Colorado Guardianship vs. Parental Rights

A guardian in Colorado is a person chosen to care for children under age 18 or adult children with special needs in the event that their biological parent(s) cannot do so. Guardianship also takes effect after the parent(s) pass away. For this blog, we will focus on guardianship when the parent(s) are still living. Reasons Why a Guardian May Be Appointed In the case of living parents, a guardian may be appointed for their children if the parents: Are mentally or physically unable to care for the children Abuse drugs or alcohol Put the safety of the children at risk Provide unsafe or unsanitary living conditions Are abusive Cannot or will not properly care for the child Guardianship of the children may be requested by the parents themselves or by a concerned family member, friend or other person who feels the children are in danger. Guardians Take on a Nurturing

Probate Horror Story #17: Greedy In-Laws

Welcome to the 17th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered the possibility of infighting over the inheritance (or exclusion) among stepparents, natural children and stepchildren. This month we will look at how greed can lead to major legal battles after a loved one passes away. Fictional Situation: Rodney Widower 3 adult children, all married Owns free-and-clear his home, a lake house and 2 cars Created a will Over his lifetime, Rodney had many successes. He fell in love with his high school sweetheart; they married and had 3 children. He was also a successful doctor, so he had accumulated many material possessions that he wanted to pass down to his children. After his wife passed away, he modified his will to make sure that each child received an equal share of his estate. When Rodney’s mobility began to

Meet Your Denver Lawyers

Estate planning in Colorado encompasses more than just creating a will. There are many situations to consider when you are making plans to protect your family and distribute your assets after you are gone. For your unique situation, it might be more beneficial to create a specific type of trust that meets your exact circumstances. You might be faced with estate litigation. You may need to create a new business entity. Because estate planning is a constantly moving process, having a trusted team of experts on your side will help streamline any changes you need to incorporate into your plan. The Denver estate planning lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC have the extensive experience to handle simple and complex estate and trust administration matters for people of all ages and financial statuses. Nicole Economy Brown Ms. Brown received her J.D. in Law with honors from the University of Florida. She

Thank You for the Music, Aretha

The entire team at Brown & Crona, LLC were saddened by the news of the passing of legendary singer Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul had an amazing career and her music will continue to enrich the lives of anyone that listens. Thank you, Aretha, for the music. It’s hard to imagine the wealth of estate she must have accumulated over the years, but we have seen estimates that the estate may be worth $80 million dollars. This amount could actually grow over time with royalty money and as people scramble to purchase her music post-mortem. Unfortunately, it has been reported that she did not leave a will or trust. Her 4 sons stand to inherit her wealth in equal shares since she was not married at the time of her passing. However, right now her estate is in the hands of the court. And Aretha’s sons will have to

How Hard is the Colorado Bar Exam?

To become a licensed lawyer in the state of Colorado, students must pass the Colorado Bar Exam. This is a very intensive and difficult 2-day exam that truly assesses the knowledge of each student. This Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) used in Colorado consists of three sections. Day 1 (Morning): Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) This 3-hour exam tests the student’s knowledge of different topics related to a wide variety of subjects such as trusts and estates, family law, agencies and partnerships, torts, conflict of laws, real property, evidence, contracts, criminal law and much more. In order to answer the 6 essay questions in the time allotted, the student must be extremely well versed in all of these topics. Even if they do not plan to practice law in some of the specialties listed, they must show a working knowledge of the law overall. This portion of the exam is worth 30%

Probate Horror Story #16: Feuds with Stepmothers

Welcome to the 16th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered the potential pitfalls of blended families without a will. This month looks at the possibility of infighting over the inheritance (or exclusion) among step-parents, natural children and stepchildren. Fictional Situation: Darren Divorced and remarried to Jocelyn Has 2 adult children from previous marriage Jocelyn has 1 adult child Has created a will When Darren remarried, he updated his will to state that Jocelyn would receive his estate. If Jocelyn should pass away before him, all of his assets would be divided equally among the 3 adult children. When Darren passed away first, all of his assets were legally dispersed to Jocelyn. As the stepmother of Darren’s 2 adult children, Jocelyn did not give any of the estate to her stepchildren at the time of his passing. Instead, Jocelyn

How Does a Will Become Operative?

People make wills to ensure that their estate (large or small) is passed on to family members, friends, charitable organizations and others they care about deeply. Anyone can create a will and the recipients are often completely unaware they are included in the will. There are some instances, however, when a person will create a will and share the contents with others. For example, Aunt Sally can inform her grandson that he stands to inherit a lump sum of $10,000 in the future from her. If this gift is included as part of her will, can Aunt Sally’s grandson get access to that cash whenever he wants it? The answer is no (unless Aunt Sally decides to gift it to him before she passes away). A will only becomes operative upon the death of the creator – in this case, Aunt Sally. However, this process does not magically happen. Upon

Is a Self-Made Will Legal if it is Notarized?

According to the National Notary Association (NNA), notarization is “the official fraud-deterrent process that assures the parties of a transaction that a document is authentic and can be trusted.” It stands to reason that if you write a will by yourself and have it notarized it would be completely legal…right? Not necessarily. For example, if you hand-wrote your will (created a holographic will) and did not follow the requirements for this type of document, simply having it notarized will not automatically make it legal. One requirement is that it be completely handwritten (no part typed or printed from a computer). Another requirement is that it is signed by the testator. If those two requirements are ignored, the notarization will not help. However, if you have created a will on your own using online software or other will programs, it may be advisable to have the will notarized. In Colorado it

What is a Revocable Living Trust?

A revocable living trust allows you to specify in writing how you want your assets distributed after your death. It also allows you to specify a person to manage portions of your estate while you are living and if you become unable to do this for yourself. How a Revocable Living Trust Differs from a Will This is a private document that is not made public after your death (unlike a will). The estate will not go through probate after you pass away; a specific person, called a trustee, is designated in the trust to distribute your estate per your written instructions. Other Benefits of a Revocable Living Trust The document can be altered at any time as long as you still have capacity. Beneficiaries can be changed or added, assets can be reallocated to different beneficiaries, etc. You still have access to and control of your property while you

Probate Horror Story #15: Blended Families

Welcome to the 15th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered how inheritance can be affected when there are multiple marriages in the mix. This month we will focus on a potential pitfall of blended families without a will. Fictional Situation: Alice, Joe & Brandon Alice & Joe, married for 10 years, 2 children, divorced Alice & Joe: no will or trust Brandon, divorced, 2 children Alice & Brandon, remarried together, had 1 child together Alice & Brandon: 5 adult children between them Alice & Brandon: no will or trust When Alice and Joe were married, they quickly started a family and found themselves busy with the life they were building together. Making a will was always on the To Do list, but never actually done. As time went on and Alice and Joe drifted apart, they ultimately decided

When Should I Apply for Limited Conservatorship?

Conservatorship is granted to an individual to help protect an incapacitated person’s financial affairs and estate. Limited conservatorship is a legal appointment that protects an adult with developmental or cognitive disabilities while allowing that person to maintain their independence as much as possible. A family member or trusted family friend can establish a limited conservatorship for a person with cognitive impairment or a developmental disability. This gives the protected person the freedom to live life with a sort of safety net. The limited conservatorship can provide these types of assistance: Assisting with securing the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing Paying bills Managing investments Marriage consent Transportation needs The goal with a limited conservatorship is to allow the protected person to live the comfortable life they choose, as much as possible. The process to set up a limited conservatorship in Denver can be complicated. In order to get the

Is a Handwritten Will Legal?

A handwritten will is also called a holographic will. Handwritten wills are legal in Colorado but there are a few requirements: It must be completely handwritten It cannot be typed; any typed portions can make the statutes on holographic wills not apply It must clearly indicate how you want your property and material possessions distributed (and to whom) It must be signed by the person that wrote it (the testator) Witnesses are not necessary in the state of Colorado It does not need to be notarized in the state of Colorado It does not need to be dated in the state of Colorado While it is not typically advised to write a holographic will, there are some instances when this is the only way to express your wishes. For example, if you are in a life-threatening situation that you do not expect to survive, you may jot down your wishes

Types of Business Entities

The entrepreneurial spirit lives in some people. From humble beginnings running a lemonade stand or lawn mowing service, the feeling of receiving payment for hard work sparks a fire that can grow into big things later in life. If you have taken the leap to build your own business, you need to decide what type of entity you want to create. Do you want to be your own boss? Do you want to do it all? Are you comfortable letting others make business decisions on behalf of your company? These are all questions that will come into play as you navigate the different types of business entities available. Types of For-Profit Business Entities Sole proprietorship Corporations S Corporation Partnerships Limited partnership Limited liability companies (LLC) Sole Proprietorship A sole proprietorship has an emphasis on the word sole. As the business owner, you will make all decisions regarding your business. This

Do You Have to Go Through Probate if You Have a Will?

If you have written a will, either on your own or through an attorney, you may think that your surviving family will be spared the hassles of probate. If your assets amount to less than $66,000 and your estate contains no real property, it is true there may not be any probate action necessary. However, if your estate is over that limit, it will be necessary to open a probate estate with the Court.  There may be an informal probate process – even if your will is uncontested and the heirs/beneficiaries are all in agreement. Although the probate process in Colorado is a fairly economical and straightforward process, it is still advisable to have an attorney on your side to guide you through the process. In contrast, a formal probate proceeding will absolutely be necessary if the will is contested or if it is considered invalid or questionable. For formal

How to Settle an Estate with a Will: S-E-T-T-L-E-D

While it is easier to settle an estate that has a valid and legally-binding will, there are still many different steps involved in this process. To help boil down some of the steps, you may want to use the acronym SETTLED to help somewhat simplify the plan. The SETTLED Method S: Search for the will in the deceased person’s home, office, safe deposit box, vacation home, friend’s house, family member’s house or anywhere you think the document may be kept. E: Establish an inventory list of all of the person’s assets. This will help to set the total value of the estate. This will most likely be a very extensive list that could include a home, vacation home, cars, boats, jewelry, furniture, antiques, artwork, rental properties, land, stocks, bonds, checking/savings accounts, etc. Hone your spreadsheet skills! T: Tell the legal system about the person’s death. This can be accomplished by

Probate Horror Story #14: Multiple Marriages

Welcome to the 14th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered the unlucky estate fate of a small family that passes away without a will. This month we are focusing on how inheritance can be affected when there are multiple marriages in the mix. Fictional Situation: Arnold 2 ex-wives 2 children with each ex-wife (total of 4 children with ex-wives) Currently married 2 children with his current wife Created a will when married to first wife, never updated it Over the past 15 years, Arnold has been in several relationships. Having met his first wife in college, they quickly started a family and realized that they needed to create a will to protect their assets and provide for their 2 children. However, life often throws relationships curve balls and Arnold and his first wife divorced. In a whirlwind romance,

6 Questions to Ask an Estate Planning Lawyer

With so many lawyers in Colorado, it can be difficult to know which one is right for your unique situation when it comes to estate planning. When deciding on an estate planning lawyer, you should get to know members of the legal team, discuss your individual estate planning needs and, most importantly, ask questions. If you are investing in legal help, you want to make sure your money is being well spent. Here are 6 questions to ask estate planning lawyers in Colorado during your initial meeting: Is estate planning your specialty? How many years have you practiced estate planning in Colorado? Will the work on my case be handled by you or others in your office? Do you charge an hourly rate or a flat fee for services? Can you provide a list of client references? What sets you apart from other estate planning lawyers in Colorado? Don’t feel

How Do You Amend a Will in Denver?

