Benefits of Having a Trust

When it comes time to create an estate plan, one option to consider is a trust. A trust is a legal arrangement that allows you to appoint someone to handle your assets for the benefit of your beneficiaries.  Many benefits exist to having a trust. One benefit of utilizing a trust in your estate plan is the avoidance of probate. The probate process to settle an estate can be time-consuming and expensive. It is also a public process, which may provide little privacy.  By creating and placing your assets in a trust, the assets in the trust are not subject to probate.  This may ensure your assets are distributed to your beneficiaries in an efficient, cost-effective, private manner. Another advantage to a trust is the level of control you retain over the distribution of your assets, even after you pass away. This is particularly useful if you have very specific

When Should I Update My Will, Trust, or Estate Plan?

Wills, trusts and estate plans are documents that outline how you want your assets and property to be distributed after you pass away. Although many people think of these documents as though they are set in stone, they are actually meant to be updated from time to time. When should you update your will, trust or estate plan? As life changes, you should update your will, trust or estate plan to reflect your most current wishes and circumstances. Some of the life events that may prompt you to revisit your plan include: A change in your family. Did you get married or divorced? Add a child to your family? Experience the death of a loved one? All of these circumstances likely call for a need to revise your estate planning documents, whether it is to add or remove someone. These changes may also be necessary if a beloved friend is

Does a Person Have to Have a Minimum Amount of Assets to Create a Will?

Estate planning is often dramatized in pop culture; a wealthy but mysterious family member passes away, summoning distant relatives to a dimly lit room for a reading of the will and a chance at unknown riches. But does this trope hold true? Does a person have to have a minimum amount of assets to create a will? One of the most common misconceptions about wills is that you must acquire a certain amount of assets before creating one. Simply put though, this is not true. An adult can create a will, regardless of the number or value of assets owned. A will can be used to outline your wishes for the distribution of your property or personal assets after your death, but it also can name guardians for your children or appoint an executor to handle your estate. There are many reasons to consider creating a will as part of

If I Have a Living Trust, Do I Need a Will?

When it comes to estate planning, the more specific your plan is, the better. If you have a living trust, you may wonder if this document is enough or if you should consider a secondary document like a will. Although living trusts are a powerful estate planning tool, there are several reasons to consider creating a will as well. First, a will can designate a guardian for minor children or dependents. A living trust outlines how assets will be distributed after you pass away, but it does not provide instructions for what happens to your children or dependents should you no longer be here to care for them. Without a designated guardian, the court may determine who will be responsible for raising your children. A will is an important supplement for a living trust because it allows you to designate who will care for your minor children in the event

What are the 3 Types of Trusts?

“Trust” is a blanket term for the legal tool that allows individuals to transfer assets to a beneficiary and be managed by a trustee. Did you know there are several types of trusts, each with its own unique benefits (and requirements)? What are the 3 main types of trusts? Revocable Trusts Also known as a living trust, a revocable trust can be changed, or even revoked, by the grantor (creator) at any time during the grantor’s life. The grantor maintains control over the assets they put in the revocable trust, meaning they can add or remove assets at any time during the trust’s existence. A living trust also gives the grantor power to modify the terms of the trust or dissolve it altogether should they feel so inclined. Advantages of revocable trusts include the possible avoidance of probate and increased privacy. Irrevocable Trusts As the name suggests, an irrevocable trust

What Makes up a Well-Designed Estate Plan?

A well-designed estate plan becomes a safety net in the event of your incapacitation or death. It can ensure that your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes and that your loved ones are well cared for, even when you are not around to do so yourself. What makes up a well-designed estate plan? The essential components of a well-designed estate plan may include: A will outlines wishes for asset distribution upon death, be it valuables such as cars or real estate, or more sentimental possessions like an heirloom chair or recipe book. If it is yours, you can put it in a will. A will can also appoint a guardian for minor children or name an executor to administer your estate. A trust allows a person to transfer assets to the management of a trustee for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries. Trusts can provide for minor children

What Are The Duties of a Trustee in Administering a Trust?

A trustee is an individual or entity appointed to manage a trust on behalf of its beneficiaries. As such, being a trustee comes with significant responsibilities in order to fulfill their duties. What are the duties of a trustee in administering a trust? Managing Assets A trustee’s primary responsibility is to manage the trust’s assets in accordance with the trust agreement. The trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the trust’s beneficiaries at all times. This can include investing assets in an appropriate manner by diversifying to avoid risk while considering the potential return on each investment decision. If the trustee does not feel like they can do this independently, they have the duty to hire an investment professional on behalf of the trust. Record Keeping Because the trustee acts on behalf of beneficiaries, accurate and thorough records of all trust transactions are required. Records

How Do You Pay the Bills of an Estate?

When a loved one passes away, managing their financial affairs may not be top of mind, but it should be at the top of your To Do list. Staying on top of bills and expenses associated with the deceased’s estate is critical, but it can also be complex. How do you navigate handling these remaining financial obligations? How do you pay the bills of an estate? Step 1: Gather Documents Start by gathering relevant financial documents and bills. This may include bank statements, brokerage account statements, credit card statements, utility bills, mortgage statements, insurance policies or other financial records. Organize and review these documents to get a comprehensive snapshot of the estate’s financial status and obligations. Check bank and credit card statements for any recurring payments that may need to be made or changed. Step 2: Notify Creditors Notify all relevant creditors and service providers of the death. Usually this

Why it is Important to Designate Beneficiaries on Life Insurance Policies, Retirement Accounts, etc.

When it comes to estate planning, many people focus on creating a will or trust to ensure their assets are distributed according to their wishes after they pass away. While a will or trust is an essential and core part of an estate plan, it is also important to designate beneficiaries on your life insurance policies and retirement accounts. Why? First, naming a beneficiary on an account allows for a direct transfer of the account to the named beneficiary upon your death. Without a designated beneficiary, assets could be subject to probate and require opening a probate proceeding with the court before distribution can be made.  Naming a beneficiary on an account also provides a certain level of privacy because information about the designated assets and their distribution will not become public record. Second, an account may be subject to intestacy laws if no beneficiary is designated on the account

If I Do Not Have Kids Yet, Do I Still Need to Create a Will?

For many people who do not have children, estate planning may not be at the forefront of their mind. If you do not have children, do you really need a will? The answer is that estate planning is something to consider at any stage of life, whether you have, or intend to start a family. There are many reasons to create a will, with or without a triggering life event. Creating a will allows you to specify the distribution of your assets upon your death. Even if you do not have children to pass them to, it is likely you still have preferences on who should (or should not) get what. A will can cover personal belongings of any value, financial accounts such a savings account, real estate property and investments. The beauty of a will is that you get to decide how your assets will be distributed instead of

Do Wills Need to be Notarized?

Creating a will is an important step towards ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes. There are many rumors and myths surrounding the creation of a will, including what formalities are required for a will to be valid.  One common question is whether a will needs to be notarized. In Colorado, anyone aged 18 or over may create a will if they are of sound mind. Wills serve as instructions for tying up affairs upon the creator’s, known as a testator, passing. A will can contain provisions regarding who will receive the testator’s assets and name a guardian for the testator’s minor children.  Colorado recognizes handwritten (holographic) wills.  While drafting your will yourself may be tempting, certain requirements exist for a holographic will to be found valid. A Denver estate planning attorney can draft a will that that complies with the Colorado Probate Code and. A will is

What is the Difference Between an Executor and Trustee?

By establishing a will or trust, you are creating instructions for your executor or trustee to carry out your final wishes and distribute your assets to the appropriate people. Being an executor or trustee carries a large financial, legal and moral responsibility, so it is important to choose this person carefully. What is the difference between an executor and trustee? First, let us look at the responsibilities that are designated to each person. An executor is nominated in a will.  The executor must be appointed by the court before they have any authority.  The executor will locate and review the will to ensure it is the latest version if multiple wills exist. Then, they will work with the court to admit the will to probate. This person is also tasked with notifying Social Security (and other pertinent government organizations, such as Veterans Affairs), beneficiaries, heirs and creditors of the death.

What is the Difference Between Revocable and Irrevocable Living Trust?

Estate planning can feel like a tedious process, given how many decisions are involved. What is the difference between revocable and irrevocable living trusts? There are many benefits to establishing a living trust over other estate planning documents, such as a will. Living trusts do not go through probate as long as they are fully funded at the creator’s death.  Any of the creator’s assets that are not titled to the trust will likely go through probate. Living trusts can also preserve your privacy; while a will is public upon your death, a trust and its contents are generally only available to your beneficiaries. However, there are a few potential downsides to consider when choosing a trust. First, they are more complexities to creating and funding them, so it is recommended to use an estate planner to assist with creating a living trust. Trusts typically also cost more to establish

What is the Difference Between Durable Power of Attorney and General Power of Attorney?

If you are developing an estate plan, one of the choices you have is whether to complete a power of attorney document. In the power of attorney, you designate an agent who has the legal authority to act on your behalf if you are unable to do so. It is important to carefully consider who you select as your agent. You may also designate the when the power of attorney becomes effective.  What is the difference between durable power of attorney and general power of attorney? A Power of Attorney allows your affairs to be handled by your designated agent in the event that you become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for yourself. You typically complete a medical power of attorney and name an agent to make your medical decisions if you are unable to make them yourself.  On the other hand, you complete a financial power of

Is There a Difference Between a Will and a Revocable Trust?

If you have never established an estate plan, the words “will” and “trust” may be one and the same to you. But the reality is that comparing a will and a trust is like comparing apples and bananas; yes, they are both fruits, but each is unique. What is the difference between a will and a revocable trust? First, let’s start by looking at how a will and revocable trust are alike. Both are estate planning documents meant to ease the burden on your loved ones upon your passing. Both a will and a revocable trust are used to establish directives for distributing your assets upon your death, and (hopefully) eliminating any clashes or discrepancies between heirs or beneficiaries. That is where the similarities end though. Let’s look at the main ways wills and revocable trusts differ. A will goes through probate upon your death. This means that a probate

Powers of Attorney versus Protected Proceedings

When an individual cannot care for themself, whether it is due to age or incapacity, someone else may need to step in to handle the individual’s medical and financial affairs. If the individual has previously signed a medical power of attorney and/or a financial power of attorney, the agent named in these powers of attorney typically can handle the individual’s affairs. However, if the individual has not signed these documents or the agent named is no longer a good choice, a protected person proceeding may need to be filed with the court. Protected person proceedings can include a conservatorship and/or guardianship. Powers of Attorney versus Protected Proceedings Powers of attorney allow an agent to begin handling the individual’s medical or financial decision making without the involvement of the court. The agent is responsible for making decisions that are in the individual’s best interest. Not having court involvement can be both

Are there any Drawbacks of a Living Will?

A living will is a legal document meant to outline your wishes for both medical care and end-of-life decisions in the event that you are unable to communicate them yourself. A living will ensures that decisions made on your behalf are in line with your desires and preferences, rather than those of well-meaning family or friends. While a living will can provide peace of mind, are there any drawbacks of a living will? Although a living will can define what treatments you may or may not want, they are limited in scope because they cannot include every possible scenario. Unexpected situations can arise which may not be covered in your living will. A living will contains guidelines; it is not a technical instruction manual. Therefore, if you have strong opinions or preferences on specific treatments, be sure to include them in your living will. The Colorado living will is a

Do I Need a Durable Power of Attorney?

Estate planning comes with many questions. How do you want to structure trust distributions? Does a revocable or irrevocable trust make more sense to hold your assets? Who do you trust to act on your behalf to carry out your will? One of the most overlooked, but important, questions is: Do I need a durable power of attorney? A durable power of attorney is a legal document used in estate planning (and under other circumstances) to appoint a trusted friend or family member to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapable of making those decisions yourself. There are many reasons you may be unable to do so: an accident that leaves you unconscious or physically incapacitated, a serious illness, mental illness or simply a decline in mental or physical acuity with age. A durable power of attorney comes into effect only when you become incapacitated during your lifetime.

How Often Should my Estate Plan be Revised?

