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Estate Planning in Missouri

Serving Families, Individuals and Businesses in Springfield, MO & the Surrounding Areas

Together with our client we will create and implement an estate plan that protects and provides for you and your family. Smart estate planning must be flexible to account for life’s changes whether the changes are personal, such as the ability to change or add beneficiaries, or prompted by external circumstances, such as changes in the law.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is a process of determining WHO will receive your property and assets after your death and WHEN and HOW the transfer will occur. No matter how little or much a person owns this is called their estate, therefore, everyone has an estate and needs to make a plan for how it will be distributed. This “distribution” takes into account all kinds of factors, including, but not necessarily limited to: the age of the beneficiary; is the beneficiary able to handle money?; is the beneficiary’s marriage sound?; is the beneficiary disabled?; do we need to try and protect your beneficiary from their own creditors?, etc.

Estate planning is also a matter of providing for yourself and your loved ones should you become disabled. Who is going to determine when you are “disabled”? Who will make financial decisions for you if you cannot handle your property and financial affairs? Who will make your health care decisions? Who has access to your protected medical records and information? Have you considered what will happen to you, your family, and your assets if you have to go to a nursing home?

Ultimately, sound estate planning is about planning for your family’s future. Sixty-percent of Americans are not engaging in any type of estate planning, and we recognize the need to educate people about their estate planning options. Our job is to teach you about the law; your job is to teach us about your family and your assets.

Together, we will create and implement an estate plan that protects and provides for you and your family. Smart estate planning must be flexible to account for life’s changes whether the changes are personal, such as the ability to change or add beneficiaries, or prompted by external circumstances, such as changes in the law.

Lastly, estate planning should be conducted with an eye towards minimizing or eliminating the costs of tax and probate. In the end, our process for sound estate planning is concerned with minimizing these expenses while endeavoring to settle the estate as quickly as possible while maintaining your family’s privacy.

Who Needs Estate Planning?

Everyone needs estate planning. Estate planning is a general term that applies to all types of people in all walks of life. No one’s estate plan is exactly the same. At our office we work with you to tailor design your estate plan to you and your families needs and goals. Once we have designed your estate plan, our job is to help you implement and then maintain your plan.

Here are twenty questions that can help us design the right estate plan for you and your family. There are many more issues that can arise, but this list is an initial way to determine what kind of situation we are potentially handling on your behalf:

  • You have financial issues and concerns that need to be addressed and handled if you are disabled. Who will take care of those matters?
  • You know what you want to happen if you are sick and unable to make decisions, but who will be the person to carry out your wishes?
  • You have young children (under 18) and need to know who will raise them and take care of the money if something happens to you.
  • You do not have adequate sources of income in retirement to afford long-term care. How are you going to afford these expenses while at the same time providing for your spouse and children?
  • Concerned about what happens if your surviving spouse marries again?
  • Is a beneficiary of yours dealing with any special physical or mental challenges?
  • Does a beneficiary of yours currently receive any type of governmental assistance?
  • Are you concerned that a beneficiary of yours might get divorced?
  • Does a beneficiary of yours struggle in the management of their finances?
  • Do you have a beneficiary who already has a high net worth and you do not want to add to their already high tax burden?
  • Do you have real estate you want to make sure goes to someone at your death?
  • Do you have property in other states?
  • Worried about the expenses of probate?
  • Can your kids afford the taxes your estate faces?
  • Do you have charities that you care about?
  • What happens to your pets when you pass?
  • Do you have firearms that you are giving away at your passing?
  • Does the value of your estate exceed $5,000,000?
  • Do you have a life partner that the State of Missouri does not currently legally recognize?
  • Are you concerned about how your remains will be handled upon your death?

How Much Does It Cost?

Here is a lawyerly answer, “It depends!” Without knowing you and your specific situation here is some important information on the issue of attorney’s fees at our law firm.

