Some Of The Most Commonly Asked Colorado Estate Planning Questions And Their Answers
Both those who are new to estate planning and those who have had some planning done have questions about the process and what to expect. At Lyndsey Richard LLC, we want you to feel comfortable moving forward with your plan or with your role as executor or administrator. We’ve prepared this list of common questions and their answers in an effort to shed some light on the process.
For more detailed or expanded answers please call 303-848-8352. Your initial phone call is always free.
An estate plan is a set of legal documents that stipulate how all of your assets will be inventoried, managed and distributed during your life and upon your death. Having an estate plan in place enables the people you trust to have immediate authority to step in and handle the situation. Some of the documents are used during your lifetime during different emergencies to ensure that your finances and medical care are handled by the individuals you trust; other documents ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes to the people who you specify. An estate plan typically includes the following documents:
- Living Will (Advance Medical Directive)
- General Power of Attorney – Property and Financial Matters
- Medical Durable Power of Attorney – Health Care Decisions
- HIPAA Release
- Burial Instructions
- Guardianship Documents Relating to Minor Children
- A Trust (in some, but not all, cases)
You can see the difference between a will and a trust by viewing this helpful chart.
Without an estate plan, Colorado’s intestate succession laws will dictate the assessment, management and distribution of your possessions and accounts. Who takes care of your children who are under age 18 will be determined by the Colorado courts. Other court processes, like guardianships or conservatorships, may occur during your lifetime to empower people to handle your affairs if you were unable to manage things for yourself. Probate processes vary by state. Colorado costs time and money. Any time an impersonal bureaucratic body makes life-altering decisions regarding a family or a person’s estate, it can create serious disruptions and lead to strained or severed relationships.
As the executor, personal representative or administrator, you have quite a few responsibilities. You will need to locate and inventory all of the deceased’s assets. These can include physical property such as land, homes, cabins, jewelry, collections, boats, cars and other vehicles. You will also need to locate all financial assets such as investments, bank savings and retirement or 401(k) accounts, life insurance polices, pension and the like. You will also need to let the named beneficiaries or heirs know that the person died. A notice in a local paper may be necessary to alert creditors of the passing. You will need to file some court documents, pay outstanding debts and file the tax return. All other companies will need to be notified of the passing, these include insurance, credit card and utility companies. We offer estate administration guidance.
What do I need to do as the trustee of a trust?
A trustee “administers” the trust estate. A trust estate is all items, property and investments that are included in the trust. The trustee’s job is to collect and protect the estate. You may have to do some investing or divesting of financial assets and then allocate and distribute them as per the terms of the trust. A trustee can also be a beneficiary, as is often the case when a parent dies and leaves an adult child or relative in charge of overseeing the trust.
A will, or “last will and testament,” is a formal documentation of your wishes. These wishes can include how you would like your things to be distributed and whom you want to raise your children. It can also include a designated person to make medical or financial decisions for you if you become unable (also called a health care proxy and a financial POA). A will is also an opportunity to spell out your intentions and the reasons behind your decisions if you feel your family would benefit from having this clarity. Wills are not set in stone and can be updated, amended or revoked any time you wish.
A trust is a special type of holding entity. You designate a trustee or trustees to manage your trust. You can be a trustee of your own trust. There are many types of trusts, some are revocable and some are not. A special needs trust or trust for minor children can be set up for dependents who will need financial management after your passing. Revocable trusts can be amended during your lifetime. Trusts can work to protect assets from taxes and creditors, and can help your estate avoid probate.
What is a general durable (financial) power of attorney and medical durable power of attorney (or health care proxy)?
A general durable power of attorney (POA) is a document that designates a person to make financial decisions on your behalf, if you are unable to do so. This person can be a spouse, adult child, friend or unrelated person. A medical durable power of attorney, also called a health care proxy, is the person you designate to make health care decisions on your behalf, again if you are unable to do so.
We understand that cost can be a concern. In most cases, our estate planning services are priced at a flat fee – meaning that you’ll know all costs upfront and they won’t change. Our fees are also competitive for Denver-area estate attorneys.
Get The Answers And Guidance You Need To Plan Well
It’s most important that you partner with an attorney whom you trust and connect well with. Contact us today and we’ll review everything, including estimated costs, together. Call 303-848-8352 or send us an inquiry email.