If you have made a last will and testament, kudos! You have taken a very important step in protecting your estate and providing for your family after you are gone. However, this should not be a static, one-and-done document. Things change – life circumstances change – and those changes often need to be reflected in your will. Reasons to Amend a Will There are many different circumstances that can warrant changing your will in Colorado: Marriage or divorce Birth or adoption of children Death of loved ones named in your will Purchase or sale of expensive things (home, car, boat, etc.) Significant change in relationships with other people named in your will (beneficiaries, executors, power of attorney, medical power of attorney, etc.) Shift in values that may alter ancillary documents (living will, funeral arrangements, etc.) Codicil vs. New Will If you need to make only minor edits to your will,

How Long Does it Take to Settle an Estate in Denver?

When people pass away, their earthly possessions (bank accounts, cars, homes, household items, clothing, insurance policies, etc.) must go somewhere. Otherwise, there would be abandoned property everywhere! In addition, their outstanding debts must be paid. All of the duties surrounding the distribution of a deceased person’s assets (as well as financial restitution) is legally referred to as settling the estate. If the deceased person has a will or trust, an executor or trustee will be named in the documents to handle the many responsibilities that surround estate settlement. The executor/trustee should be extremely trustworthy and capable of spending the proper amount of time and energy for these duties. This leads us to the question, “How long does it take to settle an estate?” Unfortunately, there is simply no single answer to this question. While the typical estate settlement process in Denver will take 6 months to one year, there are

Probate Horror Story #13: The Only Child Pitfall

Welcome to the 13th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered the best way to set up your IRA beneficiaries. This month, we will look at the unlucky estate fate of a small family that passes away without a will. Fictional Situation: Mark & Ella Mark and Ella, married, both in their early 70s 1 adult daughter, single, no children No will Own a home, 2 cars, 2 vacation homes Traveled extensively No living relatives Active with charity work Mark and Ella were a happily-married couple with one adult child. Over their lifetimes they worked hard, invested wisely and were able to retire very comfortably. In addition to taking their adult daughter on lavish trips, they also spent much time enjoying their 2 vacation homes and attending charity functions. Because they assumed that their estate would naturally be passed

Is a Business Lawyer Really Necessary for a Small Business?

It’s almost always better to be proactive, rather than reactive. This is especially important when you are running a small business. While enlisting the services of a business attorney in Denver might seem like overkill for certain tasks such as writing a business plan or securing the appropriate permits and licenses, there are other areas that will best be handled by a trained professional. In fact, a business lawyer might alert you to potential legal problems that you had never thought about. When sticky legal situations arise, your business will be in a better position to act swiftly to resolve those issues if you have already established a relationship with a business lawyer. For example, your small business could find itself the center of: Discrimination lawsuits Disputes with contractors, vendors and business partners Customer or business partner fraud Lawsuits over intellectual property rights Worker’s compensation or personal injury lawsuits Wrongful

Pitfall of Transferring Your Home Before Entering a Nursing Home

The homes in which we live can carry great sentimental value. Beyond simply providing adequate shelter, they can have beautiful memories of a new wife being carried over the threshold…a child’s first steps…family game nights…backyard barbeques…or just lazy days with a good book. These happy associations with a home can pass down through generations. As a result, it is not surprising that many people elect to transfer the ownership of their homes to their children or other family members. This is an amazing gesture that can bring decades of joy to your family (and lead to even more names to the hand-written growth chart you have on a wall!). Unfortunately, it can also bring years of financial distress. If you transfer ownership of your home to a loved one, and within 5 years (60 months) have to move into a nursing home for long-term care, you may lose some of

Probate Horror Story #12: IRA Beneficiaries

Welcome to the 12th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered what could happen if you use certain wording in your will that leaves part of your estate to unworthy beneficiaries. This month we are discussing the best way to set up your IRA beneficiaries. Fictional Situation: Jonesy 57-year-old widower 2 adult children Has an updated will Has credit card debt and an upside-down mortgage Set up an individual retirement account (IRA) Jonsey had not made the best financial decisions over the course of his life. Despite his poor choices, he did manage to set up an IRA and had created a will to help protect some of his assets. Unfortunately, Jonsey designated that his estate be the beneficiary of his IRA. While this may sound like a logical move, it actually backfired for his family after his death.

What is a Probate Administrator?

When a person passes away, their estate (all of their possessions, not just their money) must be distributed to someone. It is necessary for the duties that surround this task to be appointed to a specific person to ensure that personal property and financial accounts are not left in limbo. When the deceased person has a legal will and has specifically named a person to handle these tasks, that person is called an executor of the will. However, if the deceased person has not created a will or has created a will but has not chosen a person to be their executor, in certain circumstances, the probate court could appoint a special administrator to handle these tasks. Duties of a Special Administrator Move through the probate process Maintain property of the deceased Pay all outstanding bills, debts, taxes, etc. Move bank accounts into a new estate account Notify Social Security

Starting a Business? Here are 6 Legal Documents You Need.

Having a great idea is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to starting a new business in Denver. When planning for success, it’s definitely an uphill battle: 20% of small businesses fail in the first year of operation and 50% fail by the fifth year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Business Employment Dynamics. While there is no way to guarantee success for your business, there are legal measures you should take as soon as possible to reduce some of your risk. Here are 6 legal documents you should craft right away: Comprehensive, well-thought-out business plan. This document should include your business goals and how you plan to achieve those goals. Besides an executive summary and overall description of your business, this plan should also include information on your competitors, an analysis of your financial projections, hiring practices, operational plans and strategies for marketing. Legal structure

What Happens to a Trust After Death?

Legal documents such as wills and trusts exist to help people protect their estates and provide for their families after they are gone. When you create and fund a trust, you are taking extra measures to keep your estate out of the probate system and, in the case of an irrevocable trust, potentially help your family save on estate taxes. It is important to note that, unlike a will, a trust will likely not become public after your death. During creation of a trust, you will name an trustee to handle the management of your estate and the distribution of your assets after you pass away. The trustee must be ready to step in after death to handle a number of responsibilities including: Notifications: the trustee will notify beneficiaries, government entities and other organizations of the person’s death. This includes Social Security Administration, the Department of Health, Veterans Affairs, life/health

Probate Horror Story #11: Unworthy Beneficiaries

Welcome to the 11th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered what could happen if you unintentionally left a child out of your will. This month we are focusing on what could happen if you use certain wording in your will that leaves part of your estate to unworthy beneficiaries. Fictional Situation: Clara 77-year-old widowed grandmother 3 adult children 7 grandchildren (not in contact with 2 of them) Created a will, but had not updated it in 15 years Wording in her will included per stirpes for beneficiaries Clara is a doting mother and grandmother – to most of her grandchildren. Unfortunately, over the past 5 years, 2 of her grandchildren chose a path in life that led them to crime and drug use. As a result, Clara has severed all ties with those 2 individuals. When her husband

What’s the Difference Between a Lawyer and a Litigator?

Lawyer vs. Litigator: what’s the difference? The terms lawyer and attorney are synonymous titles to describe a professional who has achieved the proper level of education to advise on legal matters or represent others in a court of law. There are a wide variety of law specialties such as estate planning, tax, divorce, personal injury, corporate, immigration, bankruptcy, medical malpractice, criminal and many more. Conversely, a litigator (often referred to as a trial lawyer) is type of lawyer that handles the litigation process in civil cases. Litigation refers to the process of taking legal action against another person, group or business to solve a dispute. Litigators can represent either defendants or plaintiffs and often spend time arguing cases in the courtroom. The process can include investigation, trials, settlements, appeals and more. Not all litigation will end up in court, but a litigator is well prepared to handle this legal process

Finding a Top Estate Attorney in Denver

When the time comes to set up an estate planning document or get legal help to handle estate conflicts, you may be faced with the overwhelming task of finding a top estate lawyer in Denver. Hundreds of people have chosen the team at Brown & Crona, LLC to help draft the right documents for estate planning as well as to handle estate battles in Colorado. From the very simple to extremely complex, our team knows how to expedite documents and court processes to cause the least amount of stress on our clients and/or their surviving family members. Best of all, we perform these important tasks with competence and compassion. Time after time, our clients have used these words to describe our law team of Nicole Economy Brown, Spencer Crona and Sherene Stenger: “…thorough…knowledgeable…professional…” “congenial…expedient…” “friendly…responsive…” “experienced…dedication…genuine concern…” “personable…ethical conduct…” “fierce advocate…sense of humor…” Don’t you want these types of words

What’s the Difference Between a Will and a Living Will?

Most people know what a will is: a legal document that specifies how – and to whom – you want your possessions distributed after you die. It’s also referred to as a last will and testament. But what about a living will? A living will is NOT: A document created to give away your possessions while you are still alive A document that grows and changes automatically in accordance with your life changes A way to get your parents’ inheritance before they die A living will IS a legal document that allows you to state, in writing, exactly how you want to be medically cared for if you should become incapacitated. This document takes effect while you are living if you are unable to speak for yourself due to injury, disease or other health conditions. The document can include verbiage to voice your stance on issues such as: Life support

How is an Administrator of an Estate Appointed?

In order to settle the estate of a deceased person, someone must be in charge of the many details and steps involved. When the deceased nominates someone in their will or trust, that person is called an executor or personal representative. However, if there is no individual specifically named in a legal document, the courts will appoint a personal representative. Typically, the courts will follow this process in order to select the best person for the responsibility of administrator or co-administrators: Spouse Children Grandchildren Parents Siblings Personal Representatives are responsible for paying all bills and taxes, contacting interested parties, creating an inventory of assets (and having them appraised if necessary) and managing the asset distribution when the estate is settled. When the courts are deciding the best person to handle the intricacies of this role, they will take into consideration the following personal attributes: Organization: administrators have a lot of

Probate Horror Story #10: The Forgotten Child

Welcome to the 10th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered the potential risks of creating a will by yourself. This month we will focus on what could happen if you unintentionally left a child out of your will. Fictional Situation: Susan 40-year-old single mom Landed a high-paying job early in her career 1 child Child’s father not in the picture 2 sisters Created a will before the birth of her child When Susan was in her mid-20s, her parents urged her to set up a will. She achieved great success very early on in her career and was able to amass many expensive material possessions. In the legal documents she had drawn up, she left her assets to her sisters in equal shares. As time went on, the relationship among the sisters began to falter, mostly due to

How to Settle an Estate After Death

Coping with the death of a loved one is difficult. Dealing with the flood of emotions is often interrupted by the sheer volume of work that goes into funeral or memorial service planning as well as settling the person’s estate. If you are named the executor of your loved one’s will, you have a large responsibility ahead of you. The best way to approach this situation is to remember that your loved one had a great deal of faith and trust in your abilities to get this important job done. Rather than let the task overwhelm you, take each of these steps one at a time: stay organized, document the details and don’t be afraid to ask for professional help if it all seems too much. Steps to Settle an Estate Locate the will. Hopefully, as the executor, you know where the will is kept. If not, check the person’s

The Difference Between Power of Attorney and Guardianship

Most healthy individuals move through life without too many major worries. Of course, there may be times when we wonder about job and financial security, there can be concerns about the health of loved ones and when there are children involved, we may fret about them making safe choices in life. However, we don’t always think about serious life-threatening or incapacitating injuries or even death. Unfortunately, these are all a possibility (or, in the case of death, an eventuality) in life. Legally naming an agent under power of attorney and nominating a guardian can help you prepare for your family’s future – and give you peace of mind. It is quite possible that you may never need to have these documents implemented, but at least you will have taken the right steps to minimize the worries you may have in the future and this will give you peace of mind.

