Kansas City & St. Joseph Estate Planning Attorneys

Estate Planning Attorneys Serving Kansas City, St. Joseph and the Surrounding Areas

Estate planning is not just making a will. While everyone should have a last will and testament, the estate planning process involves so much more. At Ritchie, Soper & Schutt, LLC, we can assist you with every step of the process, from learning about the needs of you and your family to helping you minimize potential tax liabilities and avoid potential litigation over your estate.

Everyone Needs Estate Planning

Many people avoid estate planning because they think it is unnecessary or unhelpful for their situation. After all, if you are not a millionaire and your family situation is relatively simple, why bother with the time and expense of making a will? Unfortunately, that attitude often leads to unanticipated problems down the line.

Estate planning is not about how much money you have today. It is about preparing for what may happen next week, next month, or even five years from now. Our experienced estate planning team can help you make sure that your family is taken care of if something unexpected happens to you.

For example, what happens if you are seriously injured in an accident and unable to meaningfully express your wishes regarding health care? A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care authorizes someone you trust to make those decisions on your behalf. You can also incorporate a Living Will that instructs your doctors on what to do in the event of a terminal illness, i.e. whether to use “life-prolonging” measures.

Similarly, a general Durable Power of Attorney allows you to name an agent to manage your financial affairs while you are incapacitated. Having such a document is especially important if you are concerned that unscrupulous relatives may try and manipulate you financially in the event of a medical emergency. Proper estate planning offers protection against such potential abuse.

Probate and Non-Probate Transfers

Estate Planning is designed to minimize the need for the probate process.  If done correctly, a will is filed with the court as a small estate and the process is quick and cost effective.  If you fail to plan and your assets are not protected, the probate costs can eat up a significant portion of your estate.

The attorneys of Ritchie, Soper & Schutt, LLC can assist you with the probate process when a loved one estate has to be probated, whether large or small.  We would prefer, though, to use non-probate transfer tools to avoid the costs and time involved in the probate process.  Call our attorneys today to see what tools are available for your individual situation.  Whether it involves creating a trust, inter-vivos transfers, life insurance planning or any of the other tools available, we will assess your needs and create a solution tailored to you.

Protecting Your Family’s Privacy Through Trusts

You may have heard about estate planning trusts without understanding exactly what they are or how they work. There is nothing mystical about a trust. It is a document transferring certain assets to a person you name as trustee. In estate planning the most common form of trust is a revocable living trust–one where you serve as your own trustee and are free to amend or revoke the trust as you see fit.

The real benefit of a trust comes after you die. When assets pass under the terms of a person’s will, this is known as probate. The probate process can take several months, even years, to complete depending on the complexity of the estate. But assets in a trust avoid probate entirely; the successor trustee simply distributes the assets in accordance with the terms of the trust. This not only makes a trust a more efficient way of managing your estate, it is also more private, since probate is a matter of public record.

There are other kinds of trusts that may benefit your particular situation. Trusts can be set up for children with disabilities or special considerations, for charitable giving or with consideration to blended families.  Our estate planning team at Ritchie, Soper & Schutt, LLC will make sure any trust helps you and your family rather than buries you in unnecessary paperwork.

Legacy Planning for Businesses and Farm Property

Many times, the largest single asset in an estate is a going business or family farm.  Consideration of who will take over the day to day operations must be balanced with the desire to establish a legacy for other family members.  In some situations, children may have established other careers and the business needs to be transferred to key employees in order to maximize the value for future generations.

The attorneys at Ritchie, Soper & Schutt, LLC have experience dealing with the family dynamics that go into the continued operation of a family business and farm.  We can guide you through the process so your children and heirs understand your wishes.  Making decisions that involve your family today will pay valuable dividends down the road.  As with many estate planning issues, if you don’t address it now, it will only create additional confusion and strife when the worst happens.

Planning for Aging and Long Term Care Options

Even the best wills and estate plans cannot keep you from aging.  Ritchie, Soper & Schutt, LLC can help navigate the issues involved with long term care, obtaining guardianships over a loved one, Medicaid and other benefits that are available, and how to maintain an estate when the costs of care are growing at alarming rates.  Our attorneys have personal and professional experience with these issues and we can assist with planning for and providing care for you or a loved one.

Estate Planning Is Not a One-Time Act

Even if you already have a will and powers of attorney, it is important to take stock of your situation every few years–and definitely after a major life-changing event, such as a divorce or a death in the family. Ritchie, Soper & Schutt, LLC can review your existing estate plan and identify areas where you need to make changes. Remember, estate planning is not something you do once and then forget about, it is an ongoing process that will grow and change with you.

If you have put off dealing with estate planning, the time to act is now. Our experienced Missouri and Kansas estate planning attorneys are happy to meet with you today to discuss your situation. Call the attorneys at Ritchie, Soper & Schutt, LLC toll-free today at 888-345-4LAW to schedule a free consultation with our St. Joseph, Columbia, or Liberty offices.