An estate plan is set of legal documents that designate who will make decisions for you if you are incapacitated and how your assets will be managed and distributed after your death.
Estate plan documents may include:
- A will or trust
- Financial and medical durable powers of attorney
- A living will
- A HIPAA release
- Burial instructions
- Guardianship documents
Additionally, titling of assets is an often-overlooked but very important aspect of estate planning. Even a will cannot protect against incorrectly titled assets.
Estate Planning is the process of creating legal documents that ensure:
- Your assets flow to the people or charities you intend.
- You decide who will make financial decisions for you in the case of your incapacity.
- You decide who will make medical decisions for you in the case of your incapacity.
- You mandate your end-of-life decisions.
- You decide who will raise your children if you die.
- You decide who will care for your children if you are incapacitated.
Why Should I Have an Estate Plan?
If a person dies without a will, he or she is said to have died “intestate.” When this happens, Colorado law essentially writes the person’s will for them through a set of statutes that dictate who is entitled to what, who has priority to be the personal representative, and other terms and procedures related to estate administration.
Administering an intestate estate can be complicated and may require significant court involvement. It is generally more expensive than filing a probate action with a will, and does not provide the possible protections for the heirs as a will or testamentary trust can for the beneficiaries.
Working with an attorney can help you address these issues, avoid emotional stress, and mean the difference between a smooth probate experience and lengthy and expensive litigation.
After a person dies, a Colorado probate court will identify the assets of the deceased, decide on the payment of taxes and other expenses, and distribute the property among legal heirs as provided in the will.
Most matters handled by probate courts, such as admitting wills and assigning executors, are standard and uncontested.
However, any legal contest that arises due to a person’s death or mental incapacity will be filed in a probate court and can be categorized as probate litigation. This process involves court review among those still living over issues such as guardianship and conservatorship, powers of attorney, patient advocate designations, and living wills.
Common probate litigation scenarios include:
- Challenges to the validity of a will
- Suits regarding the wording or construction of wills and trusts
- Contests over whether a guardian should be appointed for an individual who has not executed a power of attorney
- Trust modification or reformation law suits
- Suits brought to terminate a trust because the trust’s purpose has become impractical
- Suits by beneficiaries against a fiduciary for failing to act in accordance with the law or a legal document.
The Law Offices of Daniel T. Goodwin is prepared to assist you with any of these estate planning and probate matters.