Nearly everyone should have an estate plan. Estate plans protect and plan for events such as incapacity, emergencies, and death. An estate plan consists of documents that protect individuals during and after circumstances that are out of their control. Nearly everyone, including those who do not consider themselves wealthy, have an estate. An estate is the money and property that an individual owns, such as, bank accounts, cars, a home, and investment accounts.  

If you do not have an estate plan, the state of Kansas will decide how your assets will be handled. For example, if an individual passes away with minor children, the minor children would not be directly given the assets of the individual who passed away. Instead, the property would be held in a conservatorship for the minor children. Additionally, someone would need to take care of the minor children. By having an estate plan established, you can nominate, or appoint, a guardian to raise your children.

By failing to have an estate plan, you are likely leaving your loved ones with additional costs of going to probate court, and leaving your legacy in the hands of someone else. A judge will be required to decide who should get your assets, and what is in the best interest of your children as it relates to who cares for them and who will handle your children’s finances. Also, without an estate plan, it can take the probate court a long time to navigate through the probate process.

You may be wondering what an estate plan looks like. An estate plan will look different for every family.

An estate plan can benefit everyone, no matter where they are in life. If someone is single, likely they would want to specify the individuals who they trust to make financial and health decisions for them in the event of death or incapacity. If someone is part of a blended family, an estate plan can ensure a fair distribution is made to your children from the former marriage as well the current family. An estate plan should also be considered if an individual has any of the following: health concerns, if they are caring for someone with special needs, a business, have intellectual property, have investment property, have a pre-nuptial agreement, or simply want to support a charity or organization at their passing.

Often estate plans involves drafting both a trust and a pour-over will.  A trust is a legal document that generally allows for the probate process to be avoided. This means that, generally, the family of the deceased would not need to go to probate court to have a judge make the final decisions about their assets and/or children. Trusts can save your loved ones both time and money. Trusts give an individual the power to determine the specific assets that they want to distribute, and when those assets should be distributed. For example, if you were to pass away leaving minor children, you could designate in a trust document the age your children would receive a particular amount of money and even how your children would be allowed to use the funds (such as for education, travel, college, on a vehicle, etc.). There are various types of trust, the most common being a revocable trust. Revocable trusts are sometimes called living trusts, and family trusts. Next, a pour-over will is a document that ensures, even if the probate court was required, all of the assets that would be subject to probate court would “pour over” to the trust and be distributed per the terms of the trust language.

Having an estate plan prepared takes approximately one to two months. It takes time to prepare documents that are customized to the individual needs of a family. Additionally, accuracy is important when protecting the legacy of another. Once an estate plan has been prepared, it is important that the estate plan is reviewed periodically to ensure that the estate plan does not need tweaked to coincide with financial and personal life changes.

If you are wondering whether an estate plan is right for you, and if so, what your estate plan should look like, contact Gilchrist & Fields law. We customize estate plans to protect what is most important to our clients.

The information throughout this webpage is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Legal advice must always be customized to the individual case. Further, the information on this webpage does not create any attorney-client relationship between you and the Gilchrist & Fields Law Firm.