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Colorado Estate Planning And Estate Settlement Legal Blog

Money and trusts: How much do you really need?

When you think about a trust, you probably think about million dollar accounts for wealthy individuals. The reality is that most trusts aren't for the rich and famous but rather for people of lower incomes. Trusts can be beneficial for people of all backgrounds, even if they only have a few thousand dollars.

One thing you may not have known is that you can open a trust with little to no assets. Normally, you wouldn't do this unless you have a valid reason to do so, because it would be costly to maintain the small number of assets. Here's a little bit more about how much money you really need to open a trust fund.

4 times you should update your will

If you have already written a will, you might think that you have done all the estate planning you need to do. However, creating an estate plan and letting it gather dust for 10, 20 or 30 years is one of the biggest mistakes people make with their end-of-life decisions. Whether you have a will, living trust or a health care directive, you need to periodically review these documents to make sure they still reflect your wishes.

Most estate planners recommend that people review and update their documents every five years. In addition, there are some life events that should trigger you to take action and make any necessary changes to your estate plan.

Medicaid crisis plans: When are they needed most?

In the best of circumstances, Colorado residents will have set up a financial plan that protects their assets if it becomes necessary for them to enter into a long-term care facility. When a viable financial strategy is in place, well in advance of the need, individuals can pay for their long-term care with Medicaid benefits rather than depleting their personal assets.

Such a long-term care strategy must be in place at least five years before the long-term care expenses begin to accrue -- otherwise the Medicaid five-year look-back period will prevent them from qualifying for Medicaid. In these circumstances, it's necessary to create what's called a "Medicaid crisis plan."

What can you do to avoid inheritance disputes?

Your parents got into an inheritance dispute years ago. You watched as siblings argued with one another and said things they could never take back. You watched the whole process drag out in court. You watched as family members stopped talking to one another, even for years after the legal battle had ended.

In setting up your own estate plan, you have one goal: no disputes. It is not that nothing else matters, but that goal is more important than anything else. You do not want to see the estate push your own children apart the way it did to your parents. You have always valued your close-knit family and you want to preserve it in every way that you can.

Protect yourself as executor when facing estate litigation

There's a lot of work involved with handling an estate, and it becomes even more complex when a family member or heir decides to bring a lawsuit against you. You may feel tempted to simply hand over authority for the estate, but don't be hasty. After all, the deceased estate owner clearly trusted you to do your best to protect his or her legacy. Choosing you was likely the result of both trust and respect for your capabilities.

You may need to take special steps to protect your role as executor of an estate or trustee if there is a challenge in court. However, with careful planning and focus on the details, you can successfully push back against an unnecessary challenge to your role or how you've handled the estate.

4 strategies to help your estate avoid probate

In general, the probate process can end up being very long and complicated. In some cases, probate can last for years and be costly for the estate. For example, if you live in Denver and pass away without a solid estate plan, your property could end up in probate. The longer it spends in probate, the less there will be to pass on to your heirs and beneficiaries. This is why it is important to take steps to avoid probate or at least drastically limit the time your estate spends in the process.

Fortunately, there are several options available to keep your property far away from the probate process. For instance, you can transfer your property into a revocable living trust or even make a gift of it prior to your death. You can also transfer your property through joint ownership or by naming death beneficiaries.

Tips for hiring an estate planning attorney for your family

Estate planning is a very personal matter. Talking about your assets, hopes for the future, death and your desires for your children and grandchildren is often not easy, particularly with someone you do not know well. However, you will need to discuss these matters when establishing or modifying your estate plan.

Choosing the right legal professional to help you with this endeavor can be difficult. Here are some traits you should look for when making your choice:

Will your heirs and appointees do what you want them to do?

If you have a comprehensive estate plan, you will have powers of attorney in place in the event you can no longer make decisions for yourself. However, just because there is a plan in place, it doesn't mean everything will go smoothly.

When your wishes collide with the feelings of family members and healthcare professionals, even the best-laid plans can go awry. It's possible that your family will ignore your choices, which can lead to courtroom disputes that you will have no power to stop.

Superhero efforts may be needed to avert family tragedies

In a large estate, with few inheritors, what happens when there are serious allegations about elder abuse levied at the beneficiary? This exact situation is playing out, in the recently revealed details of a pop culture legend's dealings with his only daughter.

The sad case of comic book icon Stan Lee has a great many intersections with what can be the hardest situations to face when planning your estate. There is a dispute with his caregivers. There is some evidence of unscrupulous influencers manipulating his daughter. There are allegations of elder abuse. At stake, aside from his $50 million estate, is the remaining healthy years of a man with few living relatives.

Stay out of court by choosing the right executor

There has never been a plan that has perfectly withstood the act of implementation. That includes estate plans. Because of that simple fact, it is vital that you select an executor who will minimize the possibility of a lawsuit.

The basic duties of the executor are straightforward.  However, problems can arise if the executor acts negligently and ignores the written acts of the will or makes mistakes in carrying it out. These possibilities can leave the estate or the executor open to legal action. For that reason, you must choose the right person for the job. But who is that?

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