Three Key Suggestions to Avoid Disputes in your Estate Planning Process

By Doug Sisson, W M Law Paralegal

Your beneficiaries’ fondness of one another may be out of your control, in life or death. With that in mind, the following tips and considerations will help you avoid future litigation, or at least minimize it to avoid that steep attorney bill many fail to account for:  “The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” – Robert Frost

  1. Plan when you are healthy 

When you fall ill, all of you mental and physical resources should be devoted to getting better, not drafting an estate plan.  One should devise an estate plan and ponder their family dynamics while you are well and of sound mind.  If you wait until you fall ill to draft your plan, it may be poorly drafted, or may not be completed at all.  Devising a plan while you are well also relieving the burden from family members who may be left guessing your final wishes or medical decisions.

  1. Seek quality independent legal advice free from undue influence

Online resources (such as this blog) can aid in a rough idea of what you will need, but not much more than that.  DIY estate plans can also create a huge liability as they […]

By | March 14th, 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

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 #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

It’s not the Economy, stupid…(this time)

A recent article in MSN money identifies a common problem with estate plans. Since 1995 the practice of treating different children differently in an estate plan has become more and more popular. Further, the evidence is clear that this practice has put a lot of stress on a lot of surviving familial relationships. As a matter of fact, I have seen instances where family members have sworn to never speak to each other as a result of a dispute regarding an estate. It isn’t hard to understand that a lot of feelings, and a lifetime of family dynamics can be tied up in these final wishes. While the rest of the world looks at these as financial transactions, they can be very personal evidence to a perceived prejudice for or against another beneficiary. Is Mom’s estate plan the final proof that she loved little Timmy more than she loved you? Maybe, but probably not. My experience has been that it is far more likely that Mom knows her kids better than anyone else on the planet knows her kids, so she knows that little Timmy is going to need more financial help than you are.

Really, that’s the rub. There […]

By | March 21st, 2016|0 Comments

Estate Planning: Once Upon A Time

We love our families. It is rare that an attorney gets to make an unqualified statement, but I feel pretty safe about that one. Just about everything we do is done for the benefit of our families. We work hard so our families will have what they need. We take our kids to school so they can learn what they need to be successful. We tuck those same children in at night so they will know that we love them. We love our families. As I was tucking my own daughter in the other night, I was reading her a story when it dawned on me how many of the “Once upon a time’s” we share start out with a hero or heroine who has lost one or both of their parents unexpectedly. It is a running joke in Disney movies about how it is impossible to find two living parents. Think about it, Elsa and Anna of Erindale, Snow White, Cinderella, Tianna, Tarzan, Aladdin, Mowgli and how many others are single parent or no parent households. Don’t think the animal heroes are any better off Bambi, Nemo, and Simba are all similarly situated.

After that realization really sunk in, I […]

By | March 7th, 2016|0 Comments

Justice Scalia and the Estate Planning Process

This weekend one of the most controversial figures in the history of the United States Supreme Court passed away.  Whether you hang on every word written by Justice Antonin Scalia, or you cringe at the thought of the vitriol that is reasonably expected in each of his opinions (and it seems like there is little middle ground between the two opinions), It is impossible to argue that he hasn’t helped form the political landscape over the past thirty years of his tenure on the Supreme Court.

He dedicated almost half of his life to the service of our nation on the Supreme Court, but, for an estate planning attorney, this is the time where we can determine how strong his legal game really was.  Sure, he shaped the discussion regarding search and seizure, and sure, the train wreck of campaign finance reform has his fingerprints inextricably etched thereon, but now is when we see how well he really practiced what he preached.  Often it is the case that the mechanic has the most broken down car on the block, not because he lacks the knowhow, but because he spends so much time fixing everyone else’s car that he neglects his own.  […]

By | March 7th, 2016|0 Comments