Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning



Why Should I Write A Will? 

If you die without a Will, state statutes will determine who receives your property.  Frequently, this is not a problem since the statutes provide that your closest family members, in an order and amounts defined by the intestate succession statute, are the ones to receive your property.  The distribution established by statute may be exactly what you want.  However, if you do want to select the people who will receive your estate in an order or proportions different than the statute dictates, a Will is necessary.  Many people like to choose the people who will serve as personal representative of their estates, or guardians for minor children.  The only way to make such choices effective is to write a Will.



Can I Write My Own Will?

Yes.  Colorado statutes recognize that a person may write how his or her property is to be distributed at death, and permit any written document which is intended to list such wishes to be probated as a Will.  Furthermore, there are certain computer programs and prepared forms available that can be completed and signed to establish a Will.  There are many reasons to have an attorney prepare your Will, however.  Some of the computer generated and prepared forms on the market do not meet the requirements of an informal Colorado probate process, resulting in a more difficult and expensive probate process.  It is difficult to know which forms are acceptable for informal probate without consulting an attorney.  Furthermore, an attorney should be able to provide help in other estate issues, such as possible estate tax issues, trust provisions for minor children, and unforeseen circumstances.



What is a Living Trust? 

A Living Trust is a legal entity formed to hold, invest, and distribute assets held by the Trust  based on instructions in the Trust document.  A Trustee is named in the Trust Agreement and that Trustee is responsible to carry out the directions of the Settlor who funded the Trust.  The Trust Agreement also names Beneficiaries, who are the people who receive money from the Trust. 



Do I Need A Living Trust? 

A Living Trust may be a good idea if your estate may incur significant probate costs, such as an estate that owns real estate in more than one state.  However, a typical Colorado resident may find that his or her situation does not justify the expense and hassle of creating and maintaining a Living Trust.  SInce there are specific factual situations in which a Living Trust is useful, you should carefully weigh your options before deciding whether to utilize a Living Trust.



Do I Need To Plan For Estate Taxes? 

Because estate tax laws are changed from time to time, it is difficult to predict whether it is necessary to plan for estate taxes.  However, based on current laws, estate taxes will be due only if assets of more than $5,000,000 (with adjustments for inflation) are transferred by gift or at death.  If your assets, including any that belong to your spouse or you and your spouse jointly, life insurance, retirement plans, equity in your house, and investments, exceed five million dollars, it may be advisable to consult an attorney regarding estate tax planning.



What Is A Power of Attorney? 

A Power of Attorney is a document which gives authority to make decisions and sign documents to an agent selected by you.  These Powers are particularly useful if you become incapacitated, since the Power of Attorney can be written to allow your agent to make financial or business decisions for you if you are unable to handle your own business affairs.  If you can name an agent who is completely trustworthy and would handle your business affairs as you would your own, it is typically a good idea to have a Power of Attorney available in case of an emergency in which you were incapacitated.



Should I Sign A Living Will or Medical Power of Attorney? 

A Living Will provides guidance to doctors and medical personnel in the event you are incapacitated with a terminal illness.  A Medical Power of Attorney is a broader document, which can provide the same sort of instructions as a Living Will, but also names a trusted agent to make a variety of medical and personal decisions for you in the event you are incapacitated.  If you are comfortable naming a particular trusted friend or family member to make these sort of decisions for you, we would recommend signing a Medical Power of Attorney to be on hand in the event of an emergency.



How Long Does It Take To Get A Will? 

We can typically draft a Will within one week of obtaining information from our client that is needed to put into the Will.  In an emergency, a Will can be prepared in less time.  Typically, we ask our client to write down the information which we need to draft the Will, in response to a set of questions which we can mail, e-mail, or fax to you.  Once the Will is drafted, we send it to you to review.  You can then call us with questions and desired changes.  Once we have made changes to the drafts to finalize the Wills, we schedule an appointment with you to go over the final document and execute the Will.  The whole process can sometimes be accomplished in a day, if necessary, but typically takes a couple of weeks.



How Much Does A Will Cost? 

Usually we can quote a flat fee for a simple Will and Powers of Attorney, once we have some standard information from you which we can cover in a telephone conversation.  Please call Jill Whitley or Linda Gould at 719-531-0994 if you would like further information.  You will not be billed for your initial telephone conversation.



How Do I Start the Process of Getting A Will? 

Please call us at 719-531-0994, or e-mail Linda Gould.


We will ask you to provide us with answers to some standard questions.  If you would like, you can review those questions by clicking here.

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