A Denver estate planning attorney on our team can also help you create an estate plan that benefits you while you are still alive and well. There are several estate planning documents we recommend that may protect your assets from creditors, lawsuits, high taxes and over-eager family members.
COMMITTED LAWYERS EDUCATE CLIENTS ON ALL AVAILABLE OPTIONS
When creating a sound estate plan, most people look first to wills and trust. These are excellent starting points, but there are several other options we may recommend. Your finances, family situation, concerns and preferences determine what combination of options may best suit your needs.
Most of your existing accounts should already have provisions in place to determine a beneficiary. In some instances, you only need to fill in some personal information for the beneficiary online. A few financial institutions may require signing before a notary. Accounts that typically allow you to assign beneficiaries include checking, savings, certificates of deposit, investments and life insurance. If you choose assigned beneficiaries for your accounts, the assets pass directly to the assigned individual(s) and bypass probate proceedings.
DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY
If you suffer a catastrophic event that makes you incapable of tending to your financial and personal affairs, the court may determine what happens to you and your assets. One way to preempt this is to create a durable power of attorney and appoint a trustworthy entity to take on this task. Some people choose spouses or other family members, but a better approach may be to choose someone based on the individual's financial management skills.
There are several legal tools available —known as advance directives — to address the possibility that you may one day become incapacitated to the point of being unable to make decisions or give instructions about your health care or financial matters. A power of attorney permits you to appoint a person to make financial and/or medical decisions on your behalf. A living will contains healthcare directives, such as a do-not-resuscitate order that takes effect in specific situations. We will advise you on appropriate ways you can protect against unforeseen calamities.
LETTER OF INTENT
If you would like to determine your funeral arrangements or other end-of-life concerns, a letter of intent can make this possible. You may also use this as a backup to reiterate what you included in your will, just in case the court determines it is invalid. Note that letters of intent are not generally enforceable under the law. Even so, they may help to inform the judge’s decisions.
If you have minors or other dependents, determining who will care for them is important. When making a choice, consider the individuals’ willingness to care for the dependents. You may also need to consider their beliefs, trustworthiness and financial health. Without guardianship designations, in the worst-case scenario, your children could become wards of the state. Trusts and guardianship designations often go hand in hand to protect dependents’ inheritances.
A trust is another legal instrument that can be used to manage and distribute your assets. Trusts are not subject to probate, which makes them easier to administer and affords greater privacy. A trustee selected by you administers the trust in accordance with your instructions. Among the various types of trusts are:
· REVOCABLE LIVING TRUSTS — This type of trust is created during your lifetime. While certain assets are transferred to the trust, you can serve as trustee and thus retain control of them.
· IRREVOCABLE LIVING TRUSTS —Placing assets in this type of living trust completely severs your ownership of them. This is an effective way to shield assets from creditors and tax liabilities.
· TESTAMENTARY TRUSTS — This type of trust is created in your will and takes effect after death. It can be for any purpose, such as providing for minor children or relatives with special needs.
We will thoroughly examine your financial portfolio and particular circumstances to determine which trust instrument best meets your needs and objectives.
A will is a written instrument that not only dictates the distribution of your assets but only gives effect to other final wishes, such as funeral and burial arrangements and creation of trusts for charitable and other purposes. Your will also names an executor who is responsible for marshaling your estate through the probate process and carrying out your instructions. We will work with you to prepare a will that fully expresses your desired objectives and provides you with the security of knowing your family and other beneficiaries will be taken care of.
EXPERIENCED LAWYERS ADVISE CLIENTS ON WHY START EARLY
In our line of work, we witness many people begin the estate planning process and lose the opportunity to finish it. When people are young and healthy, they may not consider this risk. However, life is short and no time is promised, so it is important not to procrastinate on completing the estate planning process. Here are some factors to consider when deciding if you should tackle this sooner rather than later:
• You live in an area currently affected by infectious diseases and have comorbidities.
• You are at risk for or have been diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease.
• You recently grew your family through birth or adoption.
• You work in a high-risk field or participate in extreme hobbies, such as skydiving.
• You recently got married or divorced.
• You are 45 years old or older.
COMPETENT LAWYERS FOLLOW AN ESTABLISHED PROCESS THAT WORKS
No two estate plans are exactly the same. People bring different assets, concerns and threats to the table when drafting wills, trusts and other key documents. Some clients may also already have existing plans in place that they want to replace, revise or supplement. Because of this, there is no one-size-fits-all process. Even so, your Denver estate planning attorneys at Johnson Law Group follow an established process to determine how best to serve you.
1. Schedule a Consultation
We believe in creating a custom estate plan for each unique situation, so we make no recommendations until we have spoken to you. This helps ensure we are not biased toward any specific solutions before hearing what your concerns and preferences are. During the consultation, we can also advise you on any additional documentation you may need to present for our review.
2. Review Documentation
Some of the documents we may need to review include existing estate plans, investment accounts, bank statements, retirement accounts, asset titles and business balance sheets. Once we have a clear picture of your financial situation, we are in a much better position to advise you. Our advice may also include solutions for reducing current and future tax liabilities.
3. Draft an Estate Plan
The lawyer working on your case will take time to carefully draft an estate plan that addresses your concerns. When necessary, we may liaise with other professionals to ensure compliance with financial goals and tax concerns. It is not uncommon for us to liaise with business accountants and wealth managers to accomplish your goals. Once the drafted documents are completed, we review them with you.
4. Finalize the Document
For simple estate plans, we generally get the plan right on the first try. The more complex the estate and the more unique your concerns, the more drafts your Denver estate planning attorney may need to arrive at a finalized document. Once finalized, we then work with you to complete the final steps. For instance, if you choose to create trusts, we assist you with the process of re-titling assets in the name of the trust.
CONTACT RELIABLE COLORADO ESTATE PLANNING LAWYERS
The attorneys at the Johnson Law Group, L.L.C., supply knowledgeable and reliable estate planning counsel to individuals in the Denver metropolitan areas. We understand that estate planning may feel like a morbid task to tackle. It is especially difficult in situations where the individual faces a life-threatening illness or may soon begin to experience diminishing mental capacity. We offer our compassion in these situations and remain committed to making the process as hassle-free as possible.
To schedule a free consultation, contact a Denver estate planning attorney at 720-463-4333 or contact us online. We look forward to serving you.