Estate Planning 101

We’ve all heard that every adult needs an estate plan. But what does that mean? What’s are the essentials or the bare basics that you need to protect you and/or your family? T.S. Eliot memorably wrote in The Four Quartets: “What we call the beginning is often the end/And to make and end is to make a beginning./The end is where we start from.” So what’s your estate planning end game? Start from there to figure out how to get there.

An estate plan includes 4 basic documents:

  • Will/trust
  • Living will
  • Durable financial power of attorney
  • Durable medical power of attorney

1. Will/trust

– Tells your executor/trustee how to handle your property and who gets what when you die

-Pour over wills go with a trust

-Married couples can have a joint trust or individual trusts

-Trusts can be separate from your will or integrated with it

2. Living will

-Directions about your end of life choices (e.g. CPR and life support) to avoid a situation like Nancy Cruzan or Terri Schiavo

– Customized based on your faith, convictions, and moral beliefs

3. Durable medical power of attorney

– Gives spouse or child power to make medical decisions (e.g. authorize surgery if you’re injured in a car wreck)

– Gives access to medical records protected by HIPAA and privacy laws

4. Durable financial power of attorney

– Gives spouse or child power  to pay bills on your behalf and handle other financial affairs for you

– Digital estate planning – online account, email, photo, Facebook, LinkedIn access

-Elder law – Medicaid, gift, Veteran’s benefits, and Social Security disability planning

If my law firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, can help you or your family with your Kansas or Missouri estate planning needs, call me (913-707-9220) or email me ( for a free, convenient appointment.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.


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