Once you have checked estate planning off your to-do list, you may think it is a task that is complete forever. While this would be very convenient, the fact is that estate plans need checkups and revisions from time to time. How often should an estate plan be revised? Estate planning is an important ongoing task, no matter how mundane or monumental it may seem. Estate planning ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes once you are no longer around to see it through. Estate planning also creates a roadmap for the handling of your financial affairs and healthcare should you become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for yourself. Because these decisions are so important, it’s equally critical to revisit your estate plan on a regular basis. Doing so provides an opportunity to revise your plan so that it continues to reflect your current wishes

What Assets Should be Placed in my Living Trust?

One of the most important steps you can take to ensure your legacy lives on is by engaging in estate planning. There are many ways to document your final wishes, be it a will or trust. If you decide that a trust is the right fit for you, there are still several types to choose from. Perhaps the most popular is a living trust, because it gives you the best of both worlds; access to and control over your assets while you are alive, and relative ease of administration for your trustee and beneficiaries after you are deceased. What assets should be placed in a living trust? A living trust is a legal document that, as the name suggests, applies while you are alive. Once the trust is created, it becomes a living document that you can change or update while you are alive and have capacity. Living trusts are

What is the Gift Tax and Who Pays It?

While the common saying is “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” some might argue that there is no such thing as a free gift. What is the Gift Tax, and who pays it? The gift tax is a federal tax applied to the transfer of money or property from one person to another, without the donor receiving anything of similar value in return. The gift tax was created to prevent individuals from lowering their tax bills by giving away assets as “gifts.” In 2023, each individual (donor) may gift up to $17,000 to each donee (person receiving the gift) without using the donor’s estate and gift tax exemption. This amount is indexed annually for inflation. Any amount a donor gifts in excess of $17,000 per individual donee will use the donor’s estate and gift tax exemption and must be reported on a gift tax return. Any amount of

Financial vs Medical Power of Attorney: What’s the Difference?

Your estate planning toolkit contains many different documents, each with its own unique purpose. We have all heard the term “power of attorney,” but what is the difference between a financial and medical power of attorney? While both financial and medical powers of attorney allow someone to make decisions on behalf of another, each serves a different purpose, and each has distinct differences. Financial Power of Attorney A financial power of attorney is a legal document that allows a person to designate another individual to make financial decisions for them in the event that they are unable to do so themselves. Called an agent, this person may manage financial accounts, pay bills, file taxes, buy or sell property and make investment decisions on behalf of the principal. The agent’s authority can be limited or broad, depending on the wishes laid out in the document. A financial power of attorney is

Understanding the Basics of Estate Planning

Does hearing the phrase “estate planning” cause your eyes to glaze over or make you want to hum a tune to block out the incoming conversation? Admittedly, estate planning can be an intimidating topic, especially if you have no understanding of what it entails. But at its core, estate planning is about ensuring that you get a say in when and how your assets and personal possessions are passed to your loved ones. It is time to take control of your future and face estate planning head on. Estate planning can be as straightforward as naming which child gets which set of china or jewelry, but it can also be more complex. Especially complicated estate plans can include strategies to reduce current or future taxes, ensuring your heirs receive as much as possible after Uncle Sam takes his cut. Regardless of your goals or the complexity of your estate, there

What are the 4 Major Types of Taxes to Consider in Estate Planning?

It is often said that there are only 2 certainties in life: death and taxes. True or not, estate planning is still an important step in managing at least 2 of life’s certainties. Estate planning is the process of ensuring that your assets and belongings are passed to those you desire to receive them. Usually that means passing assets to family members and friends. Sometimes, it might include an endowment for a charity. It is doubtful that anyone has ever wanted to maximize the portion that is given to the government for taxes though. As such, an important part of estate planning is reducing the amount of taxes that will be due, in turn maximizing the gift to your loved ones. There are a few myths surrounding estate taxes, and it is important to dispel the misinformation regarding them before beginning estate planning. First, estate taxes are not just for

What Is the Difference Between a Trust and a Will?

When it comes to estate planning, the most important consideration is that it works for you. You have choices in how your loved ones are cared for and how your worldly possessions are distributed after you are gone. Choosing the best type of estate planning tool depends on your specific circumstances; here, let’s look at the difference between a trust and a will, and when each may be right for you. The first difference between a will and trust is the process by which it takes effect. A trust is effective upon its creation and contains provisions regarding how your assets will be handled during your lifetime and at your death. A will only takes effect upon your death. Another distinction between the two is how the dispersal of your estate is handled; a will must go through the legal process of probate, while a trust is typically distributed privately.

What is a Trustee?

There are many people involved in a trust; the grantor who creates the trust, the beneficiaries who receive benefits from the trust, as well as the trustee who administers the trust. While the obvious relationship involved in a trust is between the grantor and beneficiaries, the middleman between the two is the trustee. A trustee is appointed by the grantor to take on the responsibility of managing the trust. The trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries who benefit from the trust. The trustee is responsible for prudently investing trust assets, distributing assets to the beneficiaries and ensuring the trust stays in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. If this feels like a lot to manage, you are not alone. Many trustees hire advisors to assist them with various components of trust administration. A financial advisor typically gives the trustee advice on

What is Trust Litigation and What Should you Know About it?

A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a person or entity to hold and control assets on behalf of another individual. When there is a disagreement between the trustee (the person in control of the assets) and the beneficiary (the person who ultimately benefits from the trust), a lawsuit may be filed. Generally, a trustee should seek legal advice from a trust administration lawyer to advise them regarding their duties, so that litigation can be avoided in the future.  What is trust litigation and what should you know about it? When an argument over the terms of the trust or the way the trust is being managed arises, the difference of opinion between the trustee and beneficiary can be settled through trust litigation. Sometimes a legal battle over a trust can be resolved through a settlement; other times the court will rule on the resolution of the dispute.  There

Are Estate Planning Fees or Estate Administration Fees Tax Deductible?

Estate planning is an investment in yourself and your loved ones, for now and the future. Estate planning comes with a wide range of costs including legal fees, accounting fees and appraisal fees. Are estate planning fees tax deductible? In general, estate planning fees are not allowable deductions on your personal income tax return. If you choose to hire an attorney to assist you with estate planning, you should ask for a breakdown of the fees they charge you. While you will not receive any deductions, it is still important to understand what the fees are and why they are being charged. Some attorneys will charge an hourly fee for their work, while others will have a flat fee for individual estate planning services. On the other hand, if attorney fees are incurred related to the administration of an estate, or the administration of a trust, the attorney fees likely

Can a Lawyer Help with a Business Plan?

Starting a business seems simple enough…you have an idea, create a name, consider sources for funding, start writing a business plan…and then what? Suddenly you realize that there are many decisions involved, and each one of them could make or break your success.   Decisions to consider when making a business plan:   Type of Business Entity: Are you entering into a partnership with another person to collaborate and share responsibilities? Are you creating a Limited Liability Company (LLC) to maintain flexibility and provide protection of your personal assets? A corporation to create shares and raise capital through issuing stock?   Employees: Who will work for you? How will you pay your employees? Do you need a Human Resources department? What company rules and benefits will you need to define?   Finances: What taxes will you pay and what documentation will you need? How can you raise funding for your

How Do You Know if Probate is Necessary?

When a loved one passes away, the nominated personal representative must distribute the decedent’s property according to the terms of the decedent’s will. The process of carrying out these final wishes and passing of property to beneficiaries can seem drawn out and complicated. Many wills must go through probate to complete this process, but how do you know if probate is necessary?   There are 3 types of estates, and each has its own process for probate in Colorado:   Small estates with no property: For a decedent that dies in 2022, her assets are worth less than $74,000, and the decedent did not own any real estate, her estate will not require a full probate proceeding. Generally, the beneficiaries of this type of estate may collect property without going through probate court.   Uncontested estates: If there are no challenges to the will, these estates go through an informal

What is the difference between a durable power of attorney and general power of attorney?

Have you heard the terms “general” and “durable” power of attorney, but are unsure what the differences are between the two? Here is a quick breakdown!   Let us start by breaking down some of the lingo and looking at the responsibilities given under a power of attorney document. First, it is important to know that despite the “attorney” in “power of attorney,” there is no law degree required to fulfill this legal obligation. A principal appoints an agent to act on their behalf in specific situations. These can include both financial and medical obligations.   A financial power of attorney allows an agent to carry out financial business on behalf of the principal. Depending on the powers given to the agent in the document, the agent can pay bills, write checks, sell property, file taxes, give donations or monetary gifts, access accounts, or manage general financial decisions.   A

What Happens if You Do Not Go Through Probate?

A loved one dying brings heartache, grief, and a string of responsibilities for their survivors. From planning a funeral or memorial to tying up pressing financial obligations, distributing the property of the deceased and carrying out their final wishes can be an added burden without the process of probate court. Without the proper legal guidance, filing probate can be a timely and even exhausting process for heirs. What happens if you do not go through probate court?   In most instances, a will must be probated for the assets of an estate to legally transfer from the decedent to the beneficiaries, whether it be the title to a property or car, or the remaining balance of accounts without beneficiaries named. If a will is not filed with the probate court, it is not legally recognized. Here are a few scenarios to consider:   A house or car: Depending on how

How Long Does a Conservatorship Last?

The word “conservatorship” has become household vocabulary lately, specifically due to the high-profile legal battle over the conservatorship of Britney Spears. Her 13-year conservatorship has many people wondering … how long does a conservatorship last?   A conservator is a person appointed by the court to oversee the financial assets of a minor or incapacitated adult. The conservator must make financial decisions and act in the best interest of the protected person.  Responsibilities of the conservator can include but are not limited to, paying bills and other debts, account administration, managing investments, filing taxes, and using funds to purchase or sell real estate property.   A conservatorship for an incapacitated adult can end in one of two ways; either the protected person dies, or the court approves a petition for termination. The protected person will need to demonstrate to the court that they are of sound mind and can resume

Who Cannot Be a Guardian?

A guardian is someone with legal authority to provide care for a minor, or an adult who is incapacitated until they can do so themselves. The type of care varies, but it can include personal, or medical care. Because it is such a large responsibility, there are multiple requirements a person must meet to be considered for the role. Who can or cannot be a guardian?   For guardianship of a minor, a guardian must be at least 21 years old. Parents can name a guardian in their will to take effect if they die, but if a guardian is not named, the courts will appoint a person to serve as guardian.  The court also will appoint a suitable guardian if parental rights are relinquished or terminated. Additionally, if a first guardian dies or cannot fulfill their duty to care for their ward (the minor), the court will name a

Will vs. Personal Property Memorandum

Most people have a variety of possessions that carry special meanings or have sentimental value that they attach to other people. Or, you might own something that you know your best friend has always loved. It is possible to include the transfer of these possessions to specific people. This can be done in your will itself or in a personal property memorandum.  A personal property memorandum is an addendum to your will in which you can list out who you want to receive specific items of personal property.  Your will must specifically state that there is a personal property memorandum in existence for this document to become valid. In addition, you must sign the personal property memorandum. Examples of Personal Property Memorandum Items I bequeath these items of personal property to the following beneficiaries: Chi Omega sorority jewelry to my sorority sister: Kimberly S. Jones 1984 Nissan 300zx Turbo 50th

What is the Purpose of Estate Planning?

Every day, bad things happen to good people. No one wants to think about themselves or a loved one being involved in a serious accident, becoming physically or mentally disabled, contracting a life-threatening disease or even dying. Unfortunately, life is full of uncertainties – no matter how healthy your lifestyle or how careful you are. These words are not meant to send you into a tailspin of fear or anxiety – they are simply meant to drive home the importance of planning as much as possible for the unforeseen. Estate planning is one such way to do this. What is an Estate? The word estate does not have to refer to a castle in England or a mansion in Hollywood Hills. Most people have an estate: possessions that you own. Your estate may include a car, house (and everything in it), camper, boat, rental property, bank accounts, life insurance, etc.

Who Gets Assets if there is No Will?