The Impact on Individual, Estate, Trust and Gift Provisions in the Conference Committee’s Reconciliation of the Tax Reform Bill

The conference committee’s reconciliation of the tax reform bill, formerly the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), passed by Congress on December 20, 2017 includes significant changes to the taxation of individuals, as well as changes impacting estates, trusts, and gifts. For individuals, it is more difficult to state that these changes will provide significant tax benefits, particularly for low and middle-class workers, and especially if the act’s temporary provisions are allowed to expire. Although there are few provisions directly affecting the taxation of trusts, it is clear that fewer individuals will be burdened with estate and gift taxes due to increased exemption amounts. Individual Tax Rates The first major change on the individual side is a reduction in tax rates, though these new rates are set to expire after 2025. For taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, the new rates and brackets for married couples and single individuals

Guardianship Attorney in Denver

Kudos! If you are reading this blog, you are probably searching for an estate planning attorney in Denver to assist you in nominating a guardian for your children in the event of your death or incapacity.   Creating a Colorado guardianship document in your estate plan is one of the most important documents you can make. It allows you to choose a specific person or family to care for every aspect of your children’s needs if you should become incapacitated or pass away. The guardian will handle such decisions as: Living arrangements Healthcare Social interactions Schooling Nutrition Religion And much more The Denver estate planning attorneys at Brown & Crona, LLC have extensive experience helping families draft Colorado guardianship documents. Snags in Guardianship Appointments If there are family dynamics, personality conflicts or unforeseen circumstances that stand in the way of a smooth transition to the guardian, Brown & Crona, LLC can

Do You Have an Estate and Not Know It?

When you think of the word estate, what comes to mind? A $5 million home? A fleet of luxury cars? Ownership of priceless antiques? While it is true that an estate can consist of all of these things, in reality an estate is anything you own and everything you owe at your death. It’s your net worth. It’s your personal/religious/healthcare wishes. It’s the plans you have for your children. Net Worth People of all socioeconomic statuses, job titles and marital statuses have estates that include homes, automobiles, rental properties, land, motorcycles, boats, etc. You also can own personal property that is important to you and your family such as family heirloom jewelry, sentimental objects, tools, artwork, etc. Depending on how they are titled and whether not the accounts contain a beneficiary designation, your estate also can  include your bank accounts, retirement accounts and life insurance policies. It could include businesses

Probate Horror Story #9: The Handwritten Will

Welcome to the ninth in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered the potential problems that can occur if you make a joint will with your spouse. This month we will focus on the risks of creating a will by yourself. Fictional Situation: Arthur 75-year-old widower, unmarried 1 ex-wife 2 adult children, 5 grandchildren 1 adult step-child Owns a home, car and valuable antiques Handwrote a will, revised it multiple times and kept it hidden Arthur had the very best intentions when he hand-wrote a document outlining how he wanted his estate distributed after he was gone. Unfortunately, he had no legal training and was unaware of the steps he should have taken to make his will legal and binding. None of Arthur’s family members knew he had a will. While mourning his passing, no one had the time or

Temporary Guardianship Forms in Colorado

There are many different situations in which you may need to appoint a temporary guardian for your minor children or adult children with special needs while you are alive and only one parent is able to provide care: Extended business trip Recuperation from a medical procedure Long stay in a rehabilitation facility Incarceration Emergency situation such as an accident Divorce or separation Financial difficulties Situation of domestic violence or unstable home environment A relative can also petition the courts so that a temporary guardian can be named for your children on your behalf. While the temporary guardian does not need to be a family member, it should be a trusted individual that knows your children very well and one that you know will properly care for and love them. The guardian will be responsible for making personal, financial and medical decisions for your children for a certain length of time

Colorado Probate Court Forms

Most estates in Colorado must go through the probate system with the courts following the death of the owner of the estate – whether or not that person has created a will. Probate is a legal process that is carried out by the courts to ensure that the estate is distributed according the terms of the Deceased person’s will or the laws of intestacy if the person dies without a will. This process can be easy or quite complicated, depending on external contests (challenges) to the contents of the will or the court decisions surrounding an estate without a will. If a person died with a will in place, a probate estate may need to be opened. In Colorado, this can be done in 2 ways: For uncontested estates, informal probate: a court-appointed person or person outlined in the will distributes the assets and completes all financial affairs, including paying

Probate Horror Story #8: Joint Wills for Married Couples

Welcome to the eighth in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month the topic focused on family infighting over wills. This month we are covering the potential problems that can occur if you make a joint will with your spouse. Fictional Situation: John and Michelle Married couple 4 adult children, 3 grandchildren entering college Own a large home, rental properties and a vacation home Created a joint will that states the spouse will inherit everything, then the children On paper, creating a joint will with your spouse appears to cover all the bases when it comes to inheritance. However, if John or Michelle should pass away, the joint will becomes an irrevocable document that cannot be changed by the surviving spouse. Because life can throw us unexpected curves, the surviving spouse may be unable to change the terms of the will to react

Are there Trust Distribution Deadlines?

There are actually no set deadlines for trust distribution in Colorado after a person passes away. Trustees are designated in these legal documents; they have the responsibilities of managing the asset distribution of the deceased person to ensure that all creditors and beneficiaries receive what is rightfully theirs. They must do so in a reasonable timeframe, but there is no explicit clarification of the term reasonable. Because there is no probate process with a trust, this distribution process would seemingly be very quick, but this is not always the case. Situations That Can Delay Trust Distribution Contests to the trust Family disputes Long list of creditors demanding payments Dishonest trust administrator Invalidity of the trust Confusion or disagreements about the value of the estate Inability to locate important papers regarding property ownership, debts, bank accounts, etc. Tax return filing A typical trust distribution process may take a up to 6

Colorado Living Will Requirements

A living will is completely different from a last will and testament. Rather than outlining how you want your estate distributed after your death (a last will and testament), a living will allows you to legally outline how you feel about medical interventions for end-of-life medical care. This ensures your wishes are met and also protects your loved ones, physicians and other caregivers from having to make these difficult decisions for you. Living Will Directives You have the right to decide whether or not you want life support systems (or how long you want them) such as: Resuscitation Artificial nutrition or hydration (tube feeding) Ventilation Dialysis Organ and tissue donation And more If you do not want to make clear cut decisions on your care, you can designate a an agent under Medical Durable Power of Attorney to help make those decisions on your behalf. Beyond medical treatments, you can

What is Estate Litigation?

We often hear about estate litigation after a celebrity passes away – even if the celebrity had a valid will. Relatives and creditors often come out of the woodwork to try to gain a piece of large estates and they can use litigation as their tool. However, estate litigation is not limited to celebrities. It can occur to anyone’s will, regardless of the size of your estate or your financial status. Estate litigation is any legal challenge to a person’s will after they pass away. Challenges can also be made to a person’s estate that has been divided by the courts in situations where there is no will. Estate litigation challenges can be brought by  distant family members, past spouses, business partners, creditors, caregivers, etc.  Every situation is unique. Estate Litigation Reasons A person cannot simply petition the courts just because they want more money. There must be a valid

How Do You Find an Estate Lawyer in Denver?

There are dozens of estate planning lawyers in the Denver area. Whether you have a complicated estate and detailed wishes or you just want to set up a simple will, you should make sure you are hiring the best legal help possible. After all, this is your legacy…it’s your family you want to protect…so find the best help to ensure you have completely thought through most foreseeable scenarios by choosing the best lawyer possible. Recommendations from family, friends and coworkers can help steer you in the right direction. You can also read testimonials from past clients of different lawyers you are researching. At Brown & Crona, LLC we have a long list of satisfied clients that are happy to share their stories…clients like these: “We were moving from Texas to Colorado and needed help reviewing our estate plan documents now that we lived under Colorado law. We were looking for a

Probate Horror Story #7: Family Infighting

Welcome to the seventh in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month the topic focused on what could happen if a person has named a secret beneficiary in their will. This month we are focusing on family infighting over wills. Fictional Situation: Rosalyn 83-year-old female Widowed 3 quarreling adult children with different financial statuses 1 child lives nearby and cares for Rosalyn Owns her home and a house full of antiques Paying monthly for a vacation cabin and a new automobile Has a will and nominated her two oldest children as co-executors Rosalyn loved each of her children equally but did not leave equal shares of her inheritance to each child. Because one of her children took on most of the responsibilities of caring for her in her later years, she left her home and car directly to that child – feeling that

Long-Term Planning for Your Business

Whether you are just starting to formulate a new business or have been running your own business for several years, it is sometimes hard to step back and plan for what will happen to your hard work when you are gone. Because there are so many different ways to structure your business, hiring a business succession planning lawyer can help you understand your options and choose the right method for your situation. The team at Brown & Crona, LLC has handled business succession planning in Denver for over twenty years. They have helped dozens of people plan for what will happen to their business: When they retire If they become incapacitated When they die These decisions will be based on how your business is set up and how you want to approach the tax ramifications for your successor (extensive estate taxes may arise in certain situations): Sole proprietorship: you choose

The Legal Definition of a Protected Person

The legal definition of a protected person in Colorado is: A person under age 18 (a minor) if the parents are deceased, absent or incapable of fulfilling their parental duties or A person who has become incapacitated due to physical or mental disabilities An individual which meets these standards and has financial assets held in his or her name may need to have a court-appointed conservator named to help the protected person manage their financial affairs and property. The conservator can have varying levels of control over the protected person’s assets, depending on the person’s age, mental capacities and physical abilities. In certain situations, the conservator may also serve as a guardian and take on the added responsibilities of caring for the protected person’s well-being including medical care, living arrangements, basic necessities, education and social involvements. Protected persons have certain rights for privacy and access to records and documents. They

Probate Horror Story #6: The Secret Beneficiary

Welcome to the sixth in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month the topic focused on what happens when your will is declared invalid. This month we are discussing what could happen if a person has named a secret beneficiary in their will. Fictional Situation: Cole 56-year-old male Married 32 years 2 young adult children Works in sales, travels often Living a double life with another woman and their young child Owns 2 homes and 4 cars Wrote an individual will and did not share it with his wife It may sound like a movie plot, but there are actually people like our fictional Cole in the world. Married, but living a double life with another woman, the delicate balancing act that Cole was hiding every day finally came crashing down after his untimely death. When Cole’s will entered probate, his wife quickly

What Happens when a Trustee Misuses Trust Funds

When you take the time and effort to create a will or a trust, you want that document to be as complete, accurate and unflawed as possible. Part of this process includes naming a trustee, to disperse your estate after you pass away. A trustee can be an individual, a bank or trust company or a professional fiduciary.  This person is also responsible for paying your outstanding debts to creditors, handling funeral expenses and generally tying up the loose ends of your estate. This means that the trustee is entrusted by you to be honest and forthcoming with your trust finances. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a situation of misuse of trust funds by a trustee to occur. Sadly, the trust does not have to be large for this to happen. Access to money and property sometimes has a way of clouding a person’s judgment, causing greediness to take

Probate Horror Story #5: The Invalid Will

Welcome to the fifth in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month the topic focused on the fallout from appointing a bad executor for your estate. This month’s topic focuses on the proper way to write a will. Fictional Situation: George 81-year-old male Divorced 2 adult children: in contact with his son; estranged from his daughter Owns a home, a car, rental property and a recreational vehicle Wrote a will in secret without anyone knowing about it George had good intentions when he created his will. Because he was divorced and had not remarried, he wanted all of his assets left to his son. Due to a fallout with his daughter years ago, he did not want any of his assets to go to her and her family. George typed up his wishes, used a pen to cross out and replace certain wording

What is a Co-Conservatorship in Colorado?

