Frequently Asked Questions
Legal Knowledge from Our Denver Estate Planning & Probate Lawyer
At the James A. Littlepage Law Offices, our knowledgeable attorney can help you and your family. With over 40 years of experience, James A. Littlepage has helped thousands of clients throughout Colorado.
For more information on some frequently asked questions, read the information below, or call us at 303.756.5808 today!
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 to your beneficiaries free from probate and the federal estate tax.
An estate plan enables you to:
- Nominate a guardian for your minor children
- Select the persons, organizations, or charities that will inherit your estate
- Impose reasonable conditions on the inheritance
- Avoid probate
- Reduce or eliminate the federal estate tax
- Provide for the orderly transfer of a family business, farm, or ranch to the next generation
- Plan for the possibility of future incapacity
What documents can I draft myself?
If you want to be assured that your documents are done correctly, it is best to get the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. Documents available at office supply stores or on the internet are extremely simplistic, inadequate, and often don’t comply with Colorado law. Further, when 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, and it only makes sense to seek professional assistance to insure that these assets are adequately protected, passed to the people that you care about, and you avoid unnecessary expenses to fix "DIY" mistakes.
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:
- Titled personal property with an aggregate value of $61,000 or more
- 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 passed away and no one can find his will. 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 assets after his death. A qualified probate attorney experienced with non-conforming Wills will know how to proceed.
If I die before my divorce is final, does my surviving spouse inherit?
Yes, unless the divorcing spouses executed new wills during the divorce proceeding that deleted each other as devisees. Even then, the surviving spouse will have a right to claim his or her elective share.
What is the difference between a medical power of attorney and a living will? 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, or other medical issues.
A medical POA is much broader in scope and more “powerful” than a living will. Think of a living will as an umbrella and a POA 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 POA and thus it is not necessary to have both. In fact, it may just confuse the situation!
Get answers to estate planning issues by contacting a Denver Estate Planning Attorney today.