Intestate Succession: this is the term for how a person’s assets are distributed if that person dies without a will. That means that the future of the person’s probate assets such as real property, cars, furniture, and bank accounts will be distributed pursuant to the laws of intestacy. With intestate succession, the court utilizes the intestacy statutes to determine who will receive the deceased person’s assets. These are the most common beneficiaries of an intestate estate: Spouse: this person typically receives the largest share or the entire estate if there are no children Children: if there is no surviving spouse, the estate is typically distributed evenly among the surviving children Parents: if a person passes away who has no spouse or children, their parents could inherit the estate Blood relatives: if there are no surviving spouses, children, or parents, the intestacy statutes provide that the estate will pass to the

Law Lingo: Intestate

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain intestate. Intestate is the term for dying without a legal will. Intestate can also refer to an estate for which a will was deemed invalid. If you die intestate, your estate will be distributed pursuant to the intestacy statutes of your state.  This means that your probate assets –will be distributed to your closest blood relatives. The probate court appoints a specific individual, known as a personal representative, to handle the probate process. The personal representative acts in the same capacity as an executor of a will – the personal representative will pay all outstanding debts owed by the estate, make a list of all of the current assets of the estate, and then distribute the assets to beneficiaries. If you

What is Prudent Investment?

According to Merriam-Webster, prudent is defined as: marked by wisdom or judiciousness prudent advice shrewd in the management of practical affairs prudent investors In the case of estate planning, estate administration, and trust administration, fiduciaries have a duty to prudently invest the assets under their management.  Investment risks must be weighed against the potential rewards, taking into consideration things like investment timeframes, diversification strategies, the balance of investments, comfort level of the individual, fees, liquidity of assets, retirement timelines, etc. Prudent investment is not a guarantee of financial success. However, the strategies implemented should reflect the best options available at the time of the investments – strategies that are unique for every individual’s unique financial goals. The Prudent Investor Rule is in place to ensure that the person handling your investments is making sensible decisions. Who Handles Prudent Investment? Unless you have extensive knowledge about investment strategies, you will want to

Law Lingo: Fiduciary Duty

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain fiduciary duty. In regard to estate planning, fiduciary duties can vary, based on the type of fiduciary role you have been assigned. For example, as an appointed fiduciary, you may be responsible for managing another person’s financial situation, legal matters, welfare of children, property, medical decisions, etc. Even though there are different fiduciary roles, the underlying obligations are a duty of care and a duty of loyalty. If you are creating a will or trust, and you want to protect your assets and ensure that your family is well cared for after you pass away, designating one or more fiduciaries is a smart move. You will want the fiduciaries you choose to have certain traits: Honesty Trustworthiness Ethical Caring Detail-oriented Non-confrontational

What is a Guardianship Case?

A guardianship case would be necessary for these two situations: A minor’s parents cannot provide sufficient care for the child due to the parent’s death or incapacity An adult cannot care for themselves Human beings need shelter, food, clothing, medical care, and decision-making abilities – basic essentials to live. When it becomes impossible for these basic necessities to be provided for an individual (or if an individual cannot provide those things for themselves), a guardian can be appointed to do just that. To initiate guardianship, a petition is filed with the court.  For example, if you know that your nephew is living in a home situation where his parents are drug users and abusive, you may petition the court to have a guardian named for the child. If your aunt has been diagnosed with dementia and can no longer make her medical decisions, you may also petition the court to

Should My Business Have a Lawyer?

If you own your own business or want to start your own company, do you really need to hire a lawyer? No. And yes. It depends on your situation! There are so many things to take into consideration when deciding whether or not you need a business lawyer. Here are a few questions to ask yourself: What type of business structure do you want to establish? For example, do you want to create a Limited Liability Company (LLC), corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship? Do you know how these entities differ? Do you know the steps to take when creating these structures? If not, a business planning lawyer can help you make the best decision for your company’s future. Do you have the time and knowledge to handle initial tasks in setting up a business? For example, have you chosen a business name that is available? Do you have a valid

What is a Trust Dispute?

A trust dispute is not an argument over someone or something on which you rely. Rather, trust dispute refers to conflicts over estate planning documents. You (the grantor) can create a trust to protect your assets while you are still alive AND when you pass away. In the trust, you name a specific person, called a trustee, to gain legal control over your assets until the time comes for your beneficiaries to receive your estate (after you pass away). When you stop to consider the ramifications of this agreement, it is not surprising that there can be disputes regarding how the trustee handles the estate – either before or after you pass away. Generally speaking, there are three categories of disputes that can arise in trust situations: The trustee is thought to be mismanaging the assets of the trust. The beneficiaries are unhappy with the terms of the trust. .

What Happens When a Trust is Contested?

The scenario: a loved one passes away. That person (grantor) had created a trust that specifically outlined who would receive all assets that the grantor owned. If there are individuals who feel they are wronged by the conditions or management of the trust, they can contest the trust. Here are a few reasons why someone might want to contest a trust: A person was completely left out of the trust and receives no assets from the estate. Beneficiaries named in the trust only received a small portion of the estate and feel they deserve more. There is reason to believe that the grantor was influenced to write the trust in a certain way that left people out of the trust. There is reason to believe that the grantor was not mentally competent when they wrote the trust. There is reason to believe that the trustee – the person who is

Law Lingo: Liability

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain liability. Liability can refer to an amount of money that someone owes another person or company. Liability is not limited to money – it can be anything that is owed to someone else. This term often comes into play in estate administration. Role of the Personal Representative When a person passes away, their assets must be distributed to others – either as directed in an estate planning document such as a will or trust, or by the courts pursuant to the laws of intestacy if no will or trust was established. However, before the beneficiaries can receive their portions of the estate, any outstanding debts must first be settled and taxes paid. A specific person is assigned the duty of ensuring

What Does Disposition of Last Remains Mean?

Most people plan for big events in their lives. For weddings, a great deal of attention is given to the location, day, time, flowers, cake, photographer, wedding favors, seating chart and much, much more. For a quinceañera, planning details include the court, escort, dresses, shoes, menu and, again, so much more. These decisions are not typically made quickly – it is not uncommon for events like these to take a year or more to properly plan. Aside from wanting the event to be a success, people want their own personalities reflected in every detail. A funeral, memorial service or celebration of life is the last big event in a person’s life. It is the time when family and friends gather to say goodbye, remember good times and reflect on the legacy the person left behind. If you are the type of person who wants to ensure that your last big

When Should You Start Estate Planning?

When most people turn 18, the last thing on their minds is estate planning. There are simply too many other exciting things to think about: college, careers, marriage, home-buying and freedom from parents! However, 18 is the magical age when you become an adult which means you are officially responsible for the course of your own life (parents and guardians are technically off the hook). Everything you own and all of your finances are in your control. While it may not be typical for someone to start estate planning at age 18, this is the age when you can legally do so. What is Estate Planning? Estate planning refers to the steps you take to protect your assets, put your medical treatment wishes in writing (in case you become incapacitated), state who you want to receive your estate after you pass away, ensure your family (including pets) is provided for,

What is the Difference Between a Corporate Lawyer and a Business Lawyer?

Although the two may sound very similar, a corporate lawyer is different from a business lawyer. Here is a quick overview of how the two differ and why you might need both types of lawyers for your company. • Corporate lawyer: focuses on the large-scale corporate entity by negotiating and reviewing contracts, overseeing mergers/acquisitions, creating corporate bylaws, securing venture capital, advising on securities law compliance, shareholder rights, etc. • Business lawyer: helps companies comply with laws surrounding tax requirements, employment issues (hiring, firing, harassment, family leave), buying/selling other companies, establishing the type of business (corporation, partnership, limited liability company), marketing/advertising rules, breach of contracts, lawsuits, etc. Corporate law is concerned with the activities of the corporation itself; business law concerns the activities of the business. Whether you are starting a new company or have a large well-established one already, having a team of lawyers on your side can help you

Why Do You Need Probate?

When a loved one passes away, his or her estate typically goes through probate. This is a legal process that may be necessary for people who have created a will or for those who have not created a will. NOTE: If you want to help your loved ones avoid probate after you pass away, you may consider creating and funding a revocable trust. Fully funded revocable trusts do not go through probate. Probate is not designed to make life difficult for those who have survived the deceased person and it is not meant to drag out the process of distributing that person’s possessions. It is meant to protect the estate and assets of the deceased person and ensure that the estate is properly distributed – either according to the person’s will or as prescribed by the laws of intestacy if no will exists. In Colorado, the probate process is often

Law Lingo: Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain limited liability company (LLC). If you are planning to start a business, it is advisable to create a business entity such as a sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership or limited liability company (LLC). First, let’s briefly explain each type. • A sole proprietorship is an independent company owned by one person who is personally liable for all business transactions. • A corporation is an independent company owned by shareholders and protected from liability. • A partnership consists of two or more people who unite to run a business. Each partner is personally liable for debts. • An LLC combines features of both corporations and partnerships. There can be multiple owners and a manager can be hired to run the business. An LLC

Can a Lawsuit be Brought against a Trust?

A trust is a legal method to transfer your assets to another person or persons (trustees) who are responsible for holding your assets on behalf of your beneficiaries. You can also name yourself as the trustee of your trust and maintain complete control over your assets. Revocable living trusts are often recommended because they can be changed or revoked at any time. However, the trust is not completely protected from claims against it. A trust cannot be sued by other parties and the trust itself cannot sue other parties. However, the trustee can be sued for several reasons: • There is strong evidence that the trustee is taking advantage of their position to make monetary gains from the trust • An outside party is suing for assets from the trust they believe are rightfully theirs • There is reasonable doubt regarding the validity of the trust, such as evidence to

Law Lingo: Estate Law

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain estate law. Estate law may sound like something that would only apply to the rich and famous – or something that only older people would need to understand. In reality, estate law is a specialty of law that can help adults of all ages safeguard their personal and real property while they are living and after they pass away – regardless of the person’s financial status or age (typically over age 18). Children under the age of 18 as well as adult children with special needs can also be included in estate law to ensure they are well cared for in the event of an emergency. Types of Personal Property Estate law can help you ensure that your personal property is

Can a Conservatorship be Contested?

A conservatorship is a legal appointment of a person who has been tasked with managing another person’s financial or life affairs. A conservatorship may be deemed necessary to protect an incapacitated person, a minor or an adult who the court feels is unable to properly care for his or her own financial affairs. (For example, Britney Spears’ father was appointed as her conservator in 2008 and this legal classification still stands as of the writing of this blog. Even though Spears is not incapacitated, the court agrees that she still needs a conservator.) Conservatorships can be contested. They also can be terminated if the facts and circumstances warrant. Someone interested in the protected person’s welfare (a family member, for example) can file a petition with the courts to terminate or modify the conservatorship. The protected person can also petition to modify or terminate the conservatorship. There may be different situations

What’s the Difference Between a Power of Attorney and a Conservator?

Adulting is hard sometimes! Many adult responsibilities – even mundane ones – are necessary to fulfill your obligations: paying monthly bills, filing tax returns, purchasing/maintaining/selling a home or automobile, making/managing investments, etc. We often take for granted our ability to manage such tasks – even if they are not always easy or fun to do. Especially when we are younger and feel invincible, the need to set up protection for the handling of these affairs may seem like overkill. The truth is, we never know what the future holds for our mental or physical health. Although no one wants to think about it, disease, accidents, trauma and even addiction can drastically alter our abilities to control our own financial affairs. However, help with your financial decisions can be arranged if you need it. • If you are planning ahead, you can designate an agent under power of attorney as part

Reasons Why a Guardian Might Deny Visitation

A legal guardian is a person who is legally responsible for the care and well-being of a ward: a minor or an adult who cannot provide adequate self-care. A guardian may be appointed by the court (perhaps after being specifically named within an estate planning document) if the parents are deceased or if they are incapable of providing a safe and caring environment for the child. Situations that may lead to the need for guardianship can include mental illness, substance abuse, physical abuse, dementia, exploitation, neglect, etc. Allowing visitation – supervised or unsupervised – between parents and children can be beneficial and healthy for the ward if the interactions are positive and the parents are making strides toward bettering their lives. However, there are some circumstances where visitation may not be recommended. A guardian does have the power to deny visitation of a minor or incapacitated adult if they feel

Law Lingo: Personal Autonomy

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain the concept of personal autonomy. Personal autonomy is the ability to live life on your own terms, according to your own belief system and preferences – regardless of how other people may feel about your choices. Personal autonomy can be as simple as choosing what to eat for dinner or what types of clothes to wear. It also applies to more significant life choices such as where to live, what friends to have, what career to pursue and what religious beliefs you want to follow (if any). In short, personal autonomy is freedom. Unfortunately, freedom can be cut short. We are not talking freedom lost due to incarceration, but rather freedom temporarily or permanently lost if you should become incapacitated due

Can a Family Override a Living Will?

