family wills and estate planning

How to Talk to Your Family About Wills and Estate Planning

There comes a point in life where we start thinking about the future and what we want from life.  This could include owning a business, working for a large corporation, as well as settling down and starting a family.  What we don’t always think about is end-of-life.  After all, we’re all intellectually aware, life has no guarantees on the amount of time we have.  It seems most of us don’t consider the reality of our mortality until near the end of it. Each of us must think about the future and include end-of-life plans.  Talking with our family about wills and estate planning may not be a comfortable conversation, it is important.

Talking with family about estate planning starts with honest conversations about who will be appointed as executor and how our assets and our “stuff” will be divided among our family, friends, or charities. This is an opportunity to express our wishes to our loved ones and allows them an opportunity to know our plans.

*This blog is for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.  The use of the Paths Law Firm website does not constitute a client-lawyer relationship.

Family Conversations About Wills and Estate Planning 

It is important for our families to know what our end-of-life planning consists of.  This includes our wills, estate plans, and advance care planning.  To start, set aside time for everyone involved to get together.  This is best done well in advance of any crisis.  This family meeting should not be a surprise.  Everyone involved should know ahead of time what the conversation will be about.  Even though some of us may have family members whose presence will add contention, transparency is always recommended.  This will also go much better now than after we’re gone.

Start the conversation with respect.  Everyone should know they are encouraged to talk freely about their concerns and share their thoughts and feelings.  While the topics of conversation may be uncomfortable, the goal is that everyone hears and understands our wishes.  We should be certain to listen intently to their suggestions.  It may take time and regular conversations, but with open communication, the hope is everyone is on the same page.

wills and estate planning

Wills and Estate Planning Groundwork

It is important our families know the measures in place or those which we want in place as to our final plans.  The various instruments this may include are the type of wills, asset protection trusts, family trusts, guardianship, and other safeguards available and desired by us.  This allows everyone to have a full understanding of our wishes and they stay informed as to the disposition of our assets after we die.  This also helps minimize surprises or challenges down the line regarding inheritances.  If we haven’t already put our plan in place, start today.  Having a will and estate plan in place is an act of love for our families which will protect us and them.     

Looking to the Future

Our family conversations should focus on the plan for the estate, the safeguards being put in place, and the importance of understanding long-term goals and plans.  We should always be honest and transparent to best avoid or reduce frustration.  Each of us hopefully understands what our family needs to avoid miscommunication.  Topics of conversation may include retirement plans; this may include downsizing the home or simplification of other asset holdings.  If there is a family farm, lake house, or cabin, or even a family business, it is important for everyone to understand our intent and desires related to those important and valuable assets. 

Because emotions will be involved and money is at stake, it is important to seek guidance from someone like Russell Fracassa, an experienced estate planning attorney serving clients in the Kansas City metro area, from beyond North Kansas City, throughout Independence, and past Raymore.  Seeking guidance helps all of us clarify any technical components and help to prevent conflicts later as an unbiased party.

talking about wills and estate planning

Leaving a Legacy

Leaving a family legacy is about more than bank accounts, investments, and property.  It means leaving a valued treasure which those who follow us will greatly value upon inheritance.  This legacy may include assets such as money, life insurance, and property.  But it could also come in the form of donations, trust accounts for education or sentimental things such as photos or memorabilia we collect through our life.  

Peace of Mind with Wills and Estate Planning

Much of the stress that is attached to advanced care and end of life is due to a lack of planning and communication.  It is never anyone’s wish to have the family fight about inheritance or contest wills after they pass.  Having your affairs in order, proper documents available to the right individuals, and advanced knowledge of your wishes will help to reduce stress levels and be less traumatic.      

