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Estate planning and how to avoid probate

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probate and wills

In a recent blog post, we discussed what might happen if you pass away without a will and what might happen with a will. When you pass away owning property in your sole name (regardless of if you have a will or not), your assets might need to go through probate in order for your heirs to inherit your property. Having a will does not avoid probate—it just determines who will receive your property. If you die owning property in your sole name without a will, your estate still passes through probate—but who receives your property will typically be determined under the laws of the state where your primary residence is at your date of death (the “intestacy laws”).

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Probate is a court process to provide for an organized way of winding up a deceased person’s affairs. During this process, a personal representative or executor is appointed by the Probate Court to supervise the collection of your probate assets, payment of your final bills and taxes, and distribution of your assets according to either your will or the intestacy laws. This may or may not be what you intend and might be more expensive than if you made other plans in advance.

Avoiding Probate

There are ways to distribute your property at your death according to your wishes without going through probate. While the techniques might vary from state to state, these typically include:

  • titling property jointly with another (“joint tenants with rights of survivorship”)
  • creating a beneficiary deed for real estate
  • adding a “transfer on death” or “pay on death” designation to assets, such as bank or investment accounts, or by beneficiary designation for assets such as your retirement plan, IRA or life insurance
  • creating a “revocable” or “living” trust and retitling your assets in the name of your trust

The trustee holds the legal title to the property owned in the revocable trust, not you as owner. The trust property is held by the trustee for your benefit during your lifetime.  You can choose to serve as your own trustee as long as you are able. At your death, the property held in the trust is distributed by the successor trustee of the trust to those family members, friends or charities you name in your trust agreement, similar to the instructions you can leave in your will.

A Living Trust

There are many advantages to creating a living trust:

  • Control: You can be your own trustee during your lifetime and then you name a successor trustee (such as a bank) to serve after you cannot or do not wish to serve.
  • Flexibility: You can typically change the terms of the trust at any time while you are living. If you become disabled, your successor trustee can step in and pay your bills, manage your investments and allow you to avoid “living probate” where otherwise a court appointed conservator might be needed to manage your affairs. You can create trusts for your minor children or grandchildren to be created after your death, hold assets in further trust for disabled or disadvantaged beneficiaries and even create trusts for charities.
  • Privacy: The terms of the trust and its assets and values are typically private, unlike a probate proceeding, which is a public matter where your will (if any) and list of assets are filed with the court and open to inspection by anyone.

Your living trust would be part of your overall estate plan, which would likely include a “pour over will” (just in case assets weren’t retitled into your trust’s name at your death), powers of attorney for financial and healthcare decisions and a living will.

 

Be sure to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss what estate plan is right for you under the circumstances.  We also recommend discussing your options with a wealth advisor who can assist you with your financial goals, working together with your attorney and other trusted advisors.

 

 

UMB is not providing you with any legal or tax advice.  You need to consult with your own legal and tax advisors to determine what estate plan is best for you and how the laws of the state governing your estate might affect you given your specific circumstances.

 

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Ms. Teson is a Senior Vice President and Private Wealth Management’s Senior Legal Counsel at UMB Bank. She is responsible for managing Private Wealth Management’s Legal, Fiduciary Tax and Real Estate and Unique Asset teams. She joined UMB in 1992 and has been a licensed attorney for 32 years. She is also a Certified Financial Planner.



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UMB: Inspiration – Private Wealth Management

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UMB prides itself on being a financial institution with a heartbeat. We are passionate about what we do and want to share what inspires us.

Dana’s father inspired her to be a leader, her small business owner mother influenced her commercial banking roots and several mentors helped to shape her career. Hear more about what inspires the leader of our Private Wealth Management department.

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Dana Abraham is president of the Personal Banking Division and is responsible for the delivery of comprehensive financial services for consumers across UMB's footprint. She joined UMB in 2005 and has more than 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. Dana earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in both accounting and economics from the University of Louisiana. She is a graduate of Leadership Overland Park and Kansas City Tomorrow Leadership programs.