There is a reason why a living will in Denver is such an important legal document: it cannot be changed by anyone other than the person who writes it. If you have prepared a living will, this means you have stated in writing what type of medical care you want administered if you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. If you should fall into a coma, suffer from dementia, become seriously injured, have a terminal condition, enter into a persistent vegetative state, etc., this prepared document would go into effect. Within this document, you can outline things such as: Which types of life-sustaining procedures you want to have performed (or which ones you do not want administered); CPR Artificial nutrition/hydration with feeding tubes Mechanical breathing assistance with a ventilator How long you want these procedures to continue; Who you want to enforce these decisions (medical power of attorney);

#FreeBritney: A Conservatorship for the Books

In 2008, singer Britney Spears lost full control over her estate and assets (today estimated at $60 million) when her father and an attorney were named the co-conservators of her estate. A conservator is a person(s) chosen by the courts to protect an incapacitated or incapable adult’s financial affairs and estate. In this case, the unplanned conservatorship was deemed necessary due to several alleged public mental breakdowns suffered by the singer. Those around her were concerned that she was incapable of making financial decisions for herself and vulnerable to people trying to take advantage of her. Typically, a conservator is responsible for such duties as: Paying monthly bills Managing investments Purchasing or selling property Filing tax returns and appropriate forms with the state regarding financial dealings In this particular conservatorship, the duties also include controlling her career and extend into Spears’ personal life – keeping her distanced from toxic relationships,

Things to Know Before Your First Estate Planning Meeting: “Who is in charge and when?”

Whether you have an abundance of assets, or very few, making a plan for what happens to them after your death could make things a little easier for the loved ones you leave behind. The best way to ensure that your assets are disposed of pursuant to your wishes is to hire a Denver estate planning attorney to draft a comprehensive estate plan. However, you should know a few simple things before you go into your estate planning meeting. This month, we will address three questions to which you should know the answer. Today we ask: “Who is in charge and when?” When drafting your estate plan, there are several fiduciary roles at play. Those are: Personal Representative—This person is nominated in your will, but must be appointed by the court in a probate proceeding after your death in order to have any actual authority. The personal representative is only

Super Lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC

Brown & Crona LLC is proud to announce that Nicole Economy Brown and Spencer Crona have been named as 2021 “Super Lawyers” in Denver by Thomson Reuters. Ms. Brown’s selection is for her experience in estate planning and probate.  Mr. Crona’s selection is for his experience in estate and trust litigation. This is a highly-respected rating service of lawyers from more than 70 practice areas. This is a distinction that many attorneys strive to achieve but few receive. In fact, only 5% of attorneys across the United States are selected for Super Lawyer status. The Super Lawyers selection process is quite extensive and has received a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2013. The process involves 4 steps: Step 1: Nominations Lawyers can be nominated by their peers, from third party feedback, from a managing partner survey or identified through the Super Lawyers research team. Step

Things to Know Before Your First Estate Planning Meeting: “Who are the beneficiaries/heirs and how do you want to benefit them?”

Whether you have an abundance of assets, or very few, making a plan for what happens to them after your death could make things a little easier for the loved ones you leave behind. The best way to ensure that your assets are disposed of pursuant to your wishes is to hire a Denver estate planning attorney to draft a comprehensive estate plan. However, you should know a few simple things before you go into your estate planning meeting. This month, we will address three questions to which you should know the answer. Today we ask: “Who are the beneficiaries and how do you want to benefit them?” Beneficiaries are the people you wish to benefit through estate planning. Heirs are the people entitled to receive your assets through intestacy (dying without a will). These two terms are often interchangeable, but it is important to know the difference. This is

Things to Know Before Your First Estate Planning Meeting: “What are your assets?”

Whether you have an abundance of assets, or very few, making a plan for what happens to them after your death could make things a little easier for the loved ones you leave behind. The best way to ensure that your assets are disposed of pursuant to your wishes is to hire a Denver estate planning attorney to draft a comprehensive estate plan. However, you should know a few simple things before you go into your estate planning meeting. This month, we will address three questions to which you should know the answer. Today we ask: “What are your assets?” The definition of an asset is “property owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments, or legacies”. A comprehensive estate plan will address & divide your assets into two categories, probate assets and non-probate assets. The biggest mistake that can be made

Are DIY Wills Legal?

Seemingly unlimited internet resources have made DIY (do it yourself) all the rage – especially during the pandemic when we have all had extra time on our hands. Love to wear tie dye shirts? DIY! Want to update your bathroom? DIY! Always wanted a fire pit in your backyard? DIY! Cannot find a tablecloth to fit your table? DIY! Need to make a will? DIY! Wait…what? Is it truly possible to DIY your last will and testament? Would such a document really be legally binding? The answer is yes, but only if it is done correctly. Every adult should have a last will and testament that outlines where they want their assets and possessions to go after they pass from this world. While it is best to have a legal professional help you draft this important document, it is possible to do it yourself. There are a couple of options:

Law Lingo: Attorney

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain the concept of what an attorney is. Attorney is another word for lawyer or attorney at law. These are umbrella terms that encompass the vast legal field. There is no single type of attorney that can cover any type of legal issue – because the legal system is so complex and specialized, it is important to hire the right type of attorney to handle your unique case. Types of Attorneys Here is a sampling of the different legal situations that could arise and the type of attorney that can help you through the legal process. Situations: You want to create a will or trust You need to create a business entity (corporation, partnership, limited liability company, etc.) Your loved ones require

What are the Duties of a Probate Administrator?

People tend to accumulate possessions and money throughout their lives. When they are gone from this world, something must happen with those items and assets – they cannot sit idly around. A probate administrator is someone who has been appointed by the courts to make sure everything in a deceased person’s estate is settled. For example, if Aunt Betty passes away and has not identified a specific person to act as the executor of her will (or if she has no will at all), the probate courts will appoint a professional fiduciary or someone close to Aunt Betty to handle these duties. This may be one of her siblings, parents, children, nieces, nephews, cousins – whoever is a logical choice to help settle the estate. The probate administrator will become well acquainted with Aunt Betty’s affairs. That person will: Gather her mail Pay her bills using money from the estate

What Does it Mean to be the Administrator of an Estate?

If a probate court has appointed you to be the administrator of an estate, you will be responsible for ensuring that a deceased person’s possessions and assets are overseen until they can be distributed to the appropriate people. These are the same duties that an executor of an estate would handle. However, instead of being appointed by the courts (like an administrator), the executor is specifically named in a will or trust. In Colorado, the term used for both of these is a Personal Representative. Duties of an Estate Administrator Think about all of the responsibilities you have in your own life: paying rent/mortgage, paying bills, maintaining your home (mowing/watering the lawn, home repairs, cleaning, etc.) collecting mail, filing taxes, and much more. After you pass away, someone has to assume all of these duties on your behalf. That’s what the administrator will do – and much more. Ensure the

What Does a Litigator Mean?

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of litigate is “to seek resolution of a legal contest by judicial process, rather than settle.” Litigators help individuals, groups or businesses take legal action against someone else in a civil dispute. A litigator can also represent you if a legal suit is brought against you. In estate planning, litigation suits often take the form of challenges to the validity of a will (probate litigation). For example, family members who are omitted from a will may sue to try to get invalidate the will. The probate process can become especially sticky if there are multiple marriages, family rivalries, step-children or family dysfunction. While litigation can create solutions to perceived injustice, the process is not as simple as having your lawyer jump straight into the courtroom. There are a significant number of steps that must be done on your behalf to make sure your case will

Is a Special Administrator the Same as an Executor?

In estate administration, an administrator will have the same duties as an executor. Why do they have different names? The difference lies in the way the person is assigned. A special administrator is a person chosen by the probate courts to perform the duties of estate management and distribution of assets after a person passes away. This may be done if the deceased person did not make a will or if they did not specifically name a person to handle these duties. An executor is someone who is specifically named in a will to handle the same types of duties. This person has important responsibilities that include tying up loose ends after a person passes away. Most people have material possessions (home, car, furniture, clothing, jewelry, etc.) as well as bank accounts and savings that must go somewhere. If there is a will, these items may be left to specifically-named

What Happens if an Executor Doesn’t Follow a Will?

When you write your will, you can name a specific person to carry out the wishes you have outlined in that legal document. This person is called the executor. If you do not name someone in your will, the probate courts will name an executor or special administrator to handle the administration of your estate.  Regardless of how the person gets chosen, the executor has a great deal of responsibility. Some of the tasks include: Filing the will with the probate courts Distributing assets to beneficiaries Managing bank accounts Pay bills, debts and taxes with money from the estate Notifying important entities of the death (Social Security office, banks, credit cards, etc.) Maintain property if necessary until it is sold Imagine the temptation if the executor is not 100% trustworthy…if the executor has fallen on hard times…if the executor has made some poor life decisions that are negatively affecting their

Law Lingo: Estate Lawyer

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain an estate lawyer. Estate attorneys help people navigate the intricacies of law in the areas of: Estate planning (wills, trusts, powers of attorney, living will, etc.) Business planning (creating a corporation, partnership or limited liability company) Estate/trust administration Protective person proceedings (guardianships and conservatorships) Probate/trust litigation You do not have to be a multi-millionaire to benefit from an estate lawyer’s expertise. If you own possessions, that means you have an estate. If you have loved ones, that means you should take measures to protect their financial, emotional and social well-being after you leave this earth. If you own a business, that means you should draft legal documents to keep your company running smoothly after your death. An estate lawyer may introduce

Advantages of having an Estate Attorney

An estate planning lawyer can help you navigate the intricacies of the law in regard to protecting your possessions, providing for your family and helping your family make difficult decisions on your behalf while you are alive and after you pass away. The attorneys at Brown & Crona, LLC have over 50 years of combined experience handling estate planning, estate and trust administration, estate and trust litigation, guardianships, conservatorships and more. We routinely receive 5-star ratings from our clients due to the personalized attention we give and our attention to detail. Don’t take our word for it. Read some of the amazing words our clients have to say about their estate planning experiences with us: “Nicole Brown has helped me immensely settle both of my parent’s estates. She listens to all my concerns, explains processes and concerns very clearly and itemizes To Do items in detail. Also good follow up

Does Colorado Use the Uniform Probate Code?

In 1973, Colorado approved and enacted the Uniform Probate Code (UPC) to simplify and streamline the probate process and move toward standardizing laws surrounding wills, trusts and intestate cases (people who pass away without a will or trust). Colorado is just one of 19 states that has adopted the UPC. The UPC includes information surrounding seven articles: General provisions and definitions Intestate succession (dying without a will) Probate of wills and estate administration Estates in probate located outside where the deceased resided Protections for people under disability (and their property) Non-probate transfers of property Trust administration While the UPC does not answer every question you may encounter in the probate process (where the court verifies and finalizes the contents of a will), it may make your probate process less complicated. Originally approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and the House of Delegates of the American

What is the Difference Between an Estate and a Trust?

Your estate comprises everything you own. It is your net worth, which includes: Homes/cars/boats/land Personal property (jewelry, tools, furniture, etc.) Bank accounts Businesses Retirement accounts Life insurance policies Debts (credit cards, mortgages, student loans, etc.) Whether you have an enormous estate with millions of dollars in assets or a simple estate, someone will inherit what you own after you die. You can choose to create a will and outline how you want your possessions distributed or you can choose to create a trust. A trust is a way to leave your estate to your loved ones, charitable organizations or anyone you want to inherit your personal belongings. By creating a trust, you can possibly achieve tax savings, keep your estate out of probate after you pass away, protect your assets from creditors and ensure that your estate is kept private (out of public record). You can also name your trust

How Do I Get a Conservatorship in Colorado?