Conservators are people who are appointed by the courts to provide assistance for adults who have become incapacitated due to physical or mental disability. The primary role of a conservator is to manage all of the financial affairs of the person such as paying bills, making purchases or sales of property, filing tax returns, managing investments and more. This can become a very time-consuming and complicated task for one person to handle, especially when the conservator has financial affairs of their own to handle. In some cases, the courts will appoint co-conservators for this responsibility. It is the duty of the co-conservators to work together toward the common goal of protecting the incapacitated person, to manage all of these affairs. Co-conservators may be named for different reasons: A single conservator is unable to devote the time and energy necessary for this role One of the conservators resides in a different

Do You Need a Lawyer to Create a Business Plan?

If you’ve got the entrepreneurial itch, a need to be your own boss and the desire to start your own business in Denver, kudos to you! Creative, self-starting entrepreneurs are important to our economy; they can provide us with exciting new opportunities, fill a niche need, improve processes and can even change the way we look at the world. Of course, it takes more than just one grand idea to start your own business. It’s the attention to details and well thought out processes that will ultimately make or break your idea. It is highly recommended that you create a solid, comprehensive business plan to follow (and tweak as needed) to get your business up and running smoothly. There are potential pitfalls along the way with any new business; having an experienced business planning attorney in Denver assess your business plan before you open your doors will help minimize the

Colorado Estate Planning Lawyers Have Fun, Too!

The Denver estate planning lawyer team at Brown & Crona LLC know how to work hard and play hard to help you protect your assets and provide for your family. While having a professional photo shoot recently to update our website photos, we took a moment to have a little fun. You’ll see by the photo that we really like dinosaurs, superheroes and, of course, the Broncos! Our serious photos will be posted soon on our Brown & Crona LLC website ( Until then, enjoy this sneak peek at our personalities! If you need estate planning help in Denver, contact our team today. Pictured above: Top from left: LaDonna Baty, Receptionist; Sherene C. Stenger, Associate Attorney Bottom from left: Spencer J. Crona, Attorney/Partner; Nicole Economy Brown, Attorney/Partner, Christine M. Stroup, Paralegal Not pictured, but part of our amazing team: Rosemary Robison, Accounting/Office Manager

When Do You Need a Court Appointed Guardian for Adults?

We all like to think that we will grow old gracefully, without any serious medical complications. While this is a reality for some, we often have no control over accidents or conditions that rob us of our mental or physical abilities to make decisions for ourselves. Diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc., can render a once perfectly healthy individual into one partially or fully dependent on the care of others. If a person falls into such a condition and has not created specific documents outlining who should take charge over their medical, and financial affairs, the courts may need to get involved. You Can’t Always Do It Alone Family members can request that a specific person (or persons) be named as court appointed guardians of an incapacitated adult. This is a legal process that involves filing the appropriate papers and then scheduling a court hearing with a judge. Because this

Denver Lawyer Reviews

Finding a lawyer in Colorado has never been easier – thanks to the ease of reading online bios and reviews from actual clients. If you are searching for an estate planning lawyer in Denver, the team at Brown & Crona, LLC, is hard to beat. Nicole Economy Brown: 21 years of experience with Colorado estate planning and estate and trust administration. In addition to drafting wills and trusts, she has extensive experience in sophisticated wealth planning and transfer techniques such as grantor retained annuity trusts, qualified personal residence trusts, intentionally defective grantor trusts, limited liability companies and partnerships and much more. Spencer J. Crona: 27 years of experience with Colorado probate, estate and trust litigation, conservatorships and guardianships, probate review of personal injury settlements and estate administration. Sherene Stenger: 2 years of experience with Colorado estate planning, probate administration and probate litigation. She has primarily worked in the areas of

Probate Horror Story #4: Appointing a Bad Executor

Welcome to the third in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month we discussed the importance of regularly updating your estate plan. This month we are looking at the potential fallout when the executor you name turns out to be a bad choice. Fictional Situation: Marilyn 79-year-old female Widowed for 13 years 5 children Owns her home Has life insurance, investments, savings Updated her will after her husband passed away When her husband passed away, Marilyn made the smart decision to update her will. One of the updates she was faced with was who to name as the executor of her estate – the person who would handle wrapping up the financial affairs and distributing all property as outlined in her will after she was gone. In these situations, it’s not uncommon for adult children, siblings or family friends to raise their hands

What Does a Conservator of an Estate Do?

A conservator of an estate is a person chosen by the courts to protect an incapacitated adult’s financial affairs and estate. This is done if the incapacitated person had not previously named an agent under durable power of attorney to make financial decisions on their behalf if the need arises. A conservator in Denver may be responsible for activities such as: Paying monthly bills Managing investments Determining the value of property or real estate Purchasing items needed like a new car 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 Terminating the conservatorship when necessary Even if a durable power of attorney has been named, this role may be overridden by the courts if: Multiple people have been named as decision-makers and major conflicts arise The decisions being made are not

Probate Horror Story #3

Welcome to the third in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month we discussed the issue of the legal rights of life partners when there is no documented will in existence. This month we are stressing the importance of regularly updating your estate plan. Fictional Situation: George 67-year-old male Divorced from wife of 30 years Remarried for 10 years 1 child, 3 step-children Makes $100,000/year Owns a recreational vehicle Has life insurance, investments, savings Created a will 25 years ago, never updated Life has a way of speeding by at light speed. We all get caught up in the daily tasks of work, family, social engagements and, unfortunately, crisis situations that often make us say, “Where did the time go?” This is exactly what could happen to George in our fictional situation. George was proactive in creating a will 25 years ago that

Conservatorship Forms in Colorado

Planning for your future – and the future of your family – includes being financially prepared in the event you become incapacitated. Nominating a trusted individual to serve as your conservator in your financial power of attorney to handle your financial affairs is one way to do this without placing added burden on your family. You will want to choose a person you feel will act in your best interests and protect your estate. If the Situation Arises… The state of Colorado requires a number of forms be filed for the appointment of a conservator. Not all forms are necessary for every conservatorship situation; if you are not familiar with Colorado laws, you may want to enlist the assistance of an conservatorship lawyer in Denver to help you with this process. Colorado Conservatorship Filing Forms Affidavit Regarding Due Diligence and Proof of Publication Notice of Hearing by Publication Waiver of

Looking for a Denver Lawyer to Protect Your Assets?

If you need to set up a will, trust or any estate planning document in Colorado, it is advisable to hire an attorney to help you select the right documents for your unique situation. A simple will may not be sufficient to fully protect your assets and your family. The Denver estate planning lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC, (formerly The Brown Law Firm, LLC) have over 50 years of combined experience in estate planning/estate and trust administration and estate and trust litigation. Over the years they have handled hundreds of simple and extremely complex estate and trust administration matters. Regardless of your age or financial status, these three attorneys can put you on the right path to piece of mind about how your property and your money will be handled after you are gone. Nicole Economy Brown Wills Revocable trusts Financial and medical powers of attorney Living wills Life

Denver Lawyer Reviews

In the past, word-of-mouth referrals were the most powerful advertising a company could receive. Today, this is still true but the internet has made this referral stream a hundred times more effective. Now you can read reviews of anything from pet stores to doctors to restaurants…and even lawyers. If you are searching for an estate planning lawyer in Denver, read these reviews from our actual clients about Nicole Economy Brown, Spencer J. Crona and Sherene Stenger. “My wife and I were in need of an attorney to help us complete our wills and, coincidentally, I happen to meet Nicole Brown at a networking event. Nicole was able to schedule an appointment with us very quickly, and it only took a couple of visits to complete the process. Of course, we had to gather a lot of information for Nicole and being business owners meant we had even more data to provide than

What is an Estate Bank Account?

If you have been appointed by the probate Court as an executor of an estate, you will be responsible for paying outstanding bills, court costs and lawyer fees and distributing the remainder of the estate’s cash assets to the beneficiaries. This may take months or years to finalize, depending on the complexity of the estate. These responsibilities are not typically handled through the deceased person’s checking or savings account. Instead, all money which are probate assets held in these accounts should be transferred to a special estate account so all of the money coming in (from dividends, rentals, refunds, etc.) and going out can be easily accounted for. 3 Estate Bank Account Tips The estate will need to be assigned a taxpayer ID number. This can be requested through IRS Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number. An estate checking account should be filed under the name of the

Probate Horror Story #2: Life Partners Left in the Lurch

Welcome to the second in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month we discussed the impact of estranged parents on probate. This month we are tackling the issue of the legal rights of life partners when there is no documented will in existence. Any time a person passes away without a will, the court apply the laws of intestacy to distribute the person’s assets and estate.  In Colorado, the estate will generally be distributed to the surviving spouse, children, parents or siblings, depending on the person’s family situation. Today, more and more people are choosing to forego the legality of marriage and elect to have life partners with whom they share property and assets. While this can be a satisfactory arrangement, there may be legal snags as time goes on. This is the situation of this particular Probate Horror Story. Fictional Situation: Mary

Colorado Guardianship vs. Custody

When it comes to your children, you want to make sure they are well provided for, loved and protected. Guardianship and custody are two different legal appointments that are designed to do just that. Depending on your physical, mental or life situation, you may need legal assistance from a Colorado estate planning lawyer to make the proper arrangements for your children. Guardianship in Colorado A guardian in Colorado is a person (other than the parent) who is selected to protect your minor children or adult children with special needs. A guardian provides for and makes all life decisions on behalf of the child such as healthcare/mental health decisions, living arrangements, basic necessities (food, shelter, clothing), education, etc. This appointment can take effect while you are still living or if you should pass away. If you have passed away, the guardian you have nominated in your will is the one who

Guardianship vs. Power of Attorney

What would you do if a medical condition or accident left you incapacitated? If you were unable to handle your own affairs and take care of your children … would you have the proper documents in place to protect yourself, your estate and your children? Would your children have a safe place to go – a place you trust with all of your heart? Or would the courts have to appoint someone to decide where they would live? If you are unsure how to respond to these questions, the answer is probably no. There are a variety of legal ways you can plan for the unthinkable. Colorado nomination of a guardian in your will and a financial power of attorney are two vastly different documents that can be drafted while you are mentally and physically able to make decisions that could affect your future – and the future of your family.

Contesting a Trust

Setting up a trust while you are living is an excellent way of providing for your loved ones both while you are living and after you pass away. Trusts (both revocable or irrevocable) typically distribute funds or property to beneficiaries in a controlled manner such as when the beneficiaries reach a certain age, get married, complete college or any stipulation you want to place on the trust. Your named trustee is responsible for managing your estate and fulfilling the terms of the trust. Unfortunately, trusts can fall under the same scrutiny as wills in regard to how your beneficiaries (or those left out of the trust) view your distributions. Just like wills are often contested, trusts can be contested as well. There are certain situations where a person who has proper standing (is in some way eligible to inherit part of the estate but is not named in the trust)

Is a Living Will the Same as a Medical Power of Attorney?