ending of life planning

Estate Planning Checklist

  1. Have the conversation about wills and estate planning.  The conversation may be difficult no matter when it takes place.
  2. Express clearly wishes to the family.   This should include the reasons for the choices made for the division of assets.  This may include money, stocks, bonds, property, or even a family business.
  3. Listen to family concerns, if any, and devise a plan meeting wishes. 
  4. Define who should be in charge of the estate so everyone is aware.
  5. It is important that we have a power of attorney to handle general or financial affairs when we are incapacitated or simply unable to effectively do such ourselves.
  6. Outline any advanced directives for incapacity or end-of-life.  
  7. Make a list of all physical assets and non-physical assets.
  8. Identify all debts to be resolved upon passing.
  9. Work with an attorney to put together the necessary legal documents, such as your wills and estate planning instruments.  
  10. Update estate planning documentation periodically based on changes in life.
family wills and estate planning

At Paths Elder Law, we work with seniors and their families to ensure they, their assets, and their plans are protected.  Likewise, it is important our client’s end-of-life wishes are met.  Planning provides our families the protection they need and the peace of mind each of us want.  If you or a loved one is ready to start their wills and estate planning, or need to have an updated estate plan, contact Paths Elder Law. Our focus is on making sure your wishes are met.

Educational Seminar at Paths Law Firm

Paths Law Firm provides a Free Educational Elder Law Seminar every month to help you plan for your future.

Administrative Assistant

Ryan D. Foley

Ryan Foley at Paths Law

Administrative Assistant

Ryan D. Foley

Ryan graduated from the UMKC School of Law in 2018 and passed the Missouri Bar that year. Prior to law school, Ryan attended the University of Missouri – Columbia where he attained a degree in Business. He is a Kansas City native, growing up in the Northland where he achieved his Eagle Scout rank by doing a project for his high school. During his time in law school, Ryan was introduced to the practice area of Elder Law by one of his professors and has been

Ryan enjoys working with and educating clients to provide advocacy and support during the unfamiliar and often overwhelming probate process. Ryan understands the challenges faced by individuals when faced by the uncertainty and complexity of government systems or even handling a Trust during a time of grief, and he strives to make the process as easy as possible.

Administrative Assistant

Makaylee A. Morelli

administrative assistant at Paths Law

Administrative Assistant

Makaylee A. Morelli

Makaylee is currently working on her bachelor’s in political science and hopes to soon start law school as an aspiring attorney. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her friends and family but most importantly her dogs Taffyta, Tallulah Belle, and Harry. Their favorite thing to do is go on coffee dates and get pup cups.


Kathleen E. Overton

Kathleen Overton, attorney at Paths Law


Kathleen E. Overton

After starting her career as a disability attorney, Kathleen transitioned into estate planning at a mid-sized regional law firm. Kathleen joined Paths Law Firm in 2021 when she decided to return to a boutique law firm that provides excellent service and quality to clients. Because of her background as a disability attorney, she brings a thorough understanding of public benefits to each client meeting. At Paths Law FIrm, Kathleen focuses on traditional estate planning and business entity formation, providing tailored advice unique to each client’s situation.

Public Benefits Assistant

Tena K. Dooley

Public Benefits Assistant

Amanda D. Martin

I have my Associates in Applied Science and have over 20 years of office management experience. I have two daughters and one grandson.

During my time away from the office I enjoy spending time with my family.  I enjoy almost everything outdoors and my hobbies include fishing and gardening.


Sydney R. Morris

Paths Law elder law in Kansas City



Sydney is currently enrolled at the University of Missouri-Kansas City pursuing an accounting degree and plans to later attend law school.

In her free time, Sydney enjoys spending time with her nephews and volunteering at her local church.



Christy L. Phillips

client service manager at Paths Law


Christy L. Phillips

Phone: 816-640-8635
Email: [email protected]

Christy has 3 years of experience in Elder Law working for seniors and their families as a Benefits Coordinator processing Medicaid and VA applications. Prior to joining Paths Law Firm Christy worked in the finance industry for over 10 years.


Christy’s experience in the finance industry has been extremely beneficial to her role as Benefits Coordinator. There have been many influences that went into her decision to select the field of Elder Law. Christy has a special place in her heart for the elderly and attributes this to her relationship with her grandparents.

When asked why she loves what she does, Christy said that at Paths Elder law, she gets the opportunity to help clients in more ways than one. Her favorite part of her job is getting clients approved for Medicaid or VA benefits as it is a huge relief for them and their loved ones.

