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Golden Estate Planning Blog

Including pets in an estate plan

Many people in Colorado consider their pets a part of their family. When it comes to estate planning, pets should not be forgotten. There are several ways pet owners can draft their estate planning documents to ensure that their pet is cared for after they are gone.

Legally speaking, pets are considered personal property. Including provisions about who will take care of the pet in a will or other document is important. It is a good idea to discuss this responsibility with the potential caretaker before putting it in writing. If there is no one suitable available, there are charitable organizations that can help after an owner passes away.

Making a valid will in Colorado

Colorado residents who sit down to make a will may devote considerable thought to coming up with provisions that make sense and reflect their wishes. However, all that effort can end up for nothing if the will fails due to noncompliance with legal requirements.

Although the technicalities of making a will are generally straightforward, specific situations can introduce added complexities. Discussing your concerns with an experienced professional can help you ensure your will remains effective.

Why a will is important for business owners

Business owners in Colorado may be particularly concerned about their futures. Nevertheless, like many other Americans, entrepreneurs frequently do not have wills. When business owners pass away without wills, the results often mean that the companies do not survive. A business may not find a new, eager owner, and it may be more likely to be sold in order to satisfy an equal distribution of the estate among multiple heirs. When people pass away without having made out wills, state intestacy laws determine who will inherit their businesses.

In general, this means that all of a person's assets, including a business, will be distributed among a surviving spouse, children or parents. There can be some complexities in individual cases, from family estrangements to long-postponed divorces, that make this particularly difficult. However, business owners with great relationships with all of their family members still have significant reasons to be concerned about dying without a will. In fact, it could lead to disputes among surviving family members about whether to keep or sell the business and who will receive a decision-making role. Making a plan can help resolve family members' complex relationships with the business.

Many pastors have no estate plan in place

Despite the importance of wills and other estate planning documents, a lot of people in Colorado do not have these important papers in hand. This can be especially true for pastors. According to one study, half of all Southern Baptist ministers do not have key estate documents, including wills, trusts, living wills, legacy stories or durable powers of attorney. While pastors, in general, may be more concerned with the spiritual aspects of the transition to death, making these plans can be very important for their families' well-being after they have passed on.

While many pastors do not have wills themselves, they often recognize the importance of these documents and counsel their congregations to plan their estates. Indeed, 74 percent of respondents said that estate planning is a part of financial stewardship for the future. By making a plan, people can help prevent future family conflict or distrust. They can also work to minimize taxes, fees and delays for their loved ones. There is a number of good reasons why people may avoid making a will, but they could find greater peace of mind by completing their planning.

Estate planning also important for young people

When young people in Colorado think about wills and trusts, they may consider estate planning a subject that's largely of interest to older people, wealthy individuals or parents. According to one survey, 78 percent of millennials don't have a will or other estate planning documents. Many young people simply don't see the importance of these kinds of documents. However, if the unexpected occurs, having a will and other documents in place can ease the process greatly for loved ones.

It's important to note that a will isn't the only important document involved in an estate plan. Everyone should have proper powers of attorney in place. A durable power of attorney allows someone else to manage a person's financial matters in case he or she is somehow incapacitated. This can be critical in the case of a severe accident. In addition, many people have strong feelings about what kind of medical interventions they want to receive in case of incapacity or ongoing life support. An advance health care directive provides people with the opportunity to make their end-of-life wishes clear and name a person to make medical decisions in case of incapacity.

How business owners benefit from estate plans

According to a Caring.com survey conducted in 2017, 58 percent of adults in Colorado and throughout the country don't have a will. This can be problematic for a number of reasons. First, an individual no longer has control over what happens to his or her assets or who cares for any minor children left behind. Next, the lack of a will could lead to a greater risk of family infighting over how the estate should be divided.

Finally, businesses that deceased owners spent years building could no longer be viable, which may mean that the family loses a key source of income. This is because family infighting could cause a leadership vacuum to form. It is also possible that key documents or other tools needed to run the company won't be accessible to heirs or key business partners.

The necessity of updating an estate plan after divorce

Divorce is a tumultuous time. After all that paperwork becomes final, you then need to look at another set of documents. There are various points in your life where you need to update your estate plan, and following a divorce is one of those times. 

Many people develop their wills, trusts and other estate planning documents after marriage because it is such a significant life event. People want to make sure their spouses will receive all essential benefits. However, divorcing changes those plans, and you may have a different plan in mind now for your assets. Here are the steps to take if you ever need to update an estate plan shortly after divorcing.

Avoiding mistakes made by Prince and Aretha Franklin

Colorado residents and other music fans likely still enjoy the music of Prince and Aretha Franklin even after their deaths. However, they could learn a lesson in estate planning based on the mistakes that the pair made. Neither had a will when they died, and the lack of a will or trust can lead to family disputes or being unable to provide for a child with special needs.

According to a study by Caring.com, only 40 percent of adults in the United States have a will. The most common reason cited was simply not having found the time to do so. It is important to note that a will or other estate plan documents can be useful even for those who aren't millionaires. For instance, putting assets in a trust may help to avoid probate and avoid making the details of an estate plan public knowledge.

Don't forget digital assets in an estate plan

Investors in Colorado and throughout the country may need to create specific provisions in their estate plan to account for digital assets. For instance, individuals who own digital coins should keep a list of each coin that they have and how much they have. This list should be updated on a regular basis depending on how often they trade. In addition to keeping good records related to digital holdings, they will need to tell others how to access those assets.

For instance, if an account is protected by a password, it will need to be written down somewhere an executor can access it. If an account can only be opened with a signature, an executor or other authorized person would need to know that as well. Anyone with digital currency holdings or other digital accounts should be sure that someone has the legal authority to access them after they pass.

Keeping the children in mind during estate planning

A typical feature of an estate plan for the parent of minor children in Colorado is a document about guardianship. This statement tells the court who the deceased or incapacitated parents designated as the legal guardian of their minor children. However, such a plan too often overlooks the immediate aftermath of a tragedy when young children receive the news of the loss of their parents. Their legal guardian might not be immediately available, and a court still has to review the estate plan and make the custody of the children official. Additional documentation from the parents could resolve this situation.

This supplemental document states who should care for children as soon as authorities announce the loss of parents. The intermediary caregivers could be neighbors, friends or relatives. They should be known to the children and hopefully nearby and able to take immediate custody. The legal notice should be in the home, and babysitters should know about it so that they can call the appropriate person in the event of a tragedy or emergency.

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