If you’ve lived a fairly healthy life (aside from the occasional bout with colds or the flu) it can seem inconceivable that you might someday require assistance making decisions for yourself. Unfortunately, we never know what twists or turns life may throw at us…regardless of our age or medical history. Because of this uncertainty, it is advisable to put safeguards in place to protect yourself if you should become mentally or physically debilitated in any way. Two of these legal safety measures are: Living will Medical power of attorney (also called durable power of attorney for health care) These are completely separate documents that will provide different levels of direction and protection for potential end-of-life situations. By creating a living will, you can specify exactly how you would want medical treatment if your life was in jeopardy but you were unable to express your life-sustainment wishes. Rather than placing this

Probate Horror Story #1: Estranged Parents

At Brown & Crona, LLC, we often have to help our clients through the probate process – whether or not those clients have created a will. Because the horror stories are so commonplace, we are starting a Probate Horror Story Series to bring to light some of the situations that can arise during probate. We are starting the series with estranged parents. Probate is a court process to ensure that the estate or assets of a deceased person are properly distributed. If you have not created a will, the courts make the decisions on who receives your estate. This is the situation of this particular Probate Horror Story. Fictional Situation: Joe 55-year-old male No spouse, no children Successful finance career Making $250,000/year + bonuses Has life insurance, investments, savings Owns his home and car No will Has been estranged from his parents for 25 years – no contact If Joe

The Future of Your House When You Require Nursing Home Care

Your home can carry a lot of sentimental value. It can be the place where you began your married life…where your children took their first steps…the dream home you worked so hard to achieve…a house that has been in your family for generations. It’s only natural to want to keep your home in your family even if you need to move into a nursing home or an assisted living facility. Nursing home care is often paid for out-of-pocket by individuals. If this is the case, there is no problem with keeping your home while you are living away. The issue becomes muddled, however, when a person can no longer afford to pay for nursing home coverage without government assistance. The question is: Can the state make you sell your home if you require Medicaid to help pay for the costs of the nursing home? The short answer is No. Sort

Transferring Guardianship Between States

Not all states share the same laws or legal requirements regarding guardianships. Legal, court-appointed guardianships in one state may not be accepted if you decide to move the protected person (ward) to another state. Luckily, most states have a system in place to reduce complications associated with moving incapacitated adults or minors across state lines. Colorado has adopted the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJA). There are several goals of this Act in relation to transferring adult or minor guardianship and conservatorships between states: Designate only one state at a time to have jurisdiction over the protected parties Facilitate interstate cooperation with the transfer Outline procedural steps to ensure a streamlined transfer Ensure all parties are following the provisions of the guardianship or conservatorship Eliminate the need to initiate costly and time-consuming proceedings in the new state to determine guardianship or conservatorship needs Ensure the relocation is

Who Administers a Will?

The simple answer to the question, “Who administers a will?” is: an executor. However, the manner in which this person is chosen is not always clear-cut. An executor (known as a personal representative in Colorado) is the legal title of a person who has been selected to carry out the wishes of a deceased person. The executor can be specifically named in the deceased person’s will, making the process quite simple (at least in theory). There are situations that demand probate court intervention when it comes to naming an executor such as: The will fails to specifically nominate an executor The executor named in the will is hotly and legally contested by surviving family members and/or beneficiaries The validity of the will is challenged The person dies without a will (intestate) In these types of cases the probate court will appoint an executor for the estate. The person named may

How to Become a Conservator in Denver

A conservator is a person appointed by the court to protect the financial affairs and estate of an adult person that becomes incapacitated or for a minor. If a family member of loved one is in any stage of failing mental or physical health, and that person is unable to designate an agent under financial power of attorney, you may wish to file the legal documents to have a conservator appointed for that person. The person chosen as conservator must be at least 21 years old and can be a resident or non-resident of the county in which you are filing the petition. It will be necessary to complete and file the appropriate Colorado forms for: Appointing a conservator Acknowledging the responsibilities of conservatorship Accepting the office Notification documents Reporting documents And more Each form must be properly filled out and filed with the courts in a timely manner. There

How to Choose an Estate Planning Attorney

There are many estate planning lawyers in Colorado. How do you know which one is right for you? We have assembled a list of interview questions to ask prospective estate planning lawyers as well as questions to ask yourself while you are meeting with prospective lawyers. It is your right to ask these questions and demand satisfactory answers to ensure you are making the right choice for your own unique family/life situation. After all, the assistance they provide is meant to protect you and your loved ones now and in the future. Lawyer Questions What are the lawyer’s specialties? Do they focus entirely on estate planning or is that just a small piece of the practice? The more focused the better! How many years has the lawyer been in practice? The more experience the better! What types of legal certifications and professional organization memberships does the lawyer have? The more

The Brown Law Firm, LLC is Now Brown & Crona, LLC

The Brown Law Firm, LLC, located in Denver, Colorado, is undergoing a name change to reflect that Denver trust and estate lawyer Spencer J. Crona has been named a partner in the firm. As of March 1st, 2017, the firm is now known as Brown & Crona, LLC. Nicole Economy Brown devotes her practice primarily to Colorado estate planning and estate and trust administration. Spencer J. Crona practices principally in the areas of Colorado probate, estate and trust litigation, conservatorships and guardianships, probate review of personal injury settlements and estate administration. Nicole Economy Brown and Spencer J. Crona have worked closely together since 2011 to help people of all ages, financial status and life situations plan for their futures and the futures of their loved ones through estate planning, estate administration, trust administration, estate/trust litigation and protected person proceedings. Both Ms. Brown and Mr. Crona are rated as Super Lawyers

Types of Protective Proceedings

A protective proceeding is a legal process in which an individual is selected by the courts to ensure that an incapacitated person or minor’s life or property is managed when that person is unable to do so due to age and/or functional or cognitive abilities. Guardianship protective proceedings appoint a person to handle health and welfare Conservatorship protective proceedings appoint a person to handle assets Under these umbrella terms, there can be different types of guardianships and conservatorships, depending on the urgency of the situation or unique circumstances. Unlimited Limited Emergency Special When a petition for guardianship or conservatorship appointment has been filed with the courts (adult cases only), a non-biased and paid court visitor will be arranged by the court to personally observe the appointee, conduct interviews, collect information and report back to the court to ensure the right person has been chosen for this important role. If the

Are Lawyers Optional for Wills?

Do you have to hire a lawyer to create a will? The short answer is: no. The long answer is: maybe. If you haven’t fully thought through ALL of the situations that may arise after you pass away – and even while you are still living – your will may not sufficiently protect you and your loved ones. Here are some circumstances where a Colorado estate lawyer can help you properly navigate the will-making process so you leave no stone unturned. You have dependent children or parents that need protection. Any type of medical emergency, traumatic event or disease could leave you incapacitated – and unable to speak for yourself. There are certain family members that you would absolutely not want to receive your possessions or be granted guardianship of your dependents by the courts. You are not married but have a significant other you want to protect. You have

What Type of Lawyer in Denver Creates Wills?

You’ve decided to take that all-important step to create a will for yourself: now what? We applaud anyone who has realized the potentially disastrous consequences of moving through life without a will – regardless of their financial or family status. But sometimes it’s hard to actually spend the time to start the process. This is where hiring an attorney can help. Estate planning lawyers help people navigate the legal system to draft and implement a last will and testament, living will, living trust or irrevocable trust. These attorneys can also help you create estate planning documents to appoint agents under medical and financial powers of attorney and nominate guardians, conservators and more. The ultimate goal of these legal documents is to protect you and your family and ensure that your assets will be distributed the way YOU want them to after you pass – not how the courts and laws

How to Avoid Conservatorships or Guardianships in Denver

Life is anything but predictable. We can move through most of our days carefree and healthy, but it can take just one wrong decision or one unfortunate turn of events to change everything. Injury or illness can leave you incapacitated in a way you may have never planned for; that lack of planning may affect how you live the rest of your life. At The Brown Law Firm, LLC, we encourage our clients to name specific agents in their medical and financial durable powers of attorney  to handle their health care and financial decisions for them in the event they cannot make those decisions for themselves. This is the only way to avoid court intervention on your behalf (in most cases). Without detailed instructions about who you want caring for you and your estate, the courts will likely be required to appoint a guardian and/or a conservator for you. Guardian:

Starting a Business in Denver? Get Your Legal Structure in Order.

In August 2016, Denver was listed as #4 in the top 20 metro areas to start a business in America by CNBC. A new flock of millennials with spending power in our state, low unemployment rate, high average salaries and a well-educated workforce all lead to an economy that is ripe for supporting new businesses. Starting a new business is more complex than just creating a business plan and leasing a physical space. If you want to protect yourself in the process it is advisable to set up a legal business structure that meets your goals, sets liability limitations and saves on taxes. Setting up your legal structure is also required to register the trade name for your business. You can do an online search of business names in Colorado to find out if the name you are considering is already being used in our state. Business Structure Options Corporations:

Colorado Living Will Requirements

There is a federal law in place that requires that you be informed about your advance directive options if you are admitted into a hospital, nursing home, hospice, etc. These options include living wills, resuscitation wishes, refusal or acceptance of different types of medical treatment, medical power of attorney or guardian, scope of treatment orders and more. While it is not a federal law that you create advance directive forms, it is definitely in your best interest to have your wishes in writing well before any type of emergency situation arises. Not only will this allow you to make your own decisions about your health care (even if you are physically or mentally unable to express your wishes); having these forms in place will also protect your family from having to make (often) very difficult decisions on your behalf (such as ending life support). This blog will focus on living

What Does a Probate Attorney Do?

Probate. It’s one of those daunting words that can strike a feeling of trepidation, panic and downright perplexity in people. Probate is a legal process that is carried out by the courts after a person dies with (or without) a formal will. Depending on the size of your estate – and the level of complexity of your assets and provisions in your will (or how the courts distribute your estate according to the Colorado laws of intestacy) – the probate process in Colorado can be either quick and simple or lengthy and complicated. Colorado does not require that you hire a lawyer to handle the probate of a will. If you are named the executor of a will, you can actually handle the entire process on your own if you have the time and know the steps to take. The problem is that going into the probate process you may

Guardianship Forms in Colorado

If you have young children or adult children with special needs, one of the most important reasons to create a will is to protect them if you become incapacitated or pass away. This is called appointing a guardian for your dependents. It allows you, rather than the courts, to choose who will care for your dependents if you pass away. You have the power to shape your children’s futures by selecting guardians who: Share your moral, religious and personal values Are ready for the responsibility Will have the financial resources to care for your children Will provide a loving home Understand what will be required of them When the Day Comes… In Colorado, there are a number of forms that need to be filed for appointment of a guardian. Not all forms are necessary for every guardianship situation; if you are not familiar with Colorado laws, you may want to

Role of Professional Fiduciary in Trust Administration

If you choose to set up a trust instead of a will, you will need to appoint a trustee to administer the assets in the trust and and the distribution of your assets after you pass away. The trustee can be a loved one or a close friend, but sometimes these individuals may not be suitable for handling the trust administration in an objective manner. Sometimes hiring a legal professional or a professional fiduciary is recommended, especially if your estate is very large and you foresee potential conflicts over the administration of your trust. Trust attorneys can not only help you create a trust; they can  also recommend a third-party neutral professional fiduciary to handle the administration of the trust. Giving this fiduciary duty to a professional trained in the legal aspects of trusts can help speed up the process, avoid legal actions and may help lessen the conflicts among

6 Dangers of Not Having a Will

You don’t have to be a celebrity or a millionaire to put, ‘Make a will!’ a priority on your To Do list. Unfortunately, all too many people fall into the assumption that they don’t need a will because they: Don’t own much Think their spouse, partner, children or siblings will inherit everything automatically Feel there is no way their family will squabble over their estate Think they are too young or too healthy to need a will right now In reality, everyone needs a will. A will protects your estate (large or small) from falling into the wrong hands, protects your family, minimizes heartache and reduces unnecessary legal expenses. 6 Dangers of Dying Intestate If you die without a will (die intestate) your surviving relatives may be faced with legal nightmares and infighting that can drag on for months or even years. All of your belongings (estate) will be divided

Who Needs a Business Plan?

