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A Conversation With … Lori Rook

Owner and Managing Attorney, Ozarks Elder Law LLC

Posted online

What was behind your expansion of the firm to include business services through Ozarks Business Law LLC?
It’s been something I’ve had on my to-do list for a while. It came from just seeing an increased need with our current clients. We were seeing an influx of small-business owners, mom and pops, so to speak, that maybe weren’t set up properly. A lot of those people that had aged and were starting to have health issues and have questions about long-term care. You start seeing an overlap of how can I serve their business needs, how can I serve their long-term care needs? How can we focus on their estate plan and their succession planning? It gives us an opportunity to also talk to them about if something happens to you, who’s going to run your business, how are we going to move forward? How is your family going to be taken care of?

What are the biggest needs from your business clients?
The entity formation, making sure they’re set up as the correct entity, because there are other options out there besides an LLC. A lot of these people do not have operating agreements, some contract disputes and there’s real estate pieces with some of these businesses, contested matters, farm protection. Just overall questions about what should we do now, getting it funded. I had a client the other day who had an LLC and he had nothing in it and so nothing’s protected. There’s an asset protection piece there, as well. A lot of people only view their business as income production, but they don’t view it as an asset.

How many offices do you have now?
We have five. We have one in Joplin, Marshfield, Nixa, Ozark and Springfield. We have plans to open additional offices. In our more rural areas, so like in our Webster County area, and even our Jasper and Newton counties area, we’re seeing a lot more farmers. These are century farms. Making sure that they are set up properly for long-term care needs, making sure they’re set up for passing it on down the line to their children or other family members.

Baby boomers are retiring in record numbers and people are living longer. How’s that affecting the elder law side of the business?
The statistic is 10,000 people (turn 65) every day. So it’s not going away. People are living longer, especially women. It’s absolutely growing, and it’s becoming more complex. It used to be you would just see, for example, a wife that was a homemaker. Well, now we’re seeing more of those that worked outside the home and they’re living longer and so there’s just more and more layers. The rules are always changing, so it’s staying on top of this stuff.

Is the prevalence of long-term planning changing among generations?
We do a lot of crisis planning here. It’s generational. You can sit across the table from someone and you can look at the year they were born and you can kind of guess this wasn’t something they talked about because you didn’t talk about it. Or I may be sitting across the table from someone who just dealt with their parents, and they want to not be sitting in that situation with their children as they age. I always tell people I wish I could catch people earlier, and I’m hoping with our Ozarks Business Law that we can do that because these are all interrelated areas. We are doing more estate planning for younger and younger adults.

Two attorneys exited your firm in August to create a competing firm, The Elder Law Group LLC. How has this affected operations?
It’s not really affected us from a client perspective. From a staffing standpoint, obviously we’re hiring. We’re still just as busy as we were. We’re being slow with hiring. It takes a person with passion to do this. You have got to have compassion, and you’ve got to have patience. We have some onboarding going on, and there’s going to be some announcements soon.

Lori Rook can be reached at lrook@ozarkselderlaw.com.

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