A conservatorship is a court-appointed person who is chosen to manage the finances of an adult who has become incapable of doing it for themselves. This may be needed if a person suffers from mental illness or dementia, becomes seriously injured or incapacitated, etc., and cannot make sound legal, medical or financial decisions on their own. The conservator has a very big responsibility to act in the person’s best interest, ensuring that they are able to continue a good quality of life with appropriate levels of food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, social engagements (if possible) and more. Note: conservators can also be requested for minors. If you have a loved one who is in need of financial assistance, there are many different Colorado conservatorship forms that must be filled out and filed with the courts. While these forms are available online, it may be prudent to enlist the assistance of an

Law Lingo: Litigator

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain a litigator. A litigator handles the entire process of suing or defending a person, group or company in civil disputes. The litigation process may or may not end up in a courtroom. If it does, a litigator will be able to present their case in front of a judge and/or jury. Litigators have many responsibilities outside the courtroom to help their clients. In order to take successful legal action, the litigator must: Gather as many details as possible about the case by reviewing records, talking to witnesses, interviewing all parties involved, etc. It may be necessary to get outside assistance to collect supporting evidence – such as hiring a private investigator, expert, accountant or other specialists. This is referred to as

When Should You Do Estate Planning?

If you are the breadwinner of your family and have amassed a large fortune over your lifetime, it is a no-brainer that you need an estate plan. However, there is no absolute age threshold or financial minimum that must be met before you can start making plans to protect your future. There are many reasons why having an estate plan in place can benefit younger single people just starting out in their adult lives. Here are a few estate documents that can be created to protect your possessions, help your family in the event of an emergency and ensure your wishes are fulfilled in case you are unable to speak for yourself. Will/Trust: Wills and trusts allow you to state how you want your property distributed upon your death. You can even leave very specific items to friends and family members in a personal property memorandum: your favorite Fender electric

Law Lingo: Personal Property Memorandum

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain a personal property memorandum. A personal property memorandum is an addendum to your will that allows you to list out specific personal property items that you wish to leave to specific individuals. This can be a very short list or a lengthy one. To avoid confusion, the more specific you can be in this document, the better. For example, you may want to list out the contact information for each person to make it easier for your personal representative to locate each individual.. (This may require that you update the document frequently.) Examples of a Personal Property Memorandum Line Item “I, Mary Sue Jones, bequeath my vintage brown Disney Mickey Mouse Leather Bomber Jacket Flying Squadron to my niece, Jennifer Eloise

What is the Difference Between Probate and Estate Administration?

The end of a person’s life is also the start of the legal process to ensure that the decedent’s estate (personal possessions, financial accounts, etc.) does not go unclaimed. Probate and estate administration are different aspects of this legal process. Probate: the court process to ensure that an estate is properly settled and all property is distributed to beneficiaries. Estate Administration: the process undertaken by a specifically-named individual to handle all of the details of settling the estate such as ensuring all assets are accounted for, distributing assets and paying all outstanding debts/taxes, etc., on behalf of the deceased. If there is a will, the probate process may be a little simpler – especially if the deceased named someone they know to be the estate administrator or executor. If there is no will (meaning the person died in intestate), the courts will assign a person to be the estate administrator/executor

What is a Disposition of Last Remains?

Death is not a pleasant thing to think about. Unfortunately, it is inevitable for all of us. The more prepared and organized you can be about what you want to happen to you after you pass away, the less your family will have to make difficult decisions on your behalf. A disposition of last remains document is typically part of your estate plan. In which, you can outline specific end of life details such as: Your wish to be cremated, buried, or entombed Your funeral home of choice The location of your burial What to do with your ashes What type of ceremony, if any, you want to be held in your honor Wake Funeral Celebration of life Memorial service Private event with close family members only Public event No service at all Organ or tissue donation; donate your body to science Name an executor to ensure your wishes are

What is the Purpose of Probate?

Over a lifetime, most people accumulate material possessions and have financial assets that they work hard to accumulate/achieve. While we are alive, these things are very important to us. We may work hard to support other people financially; and when it comes to sentimental possessions, we often want to ensure those items are passed down to other generations. It is safe to say that most people also want to leave a positive legacy behind and continue to care for and protect those they love – even after they are gone. Probate is a safeguard to ensure your wishes are carried out. Probate helps ensure that all of your chosen beneficiaries or surviving family members receive exactly what you want them to have from your estate. If you have named people specifically in a will, the probate process may be a little simpler than if you pass away intestate – meaning

Do Litigators go to Court?

Yes. Litigators can argue civil cases in courtroom settings on behalf of the plaintiff or defendant. However, a trip to the courtroom is one of the last phases of the litigation process. In fact, some cases never actually make it to court, but rather get settled out of court. When you hire a litigation attorney, they will listen to your case, assess the validity of your claim and gather up as much information as possible so they can adequately represent you. During this step in the process, they may consult with other professionals to gather more information or statements from witnesses. Throughout the process, the litigator is required to share information with all other interested parties involved in the case: the court, other attorneys, etc. There may be a significant amount of paperwork that must be shared in order for all parties to be on the same page, Therefore, it

Law Lingo: Litigation

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain litigation. Litigation refers to the process of settling a civil dispute in a court of law. Not all cases end up in front of a judge; sometimes the lawsuits can be settled out of court. Some examples of litigation lawsuits include: Injury as a result of another person or company’s negligence Discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace Breach of contract for work that was not performed according to the agreement Medical negligence that resulted in death Litigation is also very common in regard to estates. When a person passes away, the possessions of that person (the estate) are distributed to the people or entities that designated in the decedent’s will or trust.  If there is a will or trust, this

How Can a Parent Sign Over Guardianship?

Sometimes parents have to make the difficult decision to allow another person to care for their child. Luckily, we have a legal process called guardianship in this country that allows parents to choose this option for different reasons such as: Being mentally or physically unable to provide proper care Having an addiction to drugs or alcohol Residing in unsafe or unsanitary conditions Being unable to control abusive tendencies Guardianship in Colorado can be temporary or permanent, giving another person the responsibility of caring for a minor (child under age 18) or an adult child with special needs. The parents can choose a specific person to act as guardian – it must be someone who they feel will make the right types of medical, educational and social decisions with their child’s best interests in mind. It’s also important for the child to be placed in a home that is loving, safe

Law Lingo: Living Will

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain living wills. A living will, sometimes referred to as an advanced directive, is a legal document that gives you a voice when you are unable to express your medical wishes. Everyone has a right to refuse or allow medical treatment, but that is not always possible. Let’s say you are a healthy individual who falls into a coma after a serious accident. If you have not prepared a living will, your loved ones will have to make medical care decisions on your behalf. In fact, they may have to decide how long to continue life-sustaining treatments – something that can rip a family apart if not all parties are in agreement. Terminal conditions sometimes require physicians to intervene with measures such

Can a Conservator Sign Documents?

The courts appoint conservators in Colorado to manage the financial affairs of an incapacitated adult (protected person) or a minor child who is under age 21. These duties include: Paying monthly bills Managing investments Determining the value of property or real estate Purchasing small and large items Selling large items like a car, home or rental property Filing tax returns Filing appropriate forms with the state regarding financial dealings Getting court approval for certain duties Keeping detailed records of all transactions Filing reports to the courts As you can imagine, these duties come with a lot of paperwork and it may be necessary for documents to be signed on a regular basis. If the protected person is physically or mentally unable to sign documents, the conservator is approved to sign on behalf of the protected person, as long as it is within the scope of his or her delegated authority

How Do I Set Up a Conservatorship?

Conservatorships are set up to help incapacitated adults (respondents) manage their financial affairs. This can also be set up for a minor child who has assets in his or her name. If you have a loved one who you feel can no longer handle the responsibilities of paying bills, managing investments, buying or selling property, filing tax returns, etc., you can request that a conservator be appointed. Steps to Set Up a Conservatorship for an Incapacitated Adult File a petition in the probate court of the state and county in which the respondent resides or owns property. Complete all necessary forms for your particular situation. There are almost 20 different forms that may be required. File your forms with the court and pay the $199 filing fee. (There may be other fees as well.) Ensure the proposed conservator has undergone a criminal history record from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation

Is an Attorney Needed to Settle an Estate?

The death of a loved one can be an emotional rollercoaster: sadness and heartbreak can mix with confusion to leave you feeling overwhelmed – especially if you are named the executor of the deceased person’s estate. In the midst of your grief, the duties of executor need to move forward in a timely manner to settle the estate. While there are many responsibilities for this appointment, it is not required to hire an attorney. It is entirely possible to handle these duties on your own. However, if the estate you are settling is quite large and complicated, it may be wise to consult a Colorado estate lawyer to help you: Locate the will and file it with the probate courts (trusts do not go through probate) Check to see if a living trust has also been created and work with the trustee to wrap up the estate Take inventory of

Law Lingo: Power of Attorney

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain a power of attorney. A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document which appoints another person or organization (known as the agent) to act on your behalf. POAs can be completed for your medical or financial decisions: carrying out your wishes or making decisions for you. Special/Limited Power of Attorney: appointed to handle specific tasks that you cannot handle. Their powers will be more limited and will need to be spelled out specifically. This designation can be set to end at a certain time or terminate after an event has taken place. Financial Power of Attorney: such as business transactions, filing tax returns, buying life insurance, making banking transactions, gifting money or assets to others, processing payments from Social Security

Is a Guardian Responsible for Bills?

If you are named a legal guardian, you will be responsible for the well-being of another person (legally referred to as a ward). Whether the ward is a minor or an incapacitated adult who is incapable of handling their own affairs, caring for this individual can be costly. Think about the bills you incur each month for yourself and your own family: Education Healthcare/medications Housing Transportation Clothing Food Entertainment Cell phone The ward will require all of these same types of support. If the ward has sufficient assets, a conservatorship may also we required to manage the ward’s finances.  Legal guardians are entitled to receive reasonable compensation to help cover the costs of caring for another human being. However, sometimes family members who take on this responsibility often do not request compensation. Guardianship compensation in Colorado varies from circumstance to circumstance. In some cases, the ward will continue to collect

Can You Sue a Conservator in Denver?

The short answer to this question is YES, but let’s delve a little deeper. A conservator is a person appointed by the court to manage the financial affairs and estate of an adult person that becomes incapacitated. A conservator can be appointed for a minor. Conservators are responsible for duties such as: Paying bills Managing bank accounts Selling real estate (with permission from the courts) Purchasing property Filing taxes Managing investments Basically, a conservator can be in charge of another person’s entire estate, sometimes with little supervision. If that person is not 100% trustworthy, it may be all too tempting to commit fraud and steal money or goods from the person they are supposed to protect. Unfortunately, the protected person is often completely unaware of the situation so it is a good idea for their loved ones to keep a close eye on the estate. If you suspect that the

Who Gets a Copy of a Trust?

One of the reasons to create a trust instead of a will is to keep your estate private after you pass away. The information contained in a trust is not public record and does not move through the probate process (in contrast to a will). In fact, trusts aren’t recorded anywhere in the court system. So, who actually gets a copy of these private documents? The trust can state who is entitled to receive information regarding the trust.  If the person who created the trust is still alive (trustor), no one besides the trustee (the person responsible for managing the trust) is required to have a copy of the trust. Even after the trustor passes away, beneficiaries and heirs may not automatically get a copy of the trust. In some states, if you want to obtain a copy of a trust, you must ask in writing for the trustee to

How Do You Dispute a Trust?

