Guest post by Julie Nichols, JD/MSW
Probate is the legal process of what happens to someone’s property (their estate) after they die. The term also refers to the administration of that estate – the things that have to be done after a death so that ownership of all of the decedent’s property can be transferred to those who are entitled to it.
Probate proceedings are not always required (although there will always be some necessary paperwork). Sometimes ownership of assets passes automatically to pre-determined individuals. Continue reading “What is a Small Estate?”
As you look ahead to the New Year, you might set new goals or make resolutions dealing with your health, wealth and happiness. But the start of the year is also a great time to get organized with estate planning. Sure, it’s great to save some money or make your first big investment with a new home. But you work hard to make that possible! So make sure you have a say in what happens to it if something happens to you. As K.P. Edwards wrote in “Financial Counseling and Planning,” “Estate planning has long been recognized as an important part of financial planning for families.”
Contrary to popular belief, you are never too young, too healthy or too single to have a will, and you don’t need to have kids to justify drafting one either. Continue reading “Why You Should Arrange Estate Planning in 2018”
There is a common observance among lawyers: In family law, the parents fight over the children; in elder law, the children fight over the parents.
Sadly, this is often true and can lead to costly litigation. What starts out as a dispute among siblings as to whether a parent should reside with one of them can end up being a court case. When that happens, our firm is there to represent a party who wants to make sure his or her interests are protected. Continue reading “Probation Litigation: Guardians, Conservators and Estate Issues”
If you die without a will, your property goes where the state tells it to go. Being will-less is called being “intestate.” Each state has its own intestacy statutes that determine what happens to your estate when you have no will.
However, not all property is covered by these statutes (or included in a will if you have one). This property will transfer to whoever you name as beneficiary or to a surviving co-owner. This includes proceeds from a life insurance policy, property you have already transferred to a trust, retirement account funds, such as 401(k)s or IRAs, property owned in joint tenancy with someone else, real estate held by beneficiary deed or by transfer-on-death, payable-on-death bank accounts, and securities held in a transfer-on-death account. Continue reading “Where Does My Property Go If I Die Without a Will?”
When you think it might be time for you and your significant other to consider a will or other estate planning options, there are several important questions that you’ll likely have. Below are 10 of the key questions you should consider when you’re preparing wills and estate planning. Continue reading “10 Key Questions for Couples Preparing Wills & Estate Planning”
Single adults who are not in a long-term relationship have unique estate planning concerns. If they are 18 and older, it usually makes sense for them to have estate planning documents in place.
Here are some common issues that come up for single people with estate planning.
YOUR DIVORCE: Colorado law automatically voids all appointments of and bequests to a former spouse in a will. It is critical that a divorced person prepares new documents that are wholly operational in this context. Continue reading “What Single People Should Know About Estate Planning”
When it comes to issues relating to family law and estate planning, it’s not usual to be unaware of how the system works until it’s your turn to be involved in it. And at times, particularly during an election cycle, gift and estate taxes are in the news with a lot of political arguments attached to them. But when these taxes affect you and your family, the facts are more important than the politics. So I wanted to share with you 12 facts about estate and gift taxes that you need to know when dealing with estate taxes and gift taxes.
- Estate tax and gift tax are different. Estate tax is a tax on transfers at the time of death. Gift tax is a tax on lifetime transfers. Colorado has not had an estate tax in over a decade. Other states may have an estate tax. Under federal law, transfer taxes occur on both combined IF they total over $5.67 million in a lifetime (over $11.34 million for married couples with portability).
- Estate and gift taxes are politicized. Congress changes these taxes over the years for different political reasons, so they are moving targets.
- Donor intent is irrelevant. In determining whether something is a gift, it does NOT matter whether the person intended to give a gift. If the parameters are met or not met, it is or is not a gift regardless of the intention of the donor.
- The identity of the beneficiary is irrelevant. It does not matter who the beneficiary is in determining whether there was a gift. It is simply that the owner retains the right to change the beneficiary that counts (see No. 5 below).
