If you are considering estate planning, you need information and answers to your most immediate questions. Overland Park, Kansas, wills and trust lawyer Robert Vancrum is happy to discuss these and any other issues specific to your situation.

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Do I need a will?

If you own property or have minor children, you need a will. A will specifies your wishes regarding the distribution of your property. It also allows you to name a guardian for your children. Without a will, your property and your family may be distributed by a court.

What is an executor?

An executor is an individual or company you name in your will to settle your estate after your death. Your executor may be a spouse, a child, a sibling or anyone else you trust. He or she is in charge of settling your debts using your assets and distributing any remaining balance to your beneficiaries according to the terms of your will.

Is it necessary for a lawyer to draft my will?

Personally drafted wills tend to be incomplete and are often invalid under Kansas or Missouri state law. Wills must be executed in a certain manner. An attorney guarantees that your will is drafted and handled legally and completely, ensuring its validity.

Why is it wise to create a trust and powers of attorney before onset of Alzheimer's or dementia?

Alzheimer's and dementia both lead to memory loss and increased difficulties with everyday activities. Personal finances and self-care are at risk, and long-term care will need special attention as these conditions get worse. At the least, it is important for anyone diagnosed with or at risk for these conditions to create powers of attorney for both financial and health care purposes while they are still able. It may also require a trust for more seamless asset management, and the possibility of additional independent trustees.

What are special needs trusts?

A special needs trust, sometimes called a supplemental needs trust, allows you to appoint a trustee to hold property for the benefit of a disabled or special needs beneficiary after your death. The trust provides for the needs of those beneficiaries without disqualifying them from government benefits they may already be receiving. It also protects those assets from falling prey to judgments, divorce settlements or bankruptcy against the beneficiary.

What happens if I die without a will?

If you die without a will in Kansas, your property is distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Kansas's intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. In the absence of a spouse or children, your grandchildren or your parents receive your property. This list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and relatives by marriage. If the court finds that you have no living relatives, your property is claimed by the state.

Who should consider charitable gifts and trusts?

More people should consider the significant income and estate tax benefits of making charitable gifts in trust. It is even possible in special cases to make remainder gifts or bargain sale of business assets by such a trust that leaves more net assets for your family!

What are the advantages of a Living Trust?