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Clearing up some estate planning misconceptions

Estate planning attorneys in Colorado often find that prospective clients have misconceptions about what an estate plan is or what it entails. Often, the confusion comes from either over-thinking the estate plan or under-thinking it.

In the under-thinking category, many people believe all that is needed is a will for planning. Although a will helps to transfer some assets after death, other documents should be included. For example, powers of attorney are available to provide another authority to act on a person's behalf in the event of disability.

The types normally included in an estate plan are powers of attorney for healthcare decisions and a traditional power of attorney for financial decisions. When executed properly, both documents can avoid a costly guardianship and conservatorship. A living will can also prevent being kept alive by artificial means if that is the client's desire.

The will itself does not cover all assets of the client. Items such as life insurance and retirement benefits normally have a specific beneficiary assigned for death benefits. The will has no effect on these accounts. Likewise, real estate and other property jointly owned with another will go to the surviving joint tenant despite what the will directions are.

Contrary to the belief of some, the will and other documents can be revised in later years as life changes occur. In many cases, a living trust can dispense with the need for a will and the need for probate.

Those who over-think an estate plan usually do so because they are confused. It can be an intimidating subject initially, but this is where a qualified estate planning attorney may be helpful. The attorney might break each facet of an estate plan down to separate components, discuss the merits and drawbacks of each and explain if it is necessary. The attorney may then draw up the proposed plan based on the desires of the client.

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