and leave instructions for your own healthcare as well as others. A living trust can benefit you in many of the following ways:

  • Avoiding Probate: Probate litigation is a costly and lengthy process your loved ones will want to avoid.
  • Avoiding Taxes: A […]
By | January 30th, 2018|0 Comments

Holiday Discussions You NEED to Have

By Jeff Wagoner, W M Law President

Well, it’s the holidays, and likely be spending time with your family (for better or for worse!).  Oftentimes, the discussion will center around the kids in the family, the local sports teams and maybe even a little bit of politics.  You might even discuss health issues and concerns, especially regarding the senior members of your family.  Although we like to think happy thoughts during the holidays, I would suggest that spend at least a few minutes with your family members discussing your estate plan and your desires for healthcare decisions in the event you aren’t able to make them for yourself.  It doesn’t have to be a downer and it doesn’t have to bring tears to everyone’s eyes.  But, it can provide a great deal of relief and call into mind the more important things in life, especially at a time when everyone is busy with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

If you have an estate plan, you likely have made designations of certain family members who you want to make decisions for you in the event that you cannot.  Generally, these decisions take two forms:  financial or property decisions and then […]

By | November 28th, 2017|0 Comments

“Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Settle Up the Estate of a Deceased Family Member Who Had Very Little Property?”

By Jeff Wagoner
W M Law President
We often have initial consultations with people who are faced with wrapped up the estate of a loved one who recently passed away, but that person really didn’t have much property.  Here’s an example:  Uncle Joe never married and had no children.  He passed away last week.  He rented an apartment (with 6 months remaining on the lease), drove a car worth $10,000 with a $6,000 loan on it, had a checking account with $1,000 and a savings account with $250 in them, had a pet dog, worked a part time job, drew Social Security of $1,100 per month, had some furniture, clothing, household goods, a couple of TVs and other inexpensive electronics and an old motorcycle that didn’t run.  Oh, and he also has $12,000 in credit card debt.  The family is looking to you to “just take care of everything.”  You are, after all, “the responsible one.”  But, what do you do and where do you start?
First off, you know you need some help – you can’t just expect the bank to give you the money from the accounts and what are you going to do about the titles to the car and […]

By | August 30th, 2017|0 Comments

Are You Ready to Travel?  Really?!

It’s summer time and that means summer vacation time!  Yahoo!  So, let’s pack up the suitcases and the kids and the car and head out.  If you’re like me, in the weeks prior to a vacation, you make a checklist of all of the stuff that’s got to get done before you can leave:  have the mail held at the post office, stop the newspaper delivery, arrange for someone to mow the lawn, arrange for a friend to stop by your house and check on it every couple of days, turn up the thermostat, etc.  So, you spend a lot of time planning and organizing and getting all of your ducks in a row so that you can go on vacation and enjoy leaving your normal worries behind.  Right?  But, are you truly prepared?  Although we hate to think about it, accidents do happen on vacation.  If you are traveling with your spouse, an accident could end up leaving your children without both parents.  We don’t want to think about it, but it happens every day, multiple times around the United States.
In 2016, there were 40,200 traffic deaths in the United States.  In addition to being safety conscious this vacation […]

By | July 7th, 2017|0 Comments

Small Estate Procedures – Kansas vs. Missouri

Small estate procedures in the Probate Courts in the Kansas City area differ greatly.  Of the two states, Kansas’ procedure is much simpler and does not require a court filing.  An “Affidavit of Heirship” form is completed by the family and presented to parties holding property belonging to the decedent.  This procedure allows for the gathering of a small estate with a value of up to $40,000.  This process can be used to gain access to bank accounts and change title to motor vehicles in Kansas.  WM Law can guide Kansas estate executors and personal representatives through the process.  It is much cheaper and simpler than a full administration of a probate estate, thankfully.
In Missouri, the process for smaller estates is much more complicated, but it still is cheaper and simpler than a full estate administration.  There are actually 5 different procedures that can be used in Missouri to handle smaller estates:
Refusal of Letters to Surviving Spouse and/or Minor Children pursuant to Revised Statutes of Missouri (RSMO) Section 473.090
Refusal of Letters to Creditor pursuant to RSMO Section 473.090.1(2)
Termination of Administration pursuant to RSMO 473.092
Small Estate Procedure pursuant to RSMO 473.097
Determination of Heirship pursuant to RSMO 473.663
These 5 distinct Missouri procedures […]

By | June 2nd, 2017|0 Comments

Estate Planning in Kansas and Missouri

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 […]

By | April 7th, 2017|0 Comments

Top Estate Planning Mistake #7: Over reliance on one estate planning tool

Top 10 mistakes in estate planning

  1. Not having an estate plan at all
  2. Not planning for disability
  3. Using online forms for your estate planning
  4. Not transferring your life insurance policies into a trust
  5. Failing to fund your trusts
  6. Underestimating the power of trusts
  7. Over reliance on one estate planning tool (TOD)
  8. Not updating your estate plan.
  9. Putting your child’s name on the deed
  10. Not planning for business succession

We make mistakes, as people that fact is one of our defining characteristics.  The secret to being successful is:  (1) learning from your mistakes to ensure you don’t make the same one twice, and (2) learning from other people’s mistakes so you don’t have to make the same one once.  Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at the top 10 mistakes that people make with estate planning in the hopes that we can support each other to learn from the mistakes of others, so they stay ONLY the mistakes of others.

Top Estate Planning Mistake #7:  Over reliance on one estate planning tool

I often refer to an estate plan as a wall.  It is a wall that is used to protect your loved ones and your property, so truthfully, it isn’t […]

By | November 17th, 2016|0 Comments

7 Biggest Mistakes Federal Employees Make in Estate Planning


As federal employees you have kept us safe, gotten us educated, and kept us moving. Please remember, that while you are working hard to take care of us, you also need to take care of your loved ones with a good estate plan. The following list of mistakes is not in any particular order or importance or priority.

Mistake #1: Failing to make a plan.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. You specifically, NEED an estate plan.

Mistake #2: Failing to update your plan.

If you have a will, you are head and shoulders ahead of your peers, but if your plan isn’t complete or isn’t up to date it may not do what you need it to.

Mistake #3: Underestimating the power of trusts.

A trust is a powerful tool. It can avoid probate, it can make sure you don’t have to call 18 different places to make sure your beneficiary designations are up to date, and in some cases it can protect your property from creditors AND stupidity.

Mistake #4: Not understanding the tax consequences of your actions.

There are some actions you can take in an attempt to provide for your loved ones are provided for can create a huge tax bill and a […]

By | August 19th, 2016|0 Comments

Top Estate Planning Mistake #8: Not Updating Your Estate Plan

Going to have an attorney create an estate plan for you and your family can be hard.  There are psychological barriers, financial barriers, time constraint barriers, and leg work barriers.  Looking at all the things that make it difficult to go from “I really need to get an estate plan in place” to “Look at my shiny new estate plan” I understand why I talk to so many responsible people who have never found the time or motivation to come and talk to me about their estate planning needs.  That being said, I will likely never understand who folks who have succeeded in the original process, fail in the upkeep tasks to ensure that the plan they have created and paid for does what they need it to do.

I can’t tell you how many times I have a conversation where I relay that I am an estate planning attorney, and the other person tells me, “I am so glad I had my estate plan done, it’s such a relief knowing that those things are taken care of”.  I hear those words and I am instantly overtaken with conflict.  On the one hand, I want to tell them that they have […]

By | July 22nd, 2016|0 Comments