Estate Planning Frequently Asked Questions
Denver Estate Planning Lawyer
What is estate planning?
Estate planning is a cohesive written plan, typically involving a Will and/or a living revocable trust (LRT) for distributing your assets at the time of your death. The goal of an estate plan is to enable you to use your assets during your lifetime and then transfer these assets upon your death to your beneficiaries --- free from probate and the federal estate tax.
Why do I need estate planning - I'm not wealthy?
An estate plan enables you to: (1) nominate a Guardian for your minor children; (2) select the persons, organizations or charities that will inherit your estate; (3) impose reasonable conditions on the inheritance; (4) avoid probate; (5) reduce or eliminate the federal estate tax; (6) provide for the orderly transfer of a family business, farm or ranch to the next generation; and (7) plan for the possibility of future incapacity. With the help of a Denver estate planning lawyer from Law Offices of James A. Littlepage, a reasoned strategy to protect your interests can be created.
What documents can I do myself?
If you want to be assured that the documents are done correctly – none - unless you are an experienced estate planning attorney! The documents that are available at office supply stores, on the internet, etc. are extremely simplistic, inadequate and often don’t comply with Colorado law. Further, in reviewing documents for my “do it yourself” clients, I typically find at least one major mistake. Even lawyers who do not specialize in estate planning typically have their documents prepared by an estate planning attorney. You’ve worked all of your life to accumulate assets so it only makes sense to seek professional assistance to insure that these assets are adequately protected, pass to the people that you care about and avoid unnessary expense to fix "DIY" mistakes.
Does Colorado have an estate tax?
Not currently, but stay tuned.
What is a Qualified Terminal Interest Property Trust (QTIP)?
A QTIP, in very basic terms, provides that the surviving spouse will receive income from the deceased spouse’s trust, but not necessarily any principle. It is typically used in the case of second marriages, where both spouses want to provide income to the surviving spouse, but want to preserve the principle for his or her own children.
What is probate?
Probate is a court procedure for transferring a deceased person's assets to his or her beneficiaries and ensuring that the claims of creditors are paid. Under Colorado law an estate is subject to probate if the deceased owned: (1) titled personal property with an aggregate value of $61,000 or more; or (2) real estate of any value. Colorado has two types of probate; formal and informal. Typically, estates that are relatively simple and are non-contested are handled through informal probate which is faster and less expensive than formal probate.
Dad just passed away. I know he signed a will because I have a copy of it, but no one can find the original will. Now what do we do?
If the estate is subject to probate, the probate attorney can open formal probate without the original Will. Formal probate can also be utilized in cases where the deceased left signed, hand written documents discussing the distribution of his assests after his death. A qualified probate attorney experienced with non-conforming Wills will know how to proceed.
If someone dies before his or her divorce is final, does the surviving spouse inherit?
Yes, unless the divorcing spouses executed new Wills during the divorce proceeding deleting each other as devisees under the Will. Even then, the surviving spouse will have a right to claim his or her elective share.
What is Elder Law?
Elder law addresses the unique needs of our aging population. As a result of Alzheimer's disease or dementia, many seniors are unable to care for themselves or make important decisions regarding their health care and finances. Other elders, while capable of handling their own affairs, still need assistance in planning ahead for long term care needs. Our firm can provide guidance and can prepare Powers of Attorney that will enable you to make medical and financial decisions for your senior. And, in situations where the senior is incapacitated we can assist you in establishing a guardianship and
conservatorship to insure that the financial and medical needs of your senior are met.
Medicaid planning and other matters that need to be addressed by families of an elderly person with special needs are other issues covered by Elder Law.
What is the difference between a Medical Power of Attorney and a Living Will? Which is better? Do I need both?
A Medical Power of Attorney appoints a person to act on your behalf in making medical decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. That person “stands in your shoes.” That is, he or she can make the same type of decisions that you could make regarding life support, medical treatment, etc. A Medical Power of Attorney is much broader in scope and more “powerful” than a
Living Will. Think of a Living Will as an umbrella and a Medical Power of Attorney as a tent. While it is a good idea to discuss your feelings regarding life support with your family (and even to put your feelings in writing), a Living Will is overridden by a Medical Power of Attorney and thus it is not necessary to have both. In fact, it may just confuse the situation!
Can I take out a Reverse Mortgage if my property is in a revocable trust?
In most cases, yes, property in a revocable trust will usually qualify. The lender can examine the trust to see if it meets the program guidelines and, should it fail to meet the guidelines, your estate planning attorney can probably modify the trust so that it does comply.
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contacting a Denver Estate Planning Attorney