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Benefits of a will

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A will allows you to protect and distribute your property owned by you at your death* through a written legal document. By detailing who should inherit what, you try to ensure that your possessions are distributed by your wishes, rather than state laws.  Remember, having a will does not mean that your estate will avoid probate.
Benefits of Having a Will

*Your will only affects property owned by you at your death titled in your sole name. It typically does not affect property which is owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, which passes by beneficiary deed or designation, including “Pay on Death” or “Transfer on Death,” or which is owned by a trust.

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UMB is not providing you with any legal or tax advice.  You need to consult with your own legal and tax advisors to determine what estate plan is best for you and how the laws of the state governing your estate might affect you given your specific circumstances.

 

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Ms. Teson is a Senior Vice President and Private Wealth Management’s Senior Legal Counsel at UMB Bank. She is responsible for managing Private Wealth Management’s Legal, Fiduciary Tax and Real Estate and Unique Asset teams. She joined UMB in 1992 and has been a licensed attorney for 32 years. She is also a Certified Financial Planner.



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UMB Insights: Funding a Trust

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We’ve already walked you through the process of estate planning. Today, we’ll explain how to fund that trust and give you an important reminder to update it as your life changes.

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Ms. Gattis joined UMB in 2009. As a Senior Financial Planner, she is responsible for working with clients to insure that they are finding a solution to reaching their unique financial goals. Ms. Gattis has 20 years of experience in the financial industry. Prior to joining UMB, she served as a Private Client Manager for US Trust. Ms. Gattis earned Bachelors in Human Resource Management and Masters in Business Administration degrees from Wichita State University.



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Do you need a wealth advisor?

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Do you need a wealth advisor (also known as financial planner)? You might think that only the very wealthy need this type of expert advice. If you’re interested in investing, whether it’s for retirement, education or to leave a legacy, it is recommended that you work with a financial planning professional.

Whether it’s your first time talking to a financial planning professional or your 10th, you want to ensure your advisor is taking the time to ask the sometimes difficult questions to plan the best future for you.

Basic financial planning questions

Most customers focus on questions like:

  • Will I have enough to retire?
  • Will my children’s education be taken care of?
  • What if I get sick?

These are important topics to cover, but an in-depth financial/estate planning will include more than these basic questions.

Do I need a trust?

One question you should ask is, “Do I need a trust?” A trust is a legal agreement that allows you to transfer assets to a trustee. A trust can be used for various reasons including to:

  • manage assets
  • protect assets
  • facilitate charitable gifts
  • transfer of monetary assets or property

If the answer is yes, your advisor should assist you with making sure your assets are titled appropriately, or given the correct ownership recognition. You wouldn’t want to spend several thousand dollars for an attorney to prepare a trust document, only to find out that the assets aren’t titled appropriately. If so, the trust doesn’t get funded and your estate plan isn’t carried out to your intentions.

What about insurance?

Your advisor should also discuss the topic of insurance with you. Customers and advisors sometimes avoid this question, as it can be an uncomfortable conversation. Most insurance is used in the case of a disaster, accident, illness or death, and these are not pleasant subjects to discuss. You want an advisor who will understand the sensitivities of these topics, but will not avoid the subject. Insurance is an important part of a financial plan and it can be helpful to your family’s future.

Building relationships

You should look for an advisor who will build a relationship with you. If they work to create more than a business partnership, it’s likely there will be more open dialogue between you both. Advisors who are thorough in their work and ask the hard questions will be able to build a solid financial/estate plan for you, your family and their future generations.

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When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.

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UMB Financial Corporation (Nasdaq: UMBF) is a diversified financial holding company headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., offering complete banking services, payment solutions, asset servicing and institutional investment management to customers. UMB operates banking and wealth management centers throughout Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arizona and Texas, as well as two national specialty-lending businesses. Subsidiaries of the holding company include companies that offer services to mutual funds and alternative-investment entities and registered investment advisors that offer equity and fixed income strategies to institutions and individual investors.



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The Plan in Planned Giving

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Planned giving can be an important tool when planning for the future of your estate. Some may have a desire to give to non-profit organizations, including their alma mater, a medical research project or a favorite youth organization. Whatever your desire, make sure you work with an experienced financial partner that can help guide you through the process to ensure your goals can be met.

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First, what constitutes a meaningful gift?

