Do I need a living trust?
A trust can be a useful tool in an estate plan for certain purposes, but generally, people in Colorado do not need a living trust to avoid probate. The probate process in Colorado is fairly simple and inexpensive.
If I have a will, will my estate have to go through probate?
Probate is the process of enforcing your will, for the purpose of transferring any property you own at death in your own name.
If my estate goes through probate, will my heirs have to pay estate taxes? The estate tax is not related to the probate process. The tax is applied if the total of everything you own, regardless of how it is transferred at your death, exceeds $675,000 in 2001, $1 million in 2002. If your total estate is less than those amounts, no estate tax return will have to be filed nor any taxes owed to the federal or state governments.
Should I put my son's/daughter's name on my deed to avoid taxes or probate at my death?
Rather than saving taxes, often this will result in gift tax complications for the parent and capital gains tax complications for the son or daughter. Be sure to get legal advice about all the implications of such a transfer.
How can I protect myself and my business affairs if I should become incapacitated before my death?
A general power of attorney will enable another person to conduct your business affairs for you.
It must be executed before you become incapacitated. If a person becomes incapacitated without a power of attorney, a court will appoint a conservator to conduct your business affairs.
Do I need a living will if I have a medical power of attorney, and are living wills any good anyway?
A "living will" is a statement to your doctor that if you develop a terminal illness or condition, you do not want to be kept alive through the use of extraordinary medical measures (often called life-support systems). Colorado law requires that doctors and hospitals abide by your wishes expressed in a living will. A living will sets forth what your wishes are, which provides a guideline for your medical attorney-in-fact to follow.
Can't I just buy a form or computer program and write my own will and save the expense of a lawyer?
Forms are written in a very generalized way and may not cover your circumstances. Everyone's situation is unique and a will should be customized to that situation. Doing your own legal work is similar to doing your own surgery or medical treatment. The dollars you save initially can be greatly multiplied in resolving the problems which may be created. And sometimes the consequences are not what you tried to accomplish and cannot be changed.
Martha J. Karnopp
Attorney at Law
4055 S. Yampa St.
Aurora, CO 80013