If you have a business or are starting a business in Denver, you will undoubtedly get both solicited and unsolicited recommendations about how to effectively run it. One topic that usually arises is that of the business plan: is it necessary or unnecessary to create a business plan for your business? You will get different answers depending on who you ask. Some people say that you only need to have a detailed, written business plan if you are soliciting funds from a bank, investors, joint ventures, etc. The thought is that any type of investor will want to know the risks, projected financial gains/losses, extended outlook and more before dumping money into your business. While this is true, even if you are not actively seeing outside funds, it makes sense to have your business goals set up so you can continue to: Move your business forward Set/meet objectives and strategies

5 Basics of Trust Administration

The death of a loved one is never easy. If you have been named as a trustee to administrator a loved one’s trust, you can honor that person and help continue their legacy by performing your duties in the most efficient, organized and fair manner possible. Trustees are responsible for managing the asset distribution of the deceased person to ensure that all beneficiaries receive what is rightfully theirs. It may be helpful to hire a trust attorney to help with this process. Trusts do not have to go through probate, so assets can typically be distributed more quickly than when the person has a will only. This process is not court supervised; however, the courts may get involved if there are any disputes. There are some trustee guidelines that should be followed: Organization: you will need to assess the value of the estate, including any debts and liabilities. Accurate record-keeping

Tax Planning for Individuals

Complying with tax laws is important when you are alive; but being forward-thinking about tax ramifications on your estate after you die is equally important if you have a very large estate. To ensure that your beneficiaries receive the maximum amounts from your estate (without excessive taxes), make tax planning a priority right now. Don’t wait until it is too late. Federal estate tax is currently enforced on estates valued at $5.45 million per person (estates amounting to less than this amount are not federally taxed). Colorado does not currently impose a state estate tax. Federal and/or state taxes can be enforced on: Investment properties Real estate Stock 401K plans Traditional IRAs And more Ways to Avoid or Minimize Estate Taxes Convert your traditional IRA to a non-taxable Roth account Set up a trust, instead of a will, to eliminate the estate from being subject to estate taxes (there are

Using Estate Plans While Living

Most people think of estate planning as advance preparation for actions that will only be implemented after your death: how your estate will be divided among your beneficiaries, how estate taxes will affect your loved ones, etc. Therefore, many people wait too long before starting their estate planning. In reality, you can use estate planning to make decisions that can be carried out while you are still living. Here are some examples of estate planning documents that can outline your wishes: Incapacity: if you should become incapacitated for any reason (disease, injury, etc.) and are unable to make coherent decisions for yourself, you can appoint a specific person to make decisions on your behalf. A Conservator and/or Guardian will be appointed by the court if you have not specified someone to fill this role. Decision makers: you can appoint a medical power of attorney to make medical decisions on your

Living Will vs. Last Will

A will is a will…right? Not necessarily. A single document may not be enough to not only protect your assets and provide for your family (or other beneficiaries) but also to protect yourself. That’s why it is advisable to create two different types of wills in Colorado: a living will and a last will and testament. Living Will A living will is a legal document that outlines what kind of life sustaining procedures you want administered in the event you become unable to speak for yourself (incapacitated) due to injury, disease or other health conditions. For example, if you strongly oppose life-sustaining measures such as life support, tube feeding, resuscitation, dialysis and more, you can state in writing that you do not wish to receive this type of medical care under any circumstances. However, if you do want every effort taken to prolong your life, a living will allows you

Going Through Probate Without a Lawyer

Probate in Colorado is a legal process enforced to protect the estate of a deceased person and ensure that the terms in the person’s will are carried out properly. Just the term probate can be intimidating to a lot of people, especially those without any legal training specific to the laws of Colorado. While Colorado’s probate process is fairly straightforward, there can still be obstacles that make the probate executor’s role very difficult to handle. Situations may arise – even in small estates – that will require a lawyer get involved in order to complete the probate process. However, if the estate is small and the terms quite simple, the probate executor (the person assigned to authenticate the will, distribute the estate and finalize financial obligations of the estate) may be able to manage the probate process without a lawyer. If you are planning to handle the probate process without

Creating a Trust: Is Revocable or Irrevocable Better?

As an alternative to a will, a living trust allows you to specify in writing how you want your assets distributed after your death. By creating and funding a living trust, you can identify how you want your assets managed/distributed and specify a person (trustee) to manage your assets either while you are living or if you become incapacitated and unable to do this for yourself. A fully funded living trust can be a safeguard that can protect you but also your beneficiaries. When you pass away, and if your living trust is fully funded your estate does not go through probate; you will have designated a trustee to distribute your assets as outlined in the terms of your trust. There are two main types of trusts: revocable and irrevocable. Both are private documents that will not be made public after your death (unlike a will).  Depending on the terms

What is an Estate?

If you own anything, you have an estate. It’s your net worth that 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 have a simple estate, someone will inherit what you own after you die. Without a will in Denver, your assets will be divided according the intestacy laws of Colorado. If this idea makes you uneasy, it is advisable to create a will so you can outline exactly who will be the beneficiaries of your estate upon your death. You can also choose to create a revocable living trust to protect your assets. You can make changes to these types of documents at any time. Alternatively, if you have placed any assets into an irrevocable living trust (one that cannot be altered),

Set Up a Trust in Denver

You’ve heard the stereotype: the young adult, Denver trust fund baby that spends his days snowboarding, partying, hanging out…anything but working for a living…all because he is independently wealthy. Perhaps, thanks to the generosity of his, Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Auntie, etc. While this may be a reality for some, establishing a trust is not only for wealthy people. A trust is simply a legal way to provide financial security or a financial benefit for a loved one, charity or other organization. While the terms of the trust can be drafted to comport with the wishes of the client, in some cases, trust beneficiaries must wait until they have reached a certain age to receive money from the trust. When creating a trust, you can also specify that certain conditions be met, such as reaching a certain age, college education/graduation, first home purchase or marriage, before a beneficiary can start to

Probate Process in Colorado

Probate is a legal process carried out to ensure that the assets of a deceased person are distributed properly. Whether or not you have created a will, your assets will likely go through some level of probate after you pass away. The process can be very simple and straightforward or it can be lengthy and expensive if the will is contested or, in the case of no will, beneficiaries are contested. The probate process is not meant to be legal red tape; it’s there to protect your beneficiaries and make sure your wishes are carried out the way you wanted. In Colorado, there are 3 ways probate can be handled: Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property (for estates less than $64,000 with no real property): a successor to the Decedent can use this Affidavit to collect assets from the institution or person in possession of the assets. The assets are

Alternative to a Will: The Value of Creating a Living Trust

You have probably heard time and time again how important it is to create a will to protect your assets and your family. But did you know that there is another document that can be equally effective (depending upon your unique situation)? It’s called a living trust and you may find that this type of document fits your needs better than a will. A will is a legal document that outlines how you want your assets distributed after you pass away. In contrast, a living trust is a different legal document that allows you (settlor) to outline how you want your assets distributed. Along with this information, you also specify a person (trustee) to be in control of managing your assets if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. Then, upon your death, the trustee has the authority and duty to make sure your assets are distributed properly. Living

Estate Litigation in Denver

What did the late musician Jimi Hendrix, “Painter of Light” artist Thomas Kinkade, eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes and “Queen of Mean” businesswoman Leona Helmsley all have in common? Their passing each resulted in extensive battles over their estates – a flood of people who sued for claims to pieces of their fortunes. Some lost, some won. When you die, your estate enters probate and is divided among your heirs pursuant to the laws of intestacy if you do not have a will. However, even if you do have a valid will, during the probate process a person with legal standing who feels he or she should be a recipient of part of your estate can contest your wishes and challenge your will. Estates of All Sizes are Subject to Litigation A person with legal standing has the right to dispute the validity of your will or contest the administration of

When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn: Guardianships and Conservatorships

For some people it can be inconceivable that there might come a time when they are unable to make reasonable, coherent decisions for themselves. After all, reaching adulthood means a certain sense of freedom to live life on your own terms. Unfortunately, life has a way of mapping out its own course. Aging, accidents (traumatic brain injury, paralysis), disease (dementia, cancer), mental illness and other conditions can ultimately affect your ability to protect your own physical, financial, social and emotional needs. These reasons are why it is advisable to appoint a trusted person (or persons) to serve as your agent under medical and financial powers of attorney.  The individual(s) whom you name in these documents have priority to serve as your guardian or conservator in the event you become incapacitated.   If you have powers of attorneys in place upon your incapacity, a court proceeding to appoint a guardian or conservator

Business Planning Lawyers in Denver

If you are planning to start a business in Denver – large or small – it is wise to create a legal entity to: Protect your personal assets Set liability limitations Save money on taxes Establish a unique credit rating Sell shares of stock in the company Set transferability rules By taking the time to think through and create the right business entity for your situation, you will also establish a level of prestige and credibility with your customers. Types of Business Entities Corporations: independent company owned by shareholders; there is no personal liability but there may be tax ramifications; regular meetings and record-keeping are mandatory Partnerships: two or more people who own and run a business; partners are liable for business debts from all partners but there is no double taxation Limited liability companies (LLC): a flexible legal entity that combines features of both corporations and partnerships You can

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wills, Living Trusts and Probate

When developing your estate plan, you and your attorney will discuss what types of estate planning documents will best fit your needs in order to protect your assets and your family. This blog will outline the advantages and disadvantages of wills, living trusts and the Colorado probate process. Advantages of Wills Relatively simple to create Allows the testator to leave assets to anyone they wish Can include care arrangements for children, pets, etc. Disadvantages of Wills May be subject to probate and possible challenges regarding validity Can be subject to federal estate tax and income taxes Becomes public record which anyone can access Advantages of Living Trusts Allows control of investments, property, assets and business interests while you are incapacitated Potentially could avoid probate if the trust is funded during your lifetime In most cases, is not filed with the Court so it does not become public record Potentially could

Living Wills and MOST Forms in Colorado

Medical technologies are amazing today. There are a wide range of medical interventions that doctors can undertake to prolong your life if you should be faced with an end-of-life situation. Most people have specific wishes about what types of life-saving measures they want doctors to perform – or avoid – but unless these wishes are in writing, your loved ones will have to make these difficult decisions on your behalf. A living will is a legal document that allows you to state, in writing, your end-of-life medical care wishes if you are not able to communicate with family members or your doctor. These directives include: Resuscitation Medications Life support Because there are many different steps to creating a living will (getting the appropriate form, appointing an agent to carry out your wishes outlined in your living will, how/where to record and keep the will, choosing end-of-life treatment, protections for third