We’ve all watched movies where the wealthy family of their deceased patriarch gathers together in the library for the reading of a will or trust. Prepared to inherit millions, there is a feeling of excitement and entitlement in the air. As the lawyer begins the reading, “I, Biff Digby, being of sound mind and body, hereby leave my entire fortune to my dog,” the family gasps in horror, shouting erupts and threats are made. While this may seem like Hollywood exaggeration, situations like this have actually happened. In fact, when American businesswoman and hotelier Leona Helmsley passed away, she left $12 million to her 9-year-old Maltese dog and the remaining $8 billion trust to be used for the care and welfare of dogs. Most of her human relatives were cut out of her estate plan completely. After disputes by the Helmsley family, Trouble, her Maltese, eventually only received $2 million

What is the Purpose of a Trust Agreement?

A trust agreement is a document that allows you (the trustor) to legally transfer the ownership of specific assets to another person (trustee) to be held for the trustor’s beneficiaries. While this may seem odd, it’s done for a number of reasons: to promote wealth management, gain tax advantages (some trusts are not subject to estate tax), keep the document out of public record when you pass away,  possibly to protect your estate from creditors and let your loved ones avoid probate after you pass. The trust agreement is typically a lengthy document that outlines all of the terms of the agreement such as: Assets controlled in the trust Powers and limitations for the trustee Compensation for the trustee How the beneficiaries shares will be distributed to them (outright or in further trust) Terms for termination of the trust The trustee has fiduciary responsibilities to manage the assets in the

Law Lingo: Fiduciary Responsibility

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain fiduciary responsibility. If you are named a fiduciary, this means that you are responsible for managing the assets (money, property, legal matters, etc.) for someone else. In regard to estate planning, you may choose one or more fiduciaries to act in your best interests and help protect your assets and your family. There are many types of fiduciary roles that can be hand-picked by you and specifically named in your will: Executor: responsible for distributing your assets according to the wishes you’ve outlined in your will. This person will also tie up the loose ends of your estate such as alerting important parties of your passing, paying all debts (from the estate), filing taxes and more. Guardian: responsible for the health

Who Should Have Trusts? 9 Situations to Consider.

Most people have assets that they want to remain protected while they are alive AND after they pass away. In many cases, a last will and testament is sufficient to plan for how you want your assets distributed after you are gone. However, some people might benefit from setting up a revocable or irrevocable trust instead of a will. Here are 9 examples of situations that might warrant this type of estate plan in Colorado: You are concerned that you might become incapacitated and unable to care for your estate and/or manage your assets in the future (or you simply want to plan for any type of emergency situation). You have a person in mind that you would want to act as the trustee to manage your estate while you are alive and make the distributions pursuant to the terms of the trust after you pass away. You want to

Can Guardianship be Contested?

Guardianship in Colorado is a legal appointment in which a specific person or family is chosen to care for a minor child (or adult child with disabilities) if you should become incapacitated or pass away. This is a great responsibility because the guardian is in charge of caring for the ward in virtually every physical, emotional and financial aspect of life: Living arrangements Healthcare Education Social interactions Nutrition Religion Sometimes, the person who has been named the guardian simply isn’t up for this level of responsibility. If the guardian is suffering from any type of substance abuse, mental illness, imprisonment/conviction or any type of personal conflicts within the family, they will not have the capacity to provide a safe environment for the child. If you suspect that a guardian is not providing the right level of basic care for a child or if the child is being mistreated, you can

What Does an Estate Planning Attorney Do?

Imagine working your entire life to amass a sizeable amount of personal property and money – only to see all of your possessions: Fought over by your loved ones Held up in a lengthy court process as legal fees chip away at the value Divvied up among distant relatives you’ve never met If you don’t create a will or trust, these are scenarios that could actually happen – even if you aren’t a multi-millionaire! Passing away without a will or trust is called dying intestate. That means the courts decide who will receive your estate after you pass away pursuant to the laws of intestacy– regardless of how large or small your estate is. This process can stir up trouble if family members or creditors come out of the woodwork to challenge how the estate is divided, demanding a larger portion of the pie. While it isn’t legally required to

What Kind of Attorney Do I Need for Guardianship?

People often think of a guardian as being a person responsible for raising a child under age 18. While this is true, guardianship can also be arranged for adults who are unable to care for themselves – those with mental or physical disabilities, serious illnesses, etc. The appointment of a guardian is not something to take lightly – and it is not something that should be done without legal help. The best type of attorney to arrange guardianship is one that has extensive experience with family estate planning in the state in which the guardianship is needed. This area of law can be very complex and it is constantly changing, so it is very important to have an advocate on your side to protect your loved ones. The guardianship lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC have over 50 years of combined experience in this area of the law as well

Why is Personal Autonomy Important?

We all like to be in control of our own destiny. Personal autonomy is the idea of making your own decisions in life – regardless of how others may agree or disagree with your choices. This can apply to any aspect of your life: friendships, careers, living arrangements, religion, medical treatments, etc. Many people take personal autonomy for granted – especially when they are healthy and living life to the fullest. But what if you were unable to make those decisions for yourself? None of us like to think about the possibility that life could drastically change. But the truth is that no one knows what the future holds. Disease, injury, trauma – seemingly unfathomable situations could occur that leave you incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. The inability to speak your own thoughts and voice your life choices would effectively remove your personal autonomy temporarily or even permanently.

Law Lingo: Probate

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain probate. It is rare for the word probate to be considered in high regard. But in reality, probate is a good thing: it is in place to carry out a deceased person’s last wishes and protect their loved ones. To fully appreciate probate, you must understand that it is the court’s method of ensuring that all beneficiaries or surviving family members receive the proper assets from the deceased person’s estate. This process is also used if a person passes away intestate – meaning without leaving a will behind. Probate is another layer of protection for beneficiaries to receive their inheritance. Sadly, probate gets a bad reputation because it can be very time-consuming and very expensive – although not all probate falls

Do I Need a Lawyer for Guardianship?

The short answer to the question “Do I need a lawyer for guardianship?” is no. It is not required to hire a lawyer to appoint a guardian for your minor child or for your adult child who is incapacitated (a ward). The state of Colorado Judicial Branch has a list of instructions and forms online that can be handled by individuals on their own. That said, you need to know what you are getting into when you decide to take on the process of setting up legal guardianship on your own. Contained within the instructions are a list of over a dozen different forms to complete for this process. Not all forms are required and it will be your responsibility to complete and file the right forms in the right order with the correct court. There are also fees associated with filing petitions. Any hiccup in this process could delay

What is a Personal Property Memorandum?

The purpose of a will is to outline who you want to inherit your estate after you pass away. If you want everything to pass down equally to a spouse or your children, including a blanket statement in your will may suffice. However, most people have sentimental possessions that have great memories or significant meaning to others – and you may wish to leave those specific, tangible items to other people outside of your immediate family. While it is perfectly fine to list those items out in your will, if you have many different possessions you would like to leave to different people, it may be easier and more efficient to create a personal property memorandum. Plus, it will be easier to modify if you want to add or change the document in the future. A personal property memorandum is an addendum to your will. In this document you can

Does Colorado Have Probate?

The state of Colorado does have a probate process for the following situations: A deceased person does not have a will. This is also known as an intestate estate. A deceased person has a valid will and the estate is worth more than $70,000 for the year 2020 and includes substantial property or includes real property. A deceased person has a valid will but the document is being contested, is found to be invalid or the contents of the will are questionable. This circumstance requires a formal probate process that could become expensive and lengthy. A deceased person has a valid will and all parties connected to the will are in agreement with the contents. This may result in an informal probate process that is carried out by an appointed personal representative named in the will. If the estate is worth less than $70,000 for the year 2020 and the

Law Lingo: Conservator

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain conservator. In this case, a conservator is not someone who helps protect, repair or preserve works of art or other cultural objects (although, that is one definition of the word). In the estate planning realm, a conservator is a person who is appointed by the courts to manage the financial affairs and estate of an adult who is physically or mentally unable to handle these duties on their own. A conservator can also be appointed for a minor who has assets titled in their name. Reasons for Incapacity A person can be deemed incapacitated after a stroke, brain injury, accident, etc. This situation can also occur if the person suffers from mental illness or  dementia. The person does not have to

Who is a Protected Person?

There are several situations where someone may be classified as a protected person when it comes to conservatorships in Colorado: An adult who has become incapacitated due to a disease or injury. This could be a mental or physical disability that renders the person unable to communicate and/or function to be able to make decisions on their own. A minor (someone under age 21) who has parents who are deceased or who has significant assets in his or her name. Because a protected person cannot fully care for themselves, it is important that someone step in to help. The courts will appoint a conservator to fill this role: a family member, close friend or a professional fiduciary who will be responsible for managing the financial affairs and property on behalf of the protected person. The exact duties of the conservator can range, depending on the protected person’s age, mental capacities

Can a Trustee Steal from a Trust?

The lure of easy money is sometimes just too powerful for some people to resist. Although it may seem incomprehensible, it is possible for a person to steal from a trust. In fact, it may be especially easy if that person is placed in a position of power – like being named the trustee of a trust. A trustee is a person that has been hand-picked by the creator of the trust – or by the courts – to manage and distribute the assets of a trust after a person passes away. Trustees have access to bank accounts and physical property. They are responsible for assessing the value of possessions, coordinating sales and ensuring all property goes into the correct hands and managing and overseeing the assets of the trust. In short, trustees have a lot of power and responsibility. Unfortunately, if your trustee is not 100% honest and ethical,

Brown & Crona Raises Over $3,800 for Alzheimer’s!

The team at Brown & Crona, LLC participated in the 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday, September 14 in Denver, Colorado. It was a beautiful day to join with 4,980 other walkers representing 662 teams to help put an end to this devastating disease. We would like to say thank you to everyone who sponsored our team – we raised over $3,800 for this organization that means so much to us. We all walked in honor of our loved ones who have been personally impacted by Alzheimer’s or other dementias. But we also walked in honor of our many clients and their families that we have helped cope with the medical and financial challenges of this progressive disease. The Denver event raised $1,224,917 for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Although the event is over, you can still donate to our team by clicking here. To learn more about Alzheimer’s,

Do I Need a Trust Attorney to Administer a Trust?

If you have been named a trustee to administrator a trust for a loved one who has passed away, you may not fully understand the scope of your responsibilities – especially if this appointment came as a surprise to you and if the trust estate is very large. As a trustee, you will be responsible for handling the management of the trust estate and the distribution of the person’s assets after they pass away. This is big responsibility, so it is often recommended that you hire a professional trained in the legal aspects of trusts to help speed up the process, avoid litigation, ensure that you are in compliance with your fiduciary duties and help lessen the conflicts among surviving family members. A trust attorney can handle the whole gamut of trust administration including: Notifications: all beneficiaries as well as government entities and other organizations will need to be notified

Do I Need a Trust if I Don’t Own Property?

Property ownership is not the only reason a person might want to create a trust instead of a will. In fact, you do not have to own property to create a trust which in some instances could be the smarter estate planning choice. In addition to naming who will receive your assets after you pass, a trust allows you the flexibility to: Reduce the amount of estate and gift taxes your loved ones may have to pay after you pass away Eliminate the need for your estate to go through the probate process Protect your assets from lawsuits and creditors Specifically name a person (trustee) to manage your assets if you become incapacitated as well as after you pass away There is not a singular type of trust – in fact, there are many different types that can provide taxation benefits for your loved ones. For example, you can create

What is the Purpose of an Estate Plan?

Most people would never give someone else a gift and then ask the recipient to pay money in return. But that is a very broad example of what could happen in an inheritance situation if there is no estate plan. An estate plan goes beyond the creation of a will – an estate plan can outline how you want your assets distributed as well as instructions for the care of minor children but it can also protect your heirs from being subjected to paying estate taxes, court costs and other fees associated with their inheritance. It is wise to create an estate plan if you have a very large estate, wish for your estate to be kept private, you own a business, have retirement accounts or have other special circumstances. Large Estates If the value of your entire estate will exceed the federal tax exclusion amount of $11.58 million (for

Court Battles & Caregiving: How to Manage When Families Don’t Get Along

Spencer Crona from Brown & Crona, LLC was recently featured on The Caring Generation® radio program, hosted by Pamela D. Wilson. The segment, “How to Manage When Families Don’t Get Along,” discussed how dysfunctional families create conflict and drama when it comes to caregiving for older family members. Sibling rivalries, difficult parent/child relationships, lack of trust, poor communication and many other family dynamics can not only affect our lives as we are growing up; these dynamics also affect how families come together to care for aging parents. The program includes tips on how to manage family disagreements. During the program, Mr. Crona helps sort out what happens when these disagreements turn into court battles. His discussion includes an overview of two specific family situations: A daughter caring for her elderly parent would not allow the siblings to visit. A private caregiver hired to care for a parent actually influenced the

What are the Basic Estate Planning Documents?