Quite simply, any gift is a meaningful gift. Many people are under the impression that only the very wealthy can be philanthropic. However, this is not the case. Gifts of any size are greatly appreciated by non-profit organizations, especially now as economic challenges have affected many individuals’ ability to donate while the needs continue to grow.

Motivations for gifting

The reasons for gifting vary greatly depending on the individual. Compassion for those in need, an extension of a religious or spiritual commitment, desire to share good fortune with others and memorializing the lives of others are some of the most prevalent reasons for planned gifts. You should personally evaluate your motivation and goals, and keep them in mind when determining how and when you want to support a cause.

Selecting the “right” organization

There are many worthy organizations, and choosing the non-profit that best fits your giving intentions is extremely important. Once your inspiration for giving has been clearly identified, make a short-list of potential groups. Organizations should be carefully researched and vetted to ensure you are comfortable with the final decision. It’s important to learn about a specific topic or organization, so your philanthropy can be used in a meaningful way. Once one or more organizations have been selected, a financial partner can help you define your vision, determine how the gift will be distributed and then evaluate, when possible, how the gift has been used.

Gift Options

Another item to consider is the type of gift you may want to give. Many organizations have gift acceptance policies, which may exclude certain types of donations. Things like stocks, real estate, art or other items may be quite valuable, but you should have a conversation with the organization first to ensure they are able to accept these types of gifts.  

Planned giving is an extremely meaningful and personal investment. Taking the time to evaluate these types of questions can really help individuals and organizations make the most of charitable gifts.


Jan Leonard is senior vice president and managing director for charitable trusts, private foundations and fine art services. She joined UMB in 2003 and has more than 25 years of experience in the management of private and public organizations. Leonard earned a bachelor’s degree from Arkansas Tech University and a master’s degree in business administration from Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kan. She is also a graduate of the Cannon School of Foundation Management.



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Fiduciaries: what are they and why do you need them?

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One of the most important items in your estate planning process is naming the fiduciaries who will execute your wishes and manage your assets when needed. First, you may be wondering what exactly is a fiduciary. Very simply, a fiduciary is a third-party representative who is appointed to act on behalf of someone else.

Two of the most common fiduciaries in estate planning are the personal representative, the person who handles the assets that are included in someone’s last will and testament; and a trustee, someone who handles the assets that have been placed in a trust.

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So, why do you need a fiduciary and how do you choose the right one? Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Carefully select a fiduciary that you trust to execute your plans.

    Handling an estate may seem like a simple process that anyone can easily manage. However, don’t underestimate both the amount of work and the expertise needed to carry out required duties.

    First, there are a variety of laws that must be navigated, including complicated probate laws. Additionally, accounting for estates and trusts can be extremely technical and require excellent record keeping and tracking. Your fiduciaries must be able to show through proper accounting that they have handled and managed the estate and its assets in an accurate, fair and unbiased manner. If you pick someone who is lacking in knowledge or organizational skills they are at risk for liability and personal fines.

    Tax planning is also a necessary expertise—it’s imperative that an estate is run in a tax-efficient manner. Fiduciaries must understand how their actions affect the estate or trust as well as the beneficiaries. This includes how assets are invested and distributed since trusts are subject to different tax rates and laws than individuals or corporations.

  • There may be disagreements.

    Secondly, you may truly believe that your family members and friends will easily work together and agree on how your assets should be handled. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Appointing a family member or friend frequently causes tension or distress that may not have existed before. If not handled properly, this can easily result in stress, damaged relations or, in some cases, legal action between or against your loved ones.

  • You don’t have to be wealthy to use a professional fiduciary.

    Employing a professional fiduciary is cost-effective, and something you should think about even if you do not consider yourself to be a high-net-worth individual. Your immediate reaction may be that it’s more expensive to hire a fiduciary to handle everything, rather than seeking individual counsel from different experts as needed. However, in many cases, a fiduciary’s cost will be equal to or less expensive.

At the end of the day, it’s in your best interest to carefully research your options to select the appropriate fiduciary for your own unique situation. Designating the right person to efficiently and quickly handle these details in a difficult time is truly one of the best gifts you can leave behind.