Creating a Will: Thoughts Behind Leaving More to One Child

The Scenario Mary is an 84-year-old widow living in Colorado. She has three grown children: her daughter, Sarah, lives nearby and cares for Mary on a daily basis. Sarah performs house maintenance, takes Mary to doctor appointments and shops for her mother every week. Mary’s other two adult children live in Florida and Michigan with their own families so they are unable to help out with their mother regularly. They can only visit once or twice a year. When it comes time to update her will, Mary must decide how to split her estate among her children. Should she leave more to Sarah because she is basically acting as her caretaker (Sarah has “earned” it)? Or should she still split the estate equally? This is a scenario that happens all too often; unfortunately there is no right answer. Every family situation is completely unique. The Decision is Yours Testators (people

Keep Your Wishes Private – Not Hidden

In our last blog, Keeping Your Will Private While You are Living, we discussed that you have the right to keep your will private while you are living. While this is a good idea for many people, it is also advisable to share certain details of your will with at least one trusted individual.  This individual should be told: Where to locate your original will Where he or she can find a list of all of your assets and the list of your trusted advisors that he or she should contact upon your death You don’t want to leave your family wondering if you even made a will and cause them extra work upon your death in trying to locate your will. If it is difficult to find, your surviving family members may begin to argue over who-gets-what, leading to legal battles and a strain on relationships. Most importantly, if

Keeping Your Will Private While You are Living

A will is a legal document that outlines how you want your estate divided or handled after you pass away. It’s a great way to protect what you’ve worked so hard to achieve and protect your loved ones. Unfortunately, wills also have a way of causing family turmoil if certain members do not agree with the way you are dividing your estate. The good news is that you have the right to keep your will private while you are living. Family, friend and business associates do not have the legal right to know the contents of your will. Of course, if you want certain people to know how your will distributes your estate, you can share the information with whomever you choose. The thing to remember is that wills become public record upon the owner’s death and the filing of a probate action.  That means that all of your surviving

What is a Living Will?

What is the difference between a traditional will and a living will?  These documents serve vastly different purposes as explained below: Traditional will: a legal document in which you designate how you want your property (estate) divided after you die. This document can also outline how you want your dependents or pets cared for after you die. Living will: a legal document in which you designate what type of medical care you wish to receive if you become incapacitated for any reason and are unable to relay your wishes to your family, friends and doctors. The term living will basically describes if or how you want to remain living under a doctor’s care and whether or not you want doctors to do everything medically possible to sustain your life. This can include: CPR measures Feeding tubes to supply adequate nutrition Ventilator breathing assistance Medication or procedures to decrease pain and

Creating a Living Will in Denver

If you are reading this blog, you deserve kudos. The fact that you are researching living wills or advance directives in Denver means you care enough about your loved ones to protect them from potentially having to make seemingly impossible decisions on your behalf. What is a Living Will? A living will is a legal document that allows you to state your medical care preferences in the event you are unable to do so. This document can take effect if you are in a coma, become seriously injured, suffer from dementia, etc. Living with a terminal condition or in a persistent vegetative state can take its toll on your loved ones and often doctors will need family members to make major life or death decisions such as: Performing life-sustaining procedures such as CPR Providing artificial nutrition or hydration with feeding tubes Providing mechanical breathing assistance through a ventilator By creating

Colorado Probate Process

The word probate can be used as a noun or a verb: Noun: the court action of proving a will is valid or invalid. “Mr. Smith’s will is in probate until further notice.” Verb: the action of establishing the legitimacy of a will. “The court will probate Mr. Smith’s will on July 26.” Some level of probate is usually necessary for every deceased person’s estate. Although the probate process can get lengthy, expensive and downright nasty in contentious cases, it is actually a helpful legal process designed to protect the deceased person’s estate and ensure that the person’s wishes are fully carried out. It is also intended to protect the heirs of the estate. Probate in Denver In Colorado, we are lucky to have a fairly inexpensive and direct probate process. There are three types of probates in Colorado: Small estate probate: if your estate has assets under $64,000 and

Estate Planning Basics

Estate planning is more than simply deciding how your property or assets will be divided after you pass away. While creating a will is a large part of estate planning, this process also includes many other steps that you should take to ensure your loved ones are cared for long after you are gone. You can also ensure they are not burdened with making extremely difficult decisions on your behalf. Here are some things to think about when thinking about estate planning in Denver: Designate in writing exactly who will receive your property and assets (a will or trust) Select a trusted executor to carry out your wishes described in your will Be mindful of estate taxes that may be triggered at your death (you don’t want to burden your beneficiaries, but rather care for them!) – making gifts can reduce estate taxes Select a trusted power of attorney to

How Special Needs Trusts Protect Loved Ones

If you have a loved one that is mentally or physically disabled, creating a special needs trust in Denver will help protect that person after you are gone. A special needs trust allows for a specifically-named person (the trustee) to manage the property of another person (the beneficiary) on their behalf. A trust can be drafted to help the special needs beneficiary: Continue receiving government benefits even if they inherit all or part of an estate Manage their day-to-day finances Live a good quality of life Have their basic needs met Protect the funds in the special needs trust even if the beneficiary is sued You can create a special needs trust for another person while you are living or you can create a special needs trust in your will. While there are resources to help you create a special needs trust on your own, the process can become complicated.

Learn the Rules of Inheriting an IRA from a Non-Spouse

Inheriting an IRA from a family member or loved one who is not your spouse has slightly different rules from inheriting an IRA from a spouse. Here are some things to consider if you find yourself with an inherited IRA: You may not roll the IRA into an existing IRA that you own. You can create an inherited IRA in your name. You may be required to withdraw a percentage of the IRA’s value on an annual basis (based on your life expectancy) and that money will be subject to income tax. You cannot combine an inherited traditional IRA with an inherited Roth IRA. There is no 60-day rollover rule for inherited IRAs from a non-spouse (meaning if you withdraw money and put the same amount back into the account within 60 days it won’t be taxed). If you withdraw any money from the account it will be taxed. Traditional IRAs:

4 Ways to Avoid Probate in Denver

Even if you have a will, sometimes your estate will have to go through probate which is a court proceeding that ensures your assets are distributed among your chosen beneficiaries. This can end up being a very lengthy and sometimes expensive process for your loved ones to endure. Luckily there are ways to avoid probate of your will: Death beneficiaries: accounts, securities or property that list a named beneficiary will automatically be transferred to those people upon your death Revocable living trusts: you transfer your property into the revocable trust and a trustee manages the assets in the trust for your benefit (the trust can be revoked at any time) Joint property ownership: upon your death, the property is automatically transferred to the living co-owner Gifts: prior to your death, you give your property to another person (gift taxes may apply) Why Probate is a Dreaded Word The reason probate

How Prince’s Death Should Affect Your Denver Estate Plan

Rumors are swirling around the absence – or presence – of a will for the recently deceased singer/songwriter, Prince. Originally it was speculated that he did not have a will, despite having earned millions of dollars over the years. More recently, filmmaker Ian Halperin has stated that he believes that Prince did, indeed, have a will and that the document resides in Canada. Prince’s estate is estimated to be worth $200-$300 million. Unfortunately, rumors have surfaced that there has already been fighting among Prince’s siblings for their piece of the estate (although this is not confirmed). It is not far-fetched to think that many more people will come forward stating that they deserve a piece of Prince’s estate. With such a large estate at stake, it seems impossible that Prince would not have an estate plan so his wishes would be carried out; for now we will have to wait

What Does a Will Executor Do?

You pride yourself on being organized, responsible and honest then suddenly you find yourself designated as the executor of a loved one’s estate. In Colorado the term personal representative is used to identify the executor of the estate.  Whether you were chosen by your loved one or appointed by the court, you should consider this a big honor. But the idea of being in charge can also be overwhelming, especially if you are not familiar with the duties of a will executor/personal representative. We’ve assembled a list of responsibilities of a personal representative here to help you take control of the situation at hand. As a personal representative, you must: Review the latest version of the deceased’s will Admit the will into probate, if necessary Collect all of the assets, including personal property and bank accounts Distribute assets to individuals or organizations as specified in the will Pay all incoming bills

Inheriting an IRA from a Spouse: What You Need to Know

Many people are unsure how to handle IRAs that have been inherited from a deceased spouse. You actually have several options as a spousal beneficiary of an IRA: Keep the IRA investment and trustees the same and update the name on the account to your own name. Transfer the IRA to a new trustee and create a new IRA account. Roll the IRA into the appropriate account you have already set up so it can be managed like your current account. Traditional IRAs: take a lump sum distribution and pay income taxes on the entire amount. There is no 10% IRS penalty. Roth IRAs: take a lump sum distribution. If the account is less than 5 years old, earnings are taxable. Inherited IRA Withdrawal Options It is possible to withdraw funds from an inherited IRA if you are younger than age 59½. In order to avoid a 10% penalty to

How Divorce Affects Your Will in Colorado

Colorado ranks in the top 10 states for divorce with 4.08 divorces per 1,000 residents. The good news is that our divorce rate is actually the lowest it has been in over 10 years. With divorce being so prevalent in our society today (50% of marriages fail according to statistics), it’s important to keep your will up-to-date to reflect and protect: Reflect your life changes Protect your assets Protect your loved ones Under Colorado law, the rules surrounding wills and divorce differ according to when your will was written and when you were married or divorced: If you get divorced after your will was created, your ex-spouse is automatically eliminated as a devisee (will not receive any assets from the estate). Your ex-spouse is also unable to serve as your will executor. If you get married after your will was created, your spouse may have statutory rights to a portion

Living Wills: Not Just for Older Adults

Parties…mortgages…diapers…college…soccer games… In your 20s and 30s – when you are out enjoying life, starting a family, building your career – the last thing you probably want to think about is becoming seriously ill or dying. In fact, many young adults view estate planning and preparing medical directives as something that people only do when they get old. But the truth is that no matter how healthy or active you are – or how invincible you feel – you can still succumb to injury or disease that leaves you incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. Creating a living will is an important step for all adults to take – regardless of your family status. A living will enables you to state, in writing, exactly how you want your medical treatment administered (or avoided) if you cannot speak for yourself. Having a living will can help to remove or

When Should You Review Your Estate Planning Documents?