If you are thinking about creating a will, you may be under the assumption that you only need a singular document to protect all of your assets. In reality, there are several different types of documents that should be incorporated into your overall estate plan – regardless of how much property you own, how much money you have in the bank and how many people you want to leave your estate to (beneficiaries). 4 Estate Plan Documents There are 4 basic estate plan documents that every adult should draft to not only protect your possessions but also your livelihood: Will or trust Financial power of attorney Medical power of attorney Living will Will/Trust A last will and testament and a living trust are both documents that allow you to specify how you want your assets, such as property and money, to be distributed after you pass away. In Colorado, if

What Does a Trust Attorney Do?

The term trust attorney does not refer to a lawyer who is trustworthy (although this is an important characteristic to have in your attorney). A trust attorney is an estate planning professional who can help you create the necessary paperwork to set up a trust for your estate. A trust, unlike a will, allows your surviving family members to avoid the probate process after you pass away. In fact, trusts are kept private and out of public record. Trusts can include provisions to lower estate taxes which helps your loved ones receive more of what you intended to leave them. Trusts are especially useful documents for people who have large estates. The downside of trusts is that they can be expensive and complicated documents to draw up and ensure their validity. While it is possible to write your own trust, a trust attorney will go beyond the basics and delve

Can I Write My Own Living Trust?

DIY (do-it-yourself) projects are in abundance online. If you want to learn how to build a piece of furniture for your house, fix an automobile problem or create a useful craft, there are endless options. But what if you want to DIY a living trust? Is it possible? Is it advisable? Yes, it is possible to create your own revocable living trust (revocable meaning that you have the ability to change it whenever you wish). Here are some of the very basic steps that must be followed: Prepare the living trust process by downloading the proper forms. Specify the following individuals in your trust: the trustee (person/bank/lawyer to manage your assets and distribute them after you pass away) and beneficiaries (the people who will receive your inheritance) Choose what assets you want to place into your trust and change the legal ownership of those assets to the trust. Include all

Can You Withdraw Cash from a Trust Account?

The short answer to the question, “Can you withdraw cash from a trust account?” is Yes, but there are some caveats. If you have created a revocable trust, not an irrevocable one, and are the trustee of the trust, you can add and remove assets of the trust, A revocable trust allows you to make amendments to your trust and it also allows you to keep control of your assets. You will relinquish ownership and control of your estate with an irrevocable trust. If you have created a revocable trust and have appointed someone else as trustee, you will have to request the cash withdrawal from the person you appointed as the trustee. However, the trustee has a fiduciary duty to administer the trust for your benefit while you are alive. When you create a revocable trust and name someone else as the trustee, it can be helpful to specifically

Cars to Rings to Fancy Things: What Can an Estate Planning Attorney Do for You?

Back in 1984, pop sensation Madonna was a material girl living in a material world. In 1993, the Barenaked Ladies dreamed of everything they would buy if they “had a million dollars” (even a monkey!). Flash forward to 2019 and Ariana Grande sings, “I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it” in her song 7 Rings. For decades there have been dozens of songs about the pleasures of having money. If these songs are any indication, it’s a simple fact that we like our stuff: our homes, cars, jewelry, clothing, shoes, electronics – all the things money can buy. We work hard to be able to afford these possessions for ourselves and our loved ones. They are status symbols, measures of success and meaningful in many different ways for different people. If you can relate to these statements, stop and ask yourself this question: What would

What Happens When a House in a Trust is Sold?

When you create a revocable trust, you (as the grantor/settlor of the trust), typically name yourself as the trustee of the trust.  If you own a house and place that property into a revocable trust, you, as trustee, have the ability to sell any type of property, including your home, while it is in the revocable trust. The home is sold in the normal fashion, most likely through a real estate agent and the assistance of a title company The sale may be subject to capital gains taxes. However, if the house you own is your primary residence and you lived in it for 2 out of the 5 years before it is sold, you may exclude up to $250,000 in capital gains (for single people) or up to $500,000 (if married and filing jointly). Alternatively, if you have been named the trustee of a trust established by another person

Can a Husband and Wife Have Separate Wills?

It is a customary estate planning practice for each spouse to have his or her own will.  While some practitioners may draft a joint will for a married couple, it is not recommended.  Here are a few reasons why. When you create a joint will with your spouse, and one spouse passes away, the joint will becomes irrevocable: an irrevocable document that cannot be changed by the surviving spouse. That means that the surviving spouse may not be able to do things like: Sell property/assets listed in the will Limit or change the inheritance for beneficiaries who are estranged, irresponsible or have made poor life choices Use money from the estate to pay for a new home, business venture or education expenses Change a beneficiary or executor Leave any part of your estate in the joint will to a new spouse If your spouse passes away, you will ultimately have

9 Questions to Ask a Probate Lawyer

professional careers to helping people navigate this confusing, scary and sometimes quite lengthy process. If you have been named an executor of an estate and need help with the probate process, how do you choose one probate lawyer over the other? There is no single answer to this question. The best plan is to interview several different probate lawyers, ask them questions about their experience and services and make sure you can establish a good rapport with that person and their team. Here are 9 questions to ask probate lawyers in Colorado: Have you handled a wide variety of probate cases (simple, complicated, large estates, small estates, contested)? How long do you think it will take to go through probate for my specific situation? What potential problems do you expect with my case? How many years have you handled probate cases in Colorado? Will the work on my case be

Living Will vs. Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)

A living will and a Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) are different medical advance directives that can allow you to tell your loved ones how you want to be cared for in the event you are unable to do so yourself. A living will outlines what medical measures you want taken (if any) to be kept alive (artificially) if you are in an end-of-life situation. Stipulations can include life support, tube feeding, mechanical breathing, dialysis, palliative care, pain management, organ donations, etc. The living will document can also state how long you want medical intervention continued (days, weeks, months, etc.). This is typically a document that your Denver estate planning lawyer will draft for you. A DNR is an order that states you do not want be resuscitated with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with or without an electric shock to stimulate your heart if your breathing stops. This order must be

What is Trust Litigation?

When it comes to distribution of money and property after a person passes away, all of the interested and involved parties don’t always play fair. In fact, when there is a trust set up, the actions of a close family member or friend can influence the provisions in the trust – fairly or unfairly.  A trust is created when a person (grantor) is alive to dispose of that person’s assets as well as name beneficiaries for those assets after the grantor passes away. In a revocable trust, the grantor has control of the assets and can act as the trustee or they can name another person to act as the trustee in the event they are unable to serve as trustee.  In an irrevocable trust, the grantor gives control of their assets to a trustee (a specific person named for this responsibility). An irrevocable trust cannot be changed or altered.

When Can You Contest a Will?

In Colorado, there are two ways in which a will can be offered for probate—formal and informal.  With formal probate, a beneficiary or heir must object to the probate of the will at or prior to the hearing.  Once a Court has granted formal probate of a will, a beneficiary or heir typically cannot object to the will. With informal probate, an heir or beneficiary can object to the will any time before the estate is closed.  Typically, time is of the essence when it comes to deciding on whether or not to object to a will. The longer you wait, the more your options may be limited. Probate law varies from state to state so the courts will determine the validity of the challenge based on certain parameters.  Situations that May Warrant Contesting a Will After Probate Let’s say that six months after your mother’s estate is opened with

Scary Scenario: Paying Medical Bills for Others

The season of Halloween just passed, with scary images of witches, ghosts and vampires all around. But none of these images can compare with the scare of looming medical bills – especially if you are responsible for another person.  If you have been named a legal guardian for a minor or incapacitated adult who is incapable of handling their own affairs (also called a ward), you may be wondering if you, as the guardian, are responsible for their medical bills.  The short answer is No. (Scary scenario avoided!) In most cases, guardians are not responsible for the costs surrounding the care of the ward to whom they are assigned. This includes medical bills, education, living arrangements, etc. In Colorado, legal guardians are entitled to receive reasonable compensation for their services as guardian. There is no set amount of compensation for legal guardians; it will vary based on the yearly income

Can a Guardian Deny Visitation?

Before this question can be answered, it is first necessary to remember the potential situations that may have warranted guardianship for a minor or an incapacitated adult.  Reasons for Guardianship The parent or caregiver of the minor or the incapacitated adult may have fallen into one of these situations, making them unfitunable to make decisions on behalf of their minor children or themselves:  Mental illness  Drug/alcohol abuse Physical/mental abusiveness Dementia Exploitation Neglect Reasons to Deny Visitation A guardian does have the power to deny visitation of a minor or incapacitated adult if they feel the visitation could put that individual into a harmful situation. This is not absolute power; the courts may step inplace limitations on the authority, if necessary, to demand require visitation or deny visitation if there are challenges by one of the affected parties.  The child does not want to have a relationship with the parent/visitor The

3 Estate Planning Tips

Estate planning can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be – as long as you have a team of people to help you along the way. While creating a valid will or trust should be on the top of your To Do list, there are other estate planning tips that can add other layers of protection for your estate as well as your family’s financial future. Here are 3 tips to take into consideration when you start estate planning in Colorado:   Tip 1: Divide and Conquer the Responsibilities There is a lot to be said for teamwork when it comes to estate planning. Rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket by appointing a single individual to handle your affairs, spreading responsibilities to several people or groups can make the process more efficient. Some individuals can work with you directly while you are

Difference Between a Conservator and Fiduciary

A court-appointed conservator of an estate is a person named to handle the financial affairs for an incapacitated adult or minor child. This includes activities such as:  Paying monthly bills Managing investments  Purchasing and selling large ticket items like a car, home or rental property Filing tax returns and other financial forms A conservator is not responsible for caring for the individual on a personal level by handling guardianship duties such as making healthcare, educational or social engagement decisions.  In contrast a fiduciary is a person or group of individuals who can be court appointed or named in advance in a will, trust or power of attorney) to handle all of these duties – and more – under one umbrella. A fiduciary may be called upon to provide:  Probate administration Financial affair management Personal care coordination Help with daily activities Health and well-being support Power of attorney for financial and

Can a Conservator Change a Protected Person’s Will?

