For couples in Colorado who own their own homes, that asset can often be the single largest shared asset in a couple's life. Many couples own their home with joint tenancy with a right of survivorship, which means that either person will become the sole owner of the home in the case that the other party dies. This form of property ownership allows this significant asset to transfer without probate or including the home in the estate, protecting both parties into the future.
However, this can also lead some couples to leave the home out of the estate plan. While there's no need to plan for the transfer of property upon the simple death of one spouse, there can be some more difficult situations that mean thinking more about the house is important. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with the property after the death of the surviving spouse or in the case that the surviving spouse is incapacitated or incompetent to deal with the property.
If the surviving spouse is legally incompetent, they may need a guardian to deal with passing the property on to future heirs. Even when the surviving spouse is well, it can be important to update an estate plan after widowhood. If there are no provisions for the property upon the death of the surviving spouse, state law will determine where it will go. It can be willed via an updated will and subject to probate, or the surviving spouse can create mechanisms for non-probate transfer, such as a transfer upon death deed, or handle the home through the creation of a trust.
Estate planning is a lifelong process that requires updates to ensure that a current estate plan reflects the will and intent of the property owners. An estate planning lawyer may be able to help people thinking about the future to develop wills, execute trusts and put in place a comprehensive plan to handle their estates after death.