Christy was raised in Ogden, Utah, and moved to Independence, MO, when she was ten years old. She has two children that keep her busy and fill her life with joy! Christy’s daughter cheers for Avila University, and her son plays competitive baseball for the Bucks and races BMX locally for the Motorcycle Closeout Team.

When Christy is not working, she enjoys crafting and making homemade gifts for her loved ones and raising her kids to be healthy, happy, and positive humans.


Practice Areas

  • Medicaid Benefits
  • VA Benefits


Professionalc Memberships and Affiliations

  • Missouri Notary


René A. Fracassa

Rene A. Fracassa, Paths Law



René has worked along side Rusty for 35 years. Not only is she part of the Paths team, she is also his wife. René spends her time working with the accountant to keep all of the finances in order, as well as general office management.

In addition to helping run the office, she helps manage the family and grandkids, tries to keep everyone fed, and has a passion to teach Bible Studies. Her former career in Event Planning trained her to juggle all the activity. She understands Rusty’s passion to serve people from the first mention of law school. It is a great pleasure for her to be an important part of every area of his life.



Hilary R. Tichota

Hillary at Paths Law



Hilary plays a vital role in the daily operations of the office. In addition to her regular office duties, Hilary has a heart of gold.

For more than 5 years, Hilary has operated the front desk at Paths, running the office and catering to clients. Hilary recently moved into the role of Community Relations Coordinator. She has a passion for people and a focus to share our business practices with the community’s seniors, businesses, and clients. She especially has a heart for seniors, showing they are loved through her visits, treats, the “Pen to Pal” program, and volunteering services at various senior living communities. She is a wonderful wife and mother of two. Most activities with seniors involve her great talent for any type of craft.



Jennifer A. Bronson

Jennifer, senior paralegal



Jennifer has been in the legal field for over 25 years and considers Paths her second home.

When she’s not running the office or working for our clients, she’s spending time with her first passion – her children.


Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

attorney at Paths Law elder law


Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

Phone: 816-640-8635

When asked what he wants to do, his reply was “I just want to sit at the kitchen table and work directly with people.” Rusty enjoys working with clients providing experienced advocacy and supporting them through their unfamiliar and overwhelming situations. Due to all the challenges faced by seniors, it is essential to work with an experienced elder law attorney who has expertise in the law, issues, and concerns affecting seniors and their families.

Rusty brings nearly 30 years legal experience and expertise working for seniors and their families as an elder law attorney in Kansas City and surrounding. Prior to law school, Rusty was a practicing accountant. This provides invaluable experience in his current practice of law. Rusty decided to put his focus on helping the elderly, vulnerable adults, and their families navigate challenging life, end of life, and death events.

Rusty understands the challenges faced by individuals whose capacity is declining and how upsetting the loss of a loved one can be. He understands he may not be able to eliminate his client’s grief from loss, but he strives to provide clients with peace of mind. Rusty works directly with client’s long term care issues, including Medicaid, Veteran’s Benefits, Estate Planning, Asset Protection, and Special Needs Planning.

In 2010, Rusty’s faith and love led him and part of his family to China as Christian missionaries. He and his wife, went permanently, but ended up dedicating 3 years to that ministry. They returned to Missouri to help with grandchildren after a family tragedy and later began anew with Paths Elder Law. The goal is providing compassionate care through legal advocacy.

When Rusty is not practicing law, he enjoys spending time with his family, grandchildren, and excessive eating at local restaurants.


Practice Areas


  • Wills and Trusts
  • Estate Planning
  • Asset Protection
  • Medicaid Benefits
  • VA Benefits
  • Probate
  • Guardianship and Conservatorships
  • Education


BSBA and Master’s in Accounting, Master’s in Inter-Cultural Studies, and Doctorate in Juris Prudence

  • Rockhurst University
  • Liberty University
  • University of Missouri – Kansas City

Admissions to Practice

  • Missouri

Professional Memberships and Affiliations

  • State Bar of Missouri
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (long-time Member)
  • Elder Counsel (Charter and Ongoing Member)
  • Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys (Past Member)
  • Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association
  • Missouri State Bar Committees – Elder Law, Estate Planning, Probate