A conservator of a protected person is someone who has been selected by the court to manage the financial affairs and estate of an adult who is unable to make those decisions on their own. A conservator is appointed if the protected person had not named an agent under durable financial power of attorney or if the agent who was named has acted in contravention to the principal’s best interests.  A conservator in Colorado will handle financial matters such as paying bills, managing investments, purchasing or selling property, filing tax returns, etc.  Within these realms, there are financial and relationship scenarios which can warrant the changing of the protected person’s will. Conservators do have the power to make changes to the will if those changes will continue to support the pre-incapacitation wishes of the protected person and the Conservator seeks Court approval of the changes.  Here are a few possible

Estate Planning Mistakes Can Be Costly

We all make mistakes. Some mistakes can be easily remedied while others can leave lasting financial and emotional distress. When it comes to protecting your possessions and your loved ones, the more you know about legal processes the less chance you will have at making costly mistakes.    Situations that May Incur Financial or Emotional Costs   Regardless of your level of wealth, you most likely have earthly possessions and money that you would like to see passed down to your family members. A common mistake that many people make is thinking that you need to be rich to need an estate plan. The word estate may conjure up images of mansions, Maseratis and mega money. But an estate can be anything you own: a 10-year-old car, sentimental jewelry, a savings account or even a pet. If you want these possessions passed down to specific family members or friends, you

The Loss of Control When Your Child Turns 18

When your child turns 18 years of age, they are legally considered adults. In addition to earning the right to vote, being required to register for the military draft, serve on a jury, etc., they also get the ability to make medical, educational and financial decisions on their own. If you are a parent who has maintained close control over your child, this loss of power may come as a shock to you and create a bewildering field of choices for them.    Your 18-year-old child will have control over their educational records in college as well as financial accounts – even if they are not paying for school. As a parent, this can be disconcerting, especially if your child chooses not to share their grades with you.    Healthcare control, including mental health issues, also transfer directly to the 18-year-old. Unless your child requests you to be contacted, they

Brown & Crona Team to Participate in Alzheimer’s Walk

The team at Brown & Crona, LLC is participating in the 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday, September 14 in Denver, Colorado. This marks our fourth year of participating in the event. This is a very meaningful cause for us because all of our team members have a loved one who has been personally impacted by Alzheimer’s or other dementias. In our estate planning firm, we often work with families as they cope with the ravages of this disease. Because it is a progressive disease, we are often able to help individuals designate agents under medical and financial powers of attorney early in the diagnosis stage so they can feel confident that they will be well cared for later in life. We are proud to be walking in honor of our personal families and our client families. At the writing of this blog, our team has raised $2,597 of

Learn More About Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs)

If you are over age 70½, have a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your IRA and have a desire to support a charitable cause, you should consider the use of a qualified charitable distribution (QCD). You may be unaware that you can donate up to $100,000 of your RMD directly to a charity without getting taxed on the distribution. Among other restrictions, the charity you want to support must be a qualified 501(c)(3) institution that is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. The Denver estate lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC have found an excellent resource to help you understand the many different factors, rules, strategy options that exist with QCDs and traditional charitable contributions and how to file taxes with a QCD: CQD PDF The author of the QCD resource, Cascade Financial Management, Inc., is a trusted financial resource in Denver for many of our clients. If you have questions

What is a limited guardianship and conservatorship?

When an adult is considered mentally or physically incapable of making their own decisions, then they are often referred to as being incapacitated. In such instances, the courts will often appoint a conservator to look after the financial needs of the individual, while a guardian would typically oversee this person’s physical needs.  You can think of both guardians and conservators as full-time substitute decisions makers.   They assist those whom the courts have considered to be incapable of making responsible decisions on their own.    There are instances when a person can still act in their own best interest in some areas of their lives, just not others. The Court could order such individuals to be under a limited guardianship or limited conservatorship to make decisions on their behalf – but only in the areas in which the incapacitated individual needs help.   In other words, the guardian may exercise

What is Supervised Probate?

Probate administration is a legal process that safeguards the estate or assets of a deceased person, ensuring they are distributed appropriately. This typically involves transferring the title of assets from the decedent to their devisees (recipients named in the will) or heirs (recipients named by law).   All wills and intestate estates must go through probate, but the degree to which the courts are involved can vary greatly, depending on the complexity of each case.     Whether or not your devisees or heirs will have to go through probate depends on how your assets were owned when you died. There are some cases when you might not have to go through this process because you either had a well-crafted estate plan or intestacy laws may not control the distribution of some or all of your assets.   Supervised probate, is a sub-category of probate administration and is often considered the

What are the duties of a conservator?

A conservator is appointed by the courts to help protect an individual who has been determined to be incapacitated and unable to manage his or her finances. A guardian is appointed by the court to manage the health and physical decisions for an incapacitated person. Those incapacitated persons are referred to as wards or protected persons. By their very nature, guardians and conservators have different roles they fill. For example, a guardian is responsible for a ward’s personal and medical needs, while a conservator is in charge of the incapacitated individual’s finances. But in general, a conservator typically would be asked to: Oversee a ward’s real estate and tangible personal property, determining whether they should be bought, held or sold Be placed in charge of investments in liquid assets (either by doing it themselves or by hiring a financial adviser) Manage bank accounts to handle monthly bill payments File a

Lawyers Just Wanna Have Fun!

Who says lawyers have to be stuffy? Sure, the Denver estate lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC “live their lives right.” They spend their working days helping people in our community protect their estates, plan for the futures of their loved ones and receive what is rightfully theirs. But “when the working day is done” (and even during our work days) we have fun! We love dinosaurs, superheroes, the Broncos, nature and many other things…and you’ll see these glimpses into our personalities when you visit our office. We feel it’s important to have a good personal connection to foster two-way communication with our clients. We want to get to know you and we want you to get to know us. So, whether you: Are just starting to think about creating a will in Denver… Need help performing estate administration… Want to contest a will… Are confused by probate litigation… Or

Who is an Incapacitated Adult?

A person 18 years of age or older who is incapable of effectively making/communicating decisions or receiving and/or evaluating information to such a degree that the individual lacks the ability to take care of their own basic needs including physical health, welfare and safety. If a judge determines that someone is legally incapacitated, the court has the authority to appoint a guardian or conservator to manage that person’s property and ensure their daily needs are met. A person can be considered legally incapacitated if they: Are unable to make rational decisions Lack the capability to engage in responsible actions Have been diagnosed with a mental and/or physical disability or illness Were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, causing temporary or permanent impairment Declarations of incapacitation vary state by state. While states also vary in the terminology used for this legal status (i.e. interdict, disabled person and incompetent), most states

What Does Protected Person Status Mean for Estate Planning?

There are certain individuals who need to be protected because they are unable to care for themselves. The most obvious example of this is a minor: a child under the age of 18 that is incapable of providing their own food and shelter. However, some adults also require protection such as those with mental or physical disabilities or any type of incapacitation that makes it unable for them to care for themselves and their finances. If the parent or caregiver of these individuals passes away, a court proceeding will be initiated that will give them the status of protected person. This type of court proceeding is sometimes referred to as a protected person proceeding.  In this case, the court will appoint a conservator and/or a guardian to manage the finances and/or well-being of the protected person. Conservator vs. Guardian The conservator will handle finances such as making safe investments, paying

What’s the Difference Between a Power of Attorney and a Conservator?

Both a power of attorney and a conservator are legal appointments made to help other people handle their financial affairs. The difference between the two lies in when these appointments are actually made. Power of Attorney: established before a person becomes incapacitated and is unable to make financial decisions on their own (a durable power of attorney will continue if the person becomes incapacitated in the future) Conservator: established after a person becomes incapacitated and is unable to make financial decisions on their own (this can be a general or limited conservatorship) An agent under power of attorney is named in a durable financial power of attorney. This is the ideal way to help protect your estate because you can choose the person you trust most with your financial well-being. In most cases, having a power of attorney in place will ensure that a conservatorship will not be needed.  In

Who Can Start the Probate Process in Colorado?

Executors of a will are tasked with the responsibility of initiating the probate process. These are individuals who have been specifically named in a deceased person’s will to handle all of the many duties surrounding estate administration. Probate isn’t meant to be a punishment for the executor and the beneficiaries. It is meant to ensure that the deceased person’s estate is distributed according to their wishes, thus protecting the money and property they worked so hard to amass over the years. One of the first tasks the executor will have is to locate the will and begin to determine what types of assets are held in the estate. This also includes debt. If the executor should uncover significant debt in the estate, they might decide to drag their heels in the probate process to delay the inevitable of paying off creditors. In this case, other people who have interest in

Do I Need a Lawyer to Administer a Trust?

Scenario: Someone you love has passed away and you just found out you have been named as the trustee to administer their trust. Do you need to hire a lawyer? Here’s a way to figure it out: YES, You Need a Lawyer NO, You Don’t Need a Lawyer The estate left behind is massive/worth millions. You are fully aware of all state and federal laws regarding trust administration and compliance. You expect people will contest the trust (litigation is likely). You know the complete list of beneficiaries, governmental entities and other organizations that must be notified of the person’s passing. You are overwhelmed and don’t have time to devote to the process. You know exactly how to obtain death certificates, file with courts, notify Social Security, inventory assets, etc. The trust has been deemed invalid. You have the ability to keep detailed records of financial matters (money moving in and

What is the Purpose of Estate Planning? To Show Your Estate Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Ten months after her death, Aretha Franklin is back in the news. In August 2018, it was reported that the legendary singer passed away without writing a will or trust. With an estate that was reportedly worth $80 million dollars and royalty money and future rights possibly adding to that amount, the estate would be left in the hands of the courts to decide how it should be distributed. Amazingly, three handwritten wills were recently discovered in a locked cabinet and under couch cushions in her Detroit-area home. Two were dated from 2010 and one was written in 2014. Also called holographic wills, handwritten wills are legal if they meet certain criteria and are deemed valid by the probate courts. Handwritten wills must be entirely handwritten, without any typed portions. They must be easy to decipher, clearly outlining how the estate should be managed and distributed. The holographic will must

How Do You Terminate a Conservatorship in Colorado?

Conservatorships do not have to last forever. There are circumstances when it becomes apparent that the role of conservator is no longer needed to protect the financial affairs of another individual under the Court’s supervision. Termination of a Colorado Conservatorship can be requested (either by the protected person or by the conservator) based on several situations: The protected person passes away The protected person turns 21 and is able to handle financial affairs on their own The protected person’s mental or physical capacity is restored, allowing them to handle their financial affairs There are not sufficient assets to warrant conservatorship As with most legal matters, it is necessary to file a petition with the courts to end a conservatorship. In Colorado, there are several legal forms that must be completed, depending on why you are requesting termination. All applicable sections of these forms must be completed and some require signatures

Is Probate Required if there is a Will?

In Colorado, there are two answers to the question “Is probate required if there is a will?” No: if the estate has certain types of assets that amount to less than $64,000 and there is no real property included in the estate. This is designated a Colorado small estate probate. Yes:  if the estate contains real property and/or contains probate assets more than $64,000 probate is required. There are two types of probate in Colorado. Informal: if there are no contests to a valid, will, the informal probate process can be utilized. Formal: if the will is contested, if there may be a dispute regarding who should serve as personal representative, if the will is invalid or if the will is questionable, a Colorado formal probate process may be required. While the Colorado probate process is fairly inexpensive and direct, there can be obstacles that draw out the process, adding considerable

How to Wrap Up a Trust Administration

Creating a trust is one way to ensure that your property, money and other assets will end up in the hands of the people you want to receive them. As part of the trust, it is recommended that you name a specific person, a trustee, to handle the duties of estate settlement after you pass away. The trustee should be someone you feel confident will be honest, organized and able to allocate the appropriate amount of time and energy for the many duties that surround this responsibility. Because a trust does not go through probate in the court system, it will be up to the trustee to ensure that the trust settlement process gets underway in a timely manner. While a lawyer might not be required to help with these steps, it can be very beneficial to have a professional help identify all of the necessary steps, file the appropriate

What is a Disposal of Last Remains?

No one likes to think about death – especially their own. However, it’s entirely possible that you have attended a funeral, memorial service or celebration of life where you felt uncomfortable with the process or the setting – silently thinking that you would have done things differently. If you want to have control over how others say their goodbyes to you in a formal or planned setting, it is important to fill out a Disposition of Last Remains document. The Colorado Declaration of Disposition of Last Remains form allows you to make decisions such as: How your body will be handled after you pass away: buried, cremated, entombed, etc. Ceremonial arrangements: funeral, memorial service, celebration of life, religious or non-religious ceremony, burial site, etc. Special instructions: donations to charity in lieu of flowers, no black at your service, no open casket, ceremony to be held at a specific location, instructions

What is a Pet Trust?

“Animals are sentient, intelligent, perceptive, funny and entertaining. We owe them a duty of care as we do to children.” Michael Morpurgo, English book author, poet, playwright & librettist Pets today are truly members of our family. We have birthday parties for them…we include them on holiday cards…we get them special beds and toys…we organize playdates…we get them massages…we even create social media pages for them. The bonds between pets and their owners are unmistakably strong, sometimes rivaling the bonds between parents and children. It only makes sense that people would want to protect their furry/feathery/scaly friends in the event they are unable to care for them anymore. A Pet Trust  is a legal document that allows you to name a guardian to care for your animal(s) in the event you become incapacitated or pass away. The trust can be quite detailed in the care instructions, even stating the preferred