Q. What are the documents the average person in Colorado needs for an estate plan?
A. There are five documents normally needed: a will, a financial power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, a living will, and a burial and funeral declaration.
Q. Should I avoid probate?
A. Usually not if the cost of avoiding probate is greater than the cost of probate. In Colorado, probate costs are very low since most proceedings are informal (a clerk handles things) and the attorneys and personal representatives (executors) can only charge for their time and effort (percentage fees are not permitted).
Q. Who should be my personal representative (executor) and if needed my trustee?
A. Trustworthy individuals can serve these roles if they are willing to work with professionals (attorneys, accountants, bankers, etc.) to administer the estate. Otherwise, you can name a bank with trust powers or a trust company.
Q. What assets will not pass through my will?
A. Your will does not control assets you hold in joint tenancy (where the other owner survives you), or where you name a “pay on death” beneficiary (if that named person survives you), or where you name a beneficiary who survives you to receive the asset (for example, with life insurance policies, retirement assets and annuities). You need to carefully consider whether and how to allow such “nonprobate” transfers of your assets at your death, since they won’t pass according to your will.
Q. Do I need a trust?
A. You might if you need to avoid probate, you have minor children, you need help managing your assets while you are alive, you have estate tax exposure, or you have other unique issues.