 

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Mr. Tjaden serves as executive vice president and chief fiduciary officer. He is responsible for supervising all fiduciary activities and staff for UMB, including offices in Kansas City, St. Louis, Denver, Phoenix and Salina, as well as the Trust Company in South Dakota. Mr. Tjaden oversees Personal Trust, Custody, Foundations, Trust Legal and Business Support Services within the Private Wealth Management division. He joined UMB in 1977. Mr. Tjaden earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and political science from Kansas State University. He also earned a Juris Doctor and a master’s in business administration from the University of Kansas. Additionally, Mr. Tjaden is a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor and a member of the Estate Planning Society, the Johnson County Bar Association and the Kansas Bar Association.



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The art of fine art management

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Have you ever watched Antiques Roadshow? This popular public television show shares interesting stories of people happily discovering their personal treasures are actually quite valuable (or sometimes not!). Imagine learning that a famous designer of the late 1800’s made your great-grandmother’s favorite lamp or a rare piece of pottery you purchased on vacation is actually a sought-after piece. Fortunately, you don’t have to appear on Antiques Roadshow to learn the value of your own pieces or how to protect and possibly increase their value. There are other ways that are more easily accessible.

The Red Couch Marie Mason“The Red Couch”
Acrylic on canvas
Marie Mason

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Many people spend their lives collecting items that not only bring them personal enjoyment, but may significantly increase in value over time. Whether it’s fine artwork, collectibles (baseball cards), memorabilia (original Beatles or Elvis merchandise) or rare objects (antiques), you should consider these items important personal assets. Much like stocks and bonds, they are an important part of a full estate plan. But people don’t always think of them in this way.

By working with trusted professionals, you can ensure that your valuable items will get the attention they need during your lifetime and beyond.

So, what steps should you take to preserve and protect your fine art or collectibles?

  • Identify and protect

    Find a fine art management expert who can help you identify items that should receive additional attention to help preserve, and in some cases, maximize their worth. This person can also provide counsel on valuation (or appraisal), insurance, storage and other very specialized services that may be important in maintaining the object’s value.

  • Organize and document

    Proper documentation and cataloguing is critical. An experienced professional can help record the history and provide a comprehensive inventory of all pieces, an important aspect in maintaining their value. In the same way a museum inventories their collection, an expert can provide the same level of service and system support for your fine objects. Your record can then be updated as pieces are added or removed so the inventory is always complete. A detailed account of each item, including where and how each piece was acquired, can make a significant difference in value, plus, it’s a fun history lesson for you and your heirs.

  • Plan for the unexpected

    It’s important that your estate plans include details of how you want these assets distributed. Will they be gifted to a museum, a family member or a non-profit? Will these objects be liquidated so the funds can be passed on to relatives, loved ones or charitable organizations? Who will you trust to handle the actual distribution? These processes can be complicated and confusing. Your fine art management expert can help address and carry out these plans.

It’s never too early to get started on protecting your valued unique assets. Owners have much to gain by educating themselves about the care and protection of their personal treasures. Establishing a thoughtful, well-planned legacy ensures beloved items will be expertly managed both now and in the future.

 Flaming Tulip Janet Kummerlein“Flaming Tulip”
Acrylic on canvas
Janet Kummerlein

 

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Jan Leonard is senior vice president and managing director for charitable trusts, private foundations and fine art services. She joined UMB in 2003 and has more than 25 years of experience in the management of private and public organizations. Leonard earned a bachelor’s degree from Arkansas Tech University and a master’s degree in business administration from Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kan. She is also a graduate of the Cannon School of Foundation Management.



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Estate Planning: What will your legacy be?

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You don’t have to be a millionaire to set up an estate plan. Have you thought about passing down a family heirloom to one of your children? Maybe you’ve considered leaving money to a charity that benefits public arts funding. When you’ve spent your life acquiring assets and building wealth through hard work, it’s only natural to want some control over what happens to them after you’re gone. The best way do this is to have a sound estate plan.

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As you form your estate plan, keep in mind several key ideas.

  • Pick your heirs

    Whether you want to pay for your grandchildren’s college education or give a ring that’s been in your family for generations to your oldest daughter, decide who you want to provide for and how.

  • Provide direction

    If you have specific ideas about how you want your assets to be used when you’re gone, make sure that those ideas are clear in your estate plan. You may want to start a family foundation that supports children’s literacy or structure a trust that holds money you’ve left for your children until they reach a certain age. Whatever special objectives you have, clearly outline them in your estate plan to ensure they’re accomplished.