- The gross estate includes more than what you own. The gross estate includes all items owned at time of death plus items included by the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) such as life insurance, life estate transfers, the power to designate a recipient, transfers with retained powers, stocks given with retained voting rights, shell family “business” arrangements set up to avoid tax, revocable transfers, reversionary interests, reciprocal trusts, joint property, joint spousal interests, powers of appointment, annuities, qualified retirement plans and pensions. What do all these things have in common? The giver retains a power to make a change. So, when you think about it, the giver is also to an extent a “keeper” (retaining incidents of ownership) and therefore the items are rightfully included in the gross estate.Gifts made in contemplation of death are also included in the gross estate. The IRS wants to discourage death bed conveyances (within 36 months of dying.) However this has been chipped away at so now it generally only applies to life insurance as a practical matter.
Continue reading “Estate and Gift Tax: 12 Things Those Transferring Millions Should Know”
When it comes time for couples to consider estate planning, there are several aspects of it that must be looked at and decided on. Below are 16 points of estate planning that you and your spouse may need to address, depending on your situation.
Preserving the Estate on the Second Death: If a spouse changes their will on a second marriage, it is possible that the children of the first marriage will not get anything. This happens because the first spouse’s children from a prior marriage did not inherit; their parent’s spouse got everything. That person may well remarry and leave everything to their new spouse, not to their stepchildren from a prior marriage. To avoid this problem, communicate, use a marital agreement, use life insurance, consider QTIP trusts.
Life Insurance: You may want to get a life insurance policy to protect your children from a prior marriage, naming them or a trust protecting them if they are minors, as the beneficiary of that policy. This way you protect “yours” from the scenario set forth in No. 1. Continue reading “Yours, Mine & Ours: Estate Planning for Married Couples”
Oftentimes, people don’t think about estate planning until they’re married. But the reality is that estate planning is just as important — and in some instances more important — when you are in a relationship but not married and especially if you are not planning to be married. Here are eight reasons why estate planning is important for unmarried couples.
1. Giving Each Other the Right to Inherit: In many unmarried relationships, neither partner is entitled to inherit under the Colorado laws of intestacy. This means that if either of you dies without a will, all property that passes through probate will go to any current spouse, children of the deceased, parents of the deceased then siblings (that is a general summation). You’ll notice that romantic partner is not on this list. If you want to protect your partner, you need a will to do it.
2. Defining Whether You are Married: In Colorado, you may be “common law” married without even knowing it. This is an issue of fact in Colorado and a short consultation is the best way to go over the facts in your case. If you are at risk of being common law married without having the intention to be married, a cohabitation agreement is in order. Remember that if you are “married,” then you have rights to inherit. Continue reading “Why Estate Planning is Critical for Unmarried Couples”
I believe in people drafting their own legal documents but NOT their own wills using online programs and forms. As much as I want to empower people to take ownership and participate in their legal issues, I find this option to be a horrible disaster. And I have good reason for saying this: I have seen the absurd and unfortunate results of poorly drafted wills that are often unenforceable or lead to results that are the opposite of what the drafter intended.
Here are some of the unfortunate results I have seen when people tried to probate wills they drafted themselves:
– A will intended to leave real estate to the children and grandchildren but actually required that the real estate be sold.
– A will that gave all property to the party’s ex-spouse’s children when the intention was to exclude them.
– A will that mixed up the husband and wife’s names.
– A will that might be unenforceable in the event of simultaneous deaths due to both parties allegedly predeceasing each other.
– Many wills that were unenforceable due to improper witnessing.
Our estate planning package is highly affordable: $500 for a testamentary will with a springing trust for any children or grandchildren, medical durable power of attorney, financial power of attorney and living will. The same package is only $750 for a couple. This includes an initial meeting, supervised signing of the estate planning documents with objective third party witnesses provided by our arrangement, and a follow up re-signing in the event you want to make small changes. This is a price point many people can afford and helps ensure your estate planning accomplishes what you REALLY hope to achieve.