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Colorado Springs Estate Planning And Probate Blog

What is a financial power of attorney?

An estate plan is a set of testamentary documents that provides instructions to survivors about how the decedent wished to distribute the property and assets in their estate. Colorado residents of all backgrounds and walks of life should have estate plans to ensure that their end-of-life wishes are honored in the event that emergencies or other unexpected events curtail their lives. Estate planning attorneys can assist readers who are interested in pursuing this type of legal work.

However, some estate planning documents may be important even before the drafter passes away. For example, if a person becomes incapacitated and is unable to make decisions for themselves, they may need someone else to act on their behalf. With regard to financial matters, this person can be named in a financial power of attorney document.

Does every will have to be written?

People in Colorado may have executed a written will that meets all the necessary legal formalities, including being witnessed and signed by the appropriate number of individuals. However, not everyone takes this essential step. Sometimes, a person hand-writes a will without witnesses or may even try to verbalize their dying wishes. It is important to understand whether these types of informal wills will be honored in Colorado.

Colorado recognizes holographic wills. Holographic wills are generally hand-written. These wills may be signed by the creator of the will, but they may not have been witnessed. If a holographic will is signed by the creator and the material provisions of the will are in the creator's handwriting, it is possible that the will may be valid in Colorado.

Three holographic wills uncovered in late music legend's home

Music fans in Colorado Springs may remember the death of music legend Aretha Franklin last August. At the time of her death, it seemed that Franklin passed away without executing a will. However, three holographic wills were recently uncovered in her home. These wills have been filed in probate court and are awaiting further action at a June 12 hearing on the matter.

One of the wills was written in a spiral notebook discovered in a sofa. It was dated March 2014 but is practically unreadable, with many items crossed out and notes written in the margins of the paper. The two other wills were discovered in a locked cabinet. These wills were dated 2010. Franklin's attorney has moved the court to determine if any of these wills is valid and enforceable.

What can revocable trusts do in Colorado?

Many people in Colorado include a revocable trust in their estate plan. Revocable trusts can be useful in estate planning, since they provide a means for preserving a person's assets to hand down to trust beneficiaries upon the grantor's death. Moreover, unlike irrevocable trusts, grantors can modify a revocable trust during their lifetime. However, it is important to understand what exactly a revocable trust can and cannot do.

First, many people believe that their revocable trust will automatically bypass probate. However, this isn't always true. First, if a revocable trust is not fully funded, then the assets that would have gone to the trust will be probated. Second, some states require revocable trusts to go through some sort of probate process so that creditors do not have access to trust funds and also to limit the timeframe beneficiaries have to challenge the trust. However, this process is often quicker and cheaper than the probate process when a person dies intestate.

What happens if a beneficiary dies before their inheritance?

Creating a will requires careful consideration of your assets, your loved ones and your anticipation of the future. Contemplating your own death is not easy, but necessary if you are going to be a forward-thinker. Oftentimes, the well-being of your loved ones depends on considering your own mortality and what you have left to offer others when you reach the end of your life.

Unfortunately, many individuals who create a will, fail to make any secondary arrangements in the event their named beneficiary dies before they do. Not having a backup plan to your preferred plan is a big mistake when creating a will. A good estate plan will guide you through all the possible scenarios and help you prepare for them accordingly.

Colorado law dictates who will inherit in the absence of a will

Some people in Colorado may intend to execute a will someday, but simply never get around to it. Other people may put off executing an estate plan because they don't want to think about their own death. Whatever the reason, people in Colorado sometimes die without ever executing a will or trust. When this happens, a person's estate will be passed on to their heirs through the laws of intestate succession.

Intestate succession is the part of the probate process where the heirs are identified and the estate is distributed. If there is no will stating who is to inherit the estate, the state will determine who these heirs should be. If the decedent leaves behind a surviving spouse but no children or parents, then the spouse will receive the entire estate.

Choosing the right trustee for your trust

Incorporating a trust into your estate plan is a great way for many Coloradoans to exercise more control, customization and protection over their assets. While many different types of trusts exist to accomplish distinct goals, one thing remains constant: the need for a responsible trustee to facilitate the transfer of your assets.

Similar to how a personal representative manages the will after a death, a trustee manages the trust. In some cases, the trustee fulfills their duties both from the point of its creation and after the death of the creator of the trust. This role is one that can be complex, time-consuming and financially intricate. With that said, what are some considerations when choosing your trustee?

Can you disinherit your spouse in your will?

Relationships between spouses in Colorado can be interesting, to say the least. Some are very traditional, while others could be described as unconventional. The same can be said when it comes to estate planning and your spouse. Many people want to include provisions in their wills that leave, at least a portion of their estate, to their surviving spouse. However, for a variety of personal reasons, a spouse may try to leave their partner nothing should they pass on before their partner does.

However, surviving spouses generally cannot be disinherited entirely, even if that is what their partner's will purports to do. While state law varies on this subject, in most common law states, a surviving spouse is legally entitled to a certain percentage of the deceased spouse's estate. If the deceased spouse leaves their partner less than the state-mandated amount, the surviving spouse can choose to either accept the terms of their deceased partner's will or move the court to inherit the statutory amount set by the state.

How do employee benefits fit into estate planning?

Starting a new job in Colorado can be exciting, but one part of a new job is filling out a lot of paperwork, such as tax forms and corporate policies. And, you may have signed up for the benefit packages that came with your job, such as life insurance, retirement accounts and stock options. When doing so, you may have chosen a beneficiary and a secondary beneficiary who would receive these assets upon your death.

Some people may name their spouse and their children if they have them as beneficiaries to these types of assets. However, if a person later goes on to execute a will or trust, they must keep these accounts in mind. This is because these types of assets cannot be inherited through a will or trust, but, instead, will pass directly to the named beneficiary. While most of the time this is okay, there are times when this situation could become problematic.

Don't let the probate process overwhelm you

The term probate may be confusing to some in Colorado, while others may have a very negative opinion of it. Probate is simply the process through which the deceased's assets are gathered, creditors are paid and then what remains is passed on per the terms of the deceased's will or through the laws of intestate succession in the absence of a will or trust. A personal representative will be assigned to administer the estate. This person may be named in the deceased's will or be assigned by the court.

In Colorado, if the total value of the deceased's assets amounts to $64,000 or less and the deceased did not own any real estate, then it is possible to skip the formal probate process and execute a statutorily authorized affidavit. However, if the deceased's estate is worth more than $64,000 or if the deceased owned real estate, then the deceased's estate must be probated.

Schroer & Williams Law Offices, PLLC
7045 Campus Drive, Suite 103
Colorado Springs, CO 80920-6560
Phone: 719-473-4355
Fax: 719-380-0299
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