Hourly vs. Flat Rate

It is a misnomer that you pay for a lawyer’s time. What you are paying for is your lawyer’s expertise, experience, and value they will confer upon you and your family. Typically we are able to flat rate our fees for services provided to you and your family. Flat rate fees means you are free to call, email, come see us during the process without the worry of getting a surprise bill.

What Is Covered?

During your free, initial consultation, we will go over with you exactly what services and documents are covered. Regardless of whether you hire us, or use another attorney, it is important for you to know how much it cost to initially prepare your documents, BUT it is also very important to find out what the attorney’s policy is regarding future changes you may make, and what the costs are if the attorney assists the family in settling the estate when you are deceased.

Our Commitment

At our law firm we offer a free, initial consultation (usually one meeting, but sometimes it takes two) where we learn about your situation and design the specifics of your Estate Plan. When we know what we can do for you, then we are able to communicate our flat rate fee. Then it is up to you to either accept or reject the proposition. There is absolutely no pressure. We understand you need the opportunity to meet with us in a pressure-free environment so you can determine if we are the right fit. After all, you Estate Planning Attorney is someone you will know and work with for a very long time.

Estate Planning Tools

Tools In the Tool Box

Designing the right plan for a particular client is like when a builder knows which tools to use in constructing the perfect home. Once we have carefully listened to and understood our client’s situation, we go about the business of crafting the right plan. Building an Estate Plan involves the consideration of many types of Estate Planning “tools”. Not every tool is right for every situation, but here is a sampling of some of the tools we use to create your plan:

  1. Trusts. A trust is like an empty bucket. A trust is a receptacle for assets. Each trust has a “trustmaker”, a “beneficiary”, and a “trustee”. Usually the client is all of these things while they are alive and well. Upon disability the client can have already appointed someone else to be the trustee if they are unable. Also, the client gets to say who are the beneficiaries upon their passing. The good news is that any asset inside of a trust avoids probate.

    Keep in mind there are literally dozens of different types of trusts. Trusts are designed to accomplish certain purposes. Your attorney will understand your situation and advise you whether you need a trust, and what kind of trust you would need.

    Learn more about trust administration and revocable trust options.

  2. Last Will and Testament. Most people think that having a "will" is what defines having an estate plan. The truth is you really never want your will to be used because that means you have an asset that is going through probate. A lot of people think a “will” avoids probate, but instead all a will does is inform the probate court on how you want to leave your property.

    One important use of a will is when there are children involved who are under the age of 18. It is important to have a will to “nominate” the person(s) you want to raise your children if you are unable to do so.

  3. Powers of Attorney. A power of attorney is like giving someone else a spare set of keys to your car. You would do something like that if there was a time you could not drive, but needed someone to drive your car for you. Powers of attorney appoint others to handle a variety of decisions (from financial to health care) if you are disabled and unable to do so for yourself.

  4. Living Wills. Living Wills are documents that express your desires for what you want to happen if you are disabled and not expected to ever recover from your illness. This is where you empower your Healthcare agents to be able to make end of life decisions. Once you have made these decisions it is very important you discuss these matters with the family so they know how to use the authority you gave them when they need to make decisions.

  5. Beneficiary Deeds. This is one example of a tool that we use when avoiding probate is the only concern and we want to make sure a piece of real estate gets to your beneficiary quickly after your death. Other tools in this category deal with making sure your cash, investments, life insurance, retirement plans, and personal property passes to whom you want without the interference of probate.

Serving Southwest Missouri Since 1993
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R. Clancy Parks and Cameron G. Jones

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R. Clancy Parks and Cameron G. Jones
Attorneys and Counselors at Law
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Parks & Jones, Attorneys at Law is a full service Estate Planning and Elder Law practice that provides comprehensive planning in the areas of wills, trusts, powers of attorney, probate and trust administration, probate avoidance planning, revocable trusts, Elder Law, long-term care planning, nursing home care, wealth protection, Veterans Benefits, special needs trusts, business law and business succession, charitable planning, and estate tax planning. Parks & Jones, Attorneys at Law serves clients and their families all throughout Springfield, MO and the surrounding areas of Branson and the Ozarks.

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