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Colorado Springs Estate Planning And Probate Blog

When should Coloradans review their estate plan?

Some people in Colorado might execute a will or trust, and then consider the matter open and shut. However, estate planning is truly an ongoing process. There are many reasons why it is good to review your estate plan periodically, to ensure it still meets your needs and wishes, as well as the needs of your loved ones.

One reason to review an estate plan is if you move out-of-state. Each state has its own laws with regards to estate planning. For example, some states make it mandatory that a surviving spouse inherits a certain amount of their partner's estate. In addition, certain states still impose an inheritance tax or an estate tax on residents. If you move to a state with different estate planning laws than the state you executed the estate plan in, it may be time to review your estate plan to account for these differences.

Estate planning is for people of all ages and wealth

When people in Colorado think of estate planning, they may think of an elderly person dictating their last will and testament on their death bed. However, estate planning is critically important to complete early on in life. First, sadly, no one is guaranteed old age, so it is best to be prepared early. Second, estate planning encompasses aspects beyond simply deciding who should inherit your assets. It can address your medical and financial care should you become incapacitated during your lifetime. Estate planning is necessary for people of any age and of any wealth.

Of course, people want the estate planning process to run smoothly. They want to ensure their family understands and respects their wishes. And, through estate planning a person can avoid the complex probate process, which can cost a person's loved ones a lot in time and money.

Important estate planning tips if you have a special needs child

If you are a parent of a special needs child, it is important that you have safeguards in place, so they are ensured the best care possible in the future. You will want to make sure that all expenses, unique needs and their education are accounted for. Here are the things you should be ready to prepare in your estate plan that will address your special needs child.

Are there ways to bypass the probate process?

Many Coloradans may wish to avoid having their estate go through probate upon their death. After all, the probate process takes time and costs money, thus diminishing the value of their estate. However, there are certain ways property can be passed on to your loved ones while bypassing the probate process.

For example, if property is owned by joint tenants with a right of survivorship, it will not go through probate when one tenant dies. Instead, it will be passed on entirely to the surviving tenant. This is because joint tenants have equal shares in the property at issue concurrently and under the same ownership documents.

Stan Lee's death brings up important estate planning lessons

Fans of Marvel comics and movies may have been saddened to hear of the passing of Marvel creator, Stan Lee at age 95. However, residents of Colorado can learn important estate planning lessons from Lee's passing. This is because it is not known whether he had executed any estate planning documents in light of the complicated relationships he had in his late years.

Lee claimed that funds from his bank accounts were used without his authorization to purchase a condominium. He executed a signed document that he later took back claiming his daughter was a spendthrift, was emotionally abusive and intended to take advantage of him. In addition, in his final years, he hired new lawyers and business managers. Lee was also ill in the last year of his life. This illness and the accusations of stolen funds combined with the allegations against his daughter, the possible lack of a will or trust and the abrupt change in legal and financial representatives could possibly lead to estate litigation.

Don't forget tangible property when estate planning

When a person in Colorado Springs is executing an estate plan, they may fall into the trap of thinking they can just split everything equally between their heirs. While this can be relatively straightforward with regard to bank accounts and other intangible assets, it can be more difficult when it comes to personal property. How does one handle the division of family heirlooms, such as grandmother's wedding ring or a valuable painting? These tangible assets can be more complicated to address in an estate plan. This is because people may not know what these assets are currently worth, and these assets may have a lot of sentimental value for certain family members. That being said, it is just as important to include tangible assets in your estate plan as it is to include intangible assets.

First, it is important to ascertain the fair market value of each tangible asset included in your estate plan. Certified appraisers can assist with this. Once you understand the entire value of your estate and all its assets, it can be easier to determine how to divide it fairly.

Wills in Colorado must be executed with the proper formalities

People in Colorado Springs may have seen scenes in movies or on television where a dying person makes a will, often with the phrase, "I, being of sound mind and body ..." However, these portrayals of executing a will aren't always accurate. First, an adult of any age who is in good health can execute a will -- they need not be elderly or at death's door. Second, certain legal formalities must be followed in order for a will to be made legally sound and enforceable.

First, it is important to understand who can execute a will. To execute a will, a person must be at least 18-years-old. They must be of sound mind. They must know the extent of the assets they possess. They also need to know who their immediate relatives are. Finally, they must be able to decide who they want to pass their estate on to.

What are the duties of a personal representative in Colorado?

When a person in Colorado dies, any assets that are not placed in a trust, do not have a designated beneficiary and are owned solely by the deceased must go through the probate process. When this happens, a personal representative will be assigned by the court. This person's role as a fiduciary is to wind down the deceased's affairs and distribute the assets of the estate to the deceased's heirs.

The personal representative is responsible for posting notice through the U.S. postal system or in an area newspaper of the deceased's passing, so that creditors are aware of the death. Any legitimate claims from creditors can then be made. The estate must be inventoried, valued, consolidated and liquidated, if necessary. Once the creditor claim period has ended, the personal representative can issue payments to creditors. Filing the necessary tax returns and paying the applicable taxes and fees are also duties of the personal representative. The remaining assets of the estate can then be distributed to the deceased's heirs.

How you can use estate planning to ease family disputes

As you are amid the important work of your estate planning, you may be focusing on areas such as taxes or funeral arrangements. One of the most important aspects of estate planning is preparing your family for a future without you. Estate planning makes the transition of you not being around easier for your family and can leave out speculation about your wishes. Unfortunately, many people neglect estate planning which leads to assets left behind causing arguments and conflicts. If keeping the family from fighting after your death is important to you, there are ways to try to ease tensions among the family once you are gone.

What assets cannot be included in one's will?

No one in Colorado Springs truly wants to think of their eventual death. However, death is a certainty no matter what a person's age or wealth. Therefore, it is important to plan for what happens to your assets after you die. Many people choose to accomplish this goal by executing a will. However, they should keep in mind that certain assets cannot be disposed of in a will.

Only assets that are solely owned by you and that do not have a beneficiary designation can be included in a will. Some assets are held in joint tenancy, meaning they have more than one owner. For example, a spouse and their partner may jointly own a home, automobiles or other assets as joint tenants. When one joint tenant dies, the asset will automatically pass to the surviving joint tenant.

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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