  • Protect your children

    If you have young children, it’s important to select a guardian to care for them and include this in your will. This may seem like an impossible task, but only you should decide who is best suited for the job. Be sure to talk to them about it before you put them in your will. Having a conversation with them ahead of time will prevent surprises and ensure they are up to the responsibility. Once they agree, make sure it’s documented. If you name a guardian in your will, the probate court will be more likely to honor your wishes. If you don’t list a guardian in your will, the court will select one without guidance.

  • Prevent legal hiccups

    Generally, assets owned by one person are subject to probate after they have passed. Probate is a name for the legal process conducted to determine the authenticity of a will and to distribute the assets of an estate. Probate involves legal costs and causes delays in the distribution process.

To avoid probate and minimize taxes on your assets, you can place part or all of them in a trust. One option is a “self declaration of trust,” where you are responsible for the assets while you are still alive (initial trustee) and a professional third party is responsible for distributing the assets after you are gone (successor trustee). Another option is to name the professional third-party as the trustee while you are still alive.

Many people tend to put off estate planning. But it is an important process for you to consider. It’s an opportunity to take control of future planning for yourself and your beneficiaries. It can be a difficult, but if successfully completed, this seemingly impossible task becomes an efficient and well-executed plan.

 

Content is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice.  Please consult an attorney for assistance related to estate plans and your particular situation.

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Mr. Tjaden serves as executive vice president and chief fiduciary officer. He is responsible for supervising all fiduciary activities and staff for UMB, including offices in Kansas City, St. Louis, Denver, Phoenix and Salina, as well as the Trust Company in South Dakota. Mr. Tjaden oversees Personal Trust, Custody, Foundations, Trust Legal and Business Support Services within the Private Wealth Management division. He joined UMB in 1977. Mr. Tjaden earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and political science from Kansas State University. He also earned a Juris Doctor and a master’s in business administration from the University of Kansas. Additionally, Mr. Tjaden is a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor and a member of the Estate Planning Society, the Johnson County Bar Association and the Kansas Bar Association.



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A smooth road to retirement

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Are you ready to begin the next stage of your life? Retirement is still an option despite the current slow-growth economy. If you’re considering or approaching retirement, there are several items to keep in mind when nearing this important milestone. If you are planning to leave the working world in the next 18 to 24 months, here are a few considerations in the current economy:

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  • Understand your actual timeline.

    Your “time horizon” may be longer than you realize. Life expectancy is also a big factor. A retirement date is an initial benchmark, but you need to keep in mind that your money can still “work for you” while you are enjoying your newly discovered free time.

  • Make sure to have a cash reserve.

    You should build up a reserve large enough to carry you through six to 12 months of retirement expenses. This can provide a cushion in case of an unexpected downturn or a major unplanned expense.

As markets can vary year to year, those with more than two years until retirement can plan for either situation in the following ways:

  • Increase contributions.

    Invest extra cash. Consistent dollar-cost averaging can help reduce the worry of when and how much to invest. You may also want to direct some of those extra contributions into a cash reserve, just in case of unexpected declines.

  • Diversify, diversify, diversify.

    Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Throughout market cycles, different classes, styles and assets with diverse market capitalizations perform differently. Actively managing your portfolio diversification can have a greater impact on performance than individual investments.

Most of all, flexibility and patience are virtues in the world of portfolio management.  Don’t fall in love with a retirement date, and don’t be frustrated with market activity. If you have questions or concerns, it may be advantageous to seek the advice of an experienced professional.

Professional advisors can offer objective, educated and customized guidance. They are also an objective and knowledgeable resource that can provide a valuable perspective. While an advisor may not be able to provide every person with the news they want to hear, a good financial advisor can help maximize and leverage the assets individuals have against their personal timelines, risk tolerance and goals.

 

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Mr. Diederich serves as managing director of portfolio management. He is responsible for managing the portfolios of high net worth clients and select institutional relationships. He joined UMB in 2003. Mr. Diederich earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo., and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Missouri – Kansas City. He is a Certified Financial Planner®, a member of the Financial Planning Association and has more than 15 years of experience in the financial services industry.



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