You’ve been proactive in planning for your family’s future by creating estate planning documents (wills, trusts, etc.). Great job! You never have to think about it again…right? Wrong. Guess what? Life is constantly changing and so must your estate planning documents adjust to reflect those changes. Here are 8 reasons why it may be time to review and update your estate plans: You got married or divorced, had children or experienced a death your family You sold or acquired major estate items (houses, land, etc.) You or someone in your family is experiencing serious health issues Your personal or professional relationship with named fiduciaries (executors, power of attorney, etc.) has changed Your net worth exceeds the limit to be exempt from taxes You have moved to another state You inherit property, a business, etc. You retire All of these situations can affect how you outline your estate to be divided,

7 Tips for Filing Taxes After the Death of a Spouse

If you have recently lost your spouse, there are some things you should be aware of when filing your taxes. Believe it or not, the tax code can actually work in your favor and help you financially. Continue to file a joint return if your spouse died during the tax year and claim the full exemption amount. If you have a dependent child, you can file as a “qualifying widow” or “qualifying widower” for two years after your spouse’s death. Three years after your spouse’s death, if you still have a dependent child in your household, you can claim “head-of-household” to get better rates. If you are the designated beneficiary of your spouse’s IRA, you can claim roll it over into an IRA account in your name. Depending on the type of IRA (traditional, Roth or inherited) you may have to take minimum distribution amounts each year; you may also

Baby Boomers: Enjoy Life Responsibly

Colorado Baby Boomers are turning age 65 at one of the fastest rates in the United States. According to the state demography office, Colorado is expected to see a 125% increase in the 65+ population from 2010 to 2030. Studies are also showing that 60 is the new “middle age” – a time to embrace your age, your health and your happiness. If you are in the Baby Boomer generation, it is also important to be responsible about sharing your end-of-life wishes with your loved ones. Unfortunately, even the healthiest of people can become chronically ill or be faced with a life threatening situation. By creating advanced care planning documents, you can save your family from having to make tough decisions about your medical care if you become incapacitated. At The Brown Law Firm LLC, we can help you create a written Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney. Living

Official “Super Lawyer” at The Brown Law Firm LLC

The Brown Law Firm LLC is proud to announce that our probate litigation lawyer, Spencer J. Crona, has been named a “Super Lawyer” in Denver by Thomson Reuters. 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. Super Lawyers have displayed excellence in their field of expertise. This list is compiled into a Super Lawyer website that is free for the public to use. 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 3rd party feedback, from a managing partner survey or identified through the Super

Don’t Wait to Find Mr. (or Ms.) Right to Make a Will

Estate planning is often the last thing on the mind of an unmarried person without children. But estate planning is important for every adult, regardless of your life status. Some may argue that it’s even more important for single adults without children because it allows for your (often unknown) wishes to be carried out after your death. If you do not have a spouse or children, you need to decide how you want your assets divided after you die. Otherwise, according to Colorado law, your estate will need to be probated and the assets will ultimately be divided according to the Colorado intestacy laws.  If you are single, have no children, die without a will and have living parents, your estate will pass to your parent(s).  If both of your parents are deceased, your estate will pass to your siblings.  Our estate planning attorneys can further explain how the laws

To Cut the Financial Cord or Not: Should Parents Support Adult Children?

We’re tackling a sensitive subject in this week’s blog. The question is: Should parents of adult children provide ongoing financial support for their children’s day-to-day living expenses? This question is geared mostly toward parents of millennials (those born in the years 1980 to 2000). Our teetering economy, looming student loans, rising rental costs and poor choices can make living on their own seem impossible for young adults these days. When parents have the financial ability to provide support or “free” housing, it is not typically viewed negatively but rather embraced. Some parents are even pushing out their retirement ages in order to continue to provide financial support for their children for things like: Cell phones Utilities Health insurance Clothing Spending money Car expenses Rent Help Should be a Two-Way Street While this support can help get your children on their feet and ease them into full independence, it should only

Does Your Parents’ Debt Become Your Debt?

If your parents have made poor financial choices or have fallen on hard times, they may be accumulating debt without your knowledge. However, upon their death, you will quickly learn the full story of your parents’ finances – especially if creditors begin contacting you for payment. The fact is that any debt belonging to a deceased person belongs to their estate. So if you parents had debt, creditors can make claims against the estate for payment. In Colorado, creditors have one year from date of death or if a Notice to Creditors is published, 4 months from the date the Notice to Creditors was first published to make claims against an estate after a parent’s death. You may have to sell assets from the estate to pay for these debts; however, in most cases if there are not enough assets in the estate to completely cover the debt, creditors cannot come

Inheriting a Hoarder House: Treasure Trove or Terrifying Task?

It is hard for most people to understand how a person could live surrounded by piles of boxes, clothing, electronics, animals, furniture, trash and other debris with blocked access to bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchens. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) up to 5% of the world population displays clinical hoarding. In fact, there are an estimated 1.2 million people in the United States who suffer from compulsive hoarding. Sometimes the family members of hoarders are unaware of this behavior…until they inherit the hoarder’s house. Being presented with a house that is stuffed with items from floor to ceiling is a daunting task. And if you do not live near the house, the time and effort it will take to clean it yourself may simply be impossible. If you find yourself in this position, you do have options: Disclaim the inheritance. If there are no other inheritors who

Protect Your Legacy: Know Estate Tax Laws in Your State

Estate planning in Denver not only includes deciding how your estate will be distributed upon your death; it is also important to know how the estate and/or inheritance taxes will affect your loved ones. Just like there are both federal and state income taxes, there are also federal and state estate taxes. Federal Estate Tax Laws Unless you inherit a very large estate, federal estate taxes may not be an issue in 2016: The estate will be exempt from federal estate taxes if the estate is valued at: Under $5.45 million in assets (for a single person) Under $10.90 million in assets (for a married couple) State Estate Tax Laws State estate taxes are another story. There are still 16 states and the District of Columbia that have estate taxes that kick in for estates valued around $1 million or more. Hawaii and Delaware match the Federal exemption threshold at

Plan for the Future of Your Adult Child with Disabilities

If you are a parent of a disabled adult, you most likely excel at planning, scheduling and managing that person’s life (in addition to your own). The task of planning for your adult child’s future may seem like an insurmountable challenge. We realize it is very hard to think about planning for your adult child’s future after your death, but there are some steps you can take now that will put your mind at ease and help provide for their financial and emotional well-being. An estate planning lawyer like the ones at The Brown Law Firm can help review your current financial situation and plan for future needs for both you and your disabled adult child. We often recommend that parents: Purchase long-term care insurance for themselves in case of a medical emergency Set up a special needs trust in Denver to cover the costs of extra “quality of life”

How Does a Conservatorship Differ from a Guardianship?

Many people come to The Brown Law Firm, LLC, confused between adult conservatorships and guardianships. We’d like to help explain the difference: Guardianship: Individuals appointed to protect an incapacitated person’s (also referred to as a “ward”) well-being and personal care Conservatorship: Individuals appointed to protect an incapacitated person’s (also referred to as a “protected person”) financial affairs and estate Both of these classifications are court-appointed positions that are established if a person has not specified an agent under durable power of attorney to make medical, financial and personal decisions on his or her behalf in the event they become incapacitated. These roles may also be necessary if: There is conflict between individuals who have been named as decision-makers The person(s) making the decisions for the incapacitated person is not doing so in the person’s best interest No clear decisions can be made on behalf of the incapacitated person The need

Inexpensive Way to Protect the Future of Your Spouse, Children, Parents & In-Laws

No one likes to think about death. It is an uncomfortable subject that is easy to ignore…until you are forced to deal with it. Unfortunately, too many of us ignore the financial implications that death can have on a family – especially families with young children. The death of one or both parents of young children can place a sizeable financial burden on the surviving grandparents of those children. Grandparents, especially those in retirement who find themselves responsible for the ongoing financial support of their grandchildren, are often faced with expenses that they cannot afford. Even if one parent is still living, the financial stress of losing the double income may be too much to handle to afford the future needs of: General child upbringing Medical costs Educational expenses The best way to protect your surviving spouse, young children, parents and in-laws if you suffer an untimely death is by

Protecting the Elderly from Financial Abuse

According to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), “Financial exploitation occurs when a person misuses or takes the assets of a vulnerable adult for his/her own personal benefit. This frequently occurs without the explicit knowledge or consent of a senior or disabled adult, depriving him/her of vital financial resources for his/her personal needs.” Unfortunately, this type of elderly abuse often happens within families. A spouse, children, grandchildren, distant relatives or a caregiver can manipulate an elderly person into bankrolling their finances – even when excessive funds do not exist. To keep the family peace, the elderly person may keep the full extent of this abuse silent. In most cases, only one or two people are to blame for such upsetting acts and the rest of the family is left wondering how to remedy the situation. Durable Power of Attorney One way to protect the assets of an elderly family

Stepchildren and Estates

Divorce is never a good situation, but sometimes remarriage can also be riddled with sticky situations, especially when it comes to your estate and especially when children are involved. Often divorce decrees have life insurance stipulations for the minor children involved. For example, a parting couple might agree that the husband maintain a $200,000 life insurance policy naming the children as the beneficiaries. If the husband does not actually list his children as the beneficiaries, but instead lists his new wife as the beneficiary, the new wife may feel entitled to get this money upon her husband’s death, essentially leaving her stepchildren out of the picture. However, the truth is that life insurance is not considered part of your estate and the divorce decree would still stand. It would be the husband’s responsibility to maintain the proper life insurance policy; failure to do so might hold him in contempt of

7 Things to Avoid When Making a Will

Writing a will is an important and responsible action to take to protect your estate and care for your loved ones when you are gone. While it is not absolutely necessary to have a will drafted by a lawyer, hiring a professional can help you get it done right the first time – and with each revision – so it remains completely valid and lessens the potential for costly litigation upon your death. At The Brown Law Firm, LLC, we have identified 7 things to avoid when making a will: Hand-writing your will: It should be typed using a proper form and be signed by two witnesses. Avoiding revisions: A will should be a dynamic document that is continually updated as life circumstances change. Waiting until the “last minute:” None of us know what the future holds. If your plan is to wait until you’re older to draft a will,

Do All Wills Go Through Probate?

Even though it may seem like a bunch of “red tape,” some wills must go through probate in Colorado. Compared to other states, the probate/estate administration process in Colorado is a fairly economical and straightforward process.  A probate/estate administration attorney can help to ensure that your will is properly administered and that all of the assets mentioned in your will are properly distributed among your heirs or chosen beneficiaries. Colorado probate is a legal process that has different types. According to the Colorado Bar Association, there are three types of probates: Small estates (assets under $64,000 with no real property): no probate action may be necessary Uncontested estates: these matters typically can be handle by informal probate if there is a valid will and the heirs/beneficiaries are all in agreement Contested estates and invalid or questionable wills: these matters usually require an formal probate proceeding and often involve litigation to

One-Stop Shop for Your Estate Planning Documents

In one of our earlier blogs we recommended that everyone prepare 9 estate documents right now to protect their legacy, share their wishes and provide for their families. Once you have these documents prepared, you should give a few trusted individuals access to that information – all with just the click of a button. Rather than storing hard copies of the documents and other important information in a storage closet or safe deposit box (and hoping your family can find the information) you now have the ability to store information securely online. This way, in case of a tragedy, your family members or executor can have quick and easy access to your important estate planning documents. 3 Websites to Store Estate Planning Documents Below are 3 encrypted websites that are considered safe to store your information. You have the ability to share all or just portions of your documents with

The 9 Estate Planning Documents You Should Organize Now

Estate planning often becomes one of those “to do” items that gets pushed down the priority list. But when you work hard every day to create a lasting legacy for your family, you should be making sure that important estate planning documents are created and maintained so your legacy will get passed down as you see fit. Here are 9 estate planning documents you should organize right now: Will/trust: Simply stated, wills and trusts allow you to state how you want your property distributed upon your death. You can also name guardians for your children, provide for pets and name a trusted person (executor) to carry out the terms of your will or trust. Power of attorney: If you become incapacitated for any reason, your named power of attorney can make decisions on your behalf. This person will have the legal authority to handle financial, health care and guardian decisions

Why Women Need Estate Planning

Women typically have a longer life expectancy than men (on average six years longer). That’s one reason why it is so important that women have their own will, trust or other estate plan documents professionally drafted to ensure long-term financial security for themselves and their families. Women are powerful forces in the labor market today; women control more than half of the personal wealth in the United States and this number is expected to increase. Women are also the primary breadwinners in 40% of households in America. Estate planning is recommended for women so their assets and loved ones are protected. Married Women and Estate Planning Even if you are a married woman who owns everything jointly with your spouse, having separate – but complete – estate plans can help you to avoid unnecessary tax liability. Both spouses should have plans that complement, not conflict, with each other. Unmarried Women