In the world of Colorado estate planning, good intentions carry no weight. In order to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, you need to have a specific plan in place. More importantly, you also need the proper written documentation to support your plan. Without this essential paperwork, there is a good chance that your property and financial assets will not be handled exactly as you intended. Below are nine Colorado estate planning documents you MUST HAVE in your plan.
1) A Last Will and Testament
Commonly known as a “Will,” this document enables you to list the names of your loved ones, charities, and any other beneficiaries who want to inherit your assets. There are special signing requirements associated with wills, as they are typically assessed in probate court to verify their validity before property can be transferred to beneficiaries.
2) A Durable Power of Attorney
“If you become incapacitated because of an accident or illness, your agent can immediately step in and make decisions for you without going to court to obtain a guardianship and/or conservatorship.” – United States Air Force Academy Legal Office
A power of attorney enables a person of your choosing to act on your behalf without having to seek the approval of the court. This individual can do things like withdraw money from a bank and make tax-related decisions on your behalf.
3) A Living Trust
Also called a revocable living trust or inter vivos trust, a living trust permits the transfer of your assets into a trust for your benefit for the duration of your life. When you pass away, your assets are transferred to your chosen beneficiaries. The key advantage of a living trust is the ability to avoid probate court proceedings, enabling your assets to be distributed faster and more efficiently.
4) A Pet Trust
If your household is among the 68 percent of households that own a pet, you may wish to prepare a pet trust. This document will enable you to outline how you would like your pet cared for if you die or are incapacitated. Pet trusts can be enforced in a court of law and can help ensure that your pet continues to receive loving care after you are gone.
5) A Property Inventory
If you own multiple properties, or if you are among the growing number of Colorado residents who own property in another country, it is helpful to have a comprehensive list of all of your properties in a central location. This detailed list will be especially useful to the people you designate as beneficiaries for your overseas assets.
6) A DNR Order
A DNR Order is short for a “Do Not Resuscitate Order.” It outlines your wishes not to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if you suffer a medical emergency. It is typically requested by people who are terminally ill or those who simply do not want to receive life-prolonging treatment if they are near death.
7) Provision for Your Digital Assets
If you are like most Colorado residents, you have at least one hard drive and a growing collection of online photos and documents. Many of these items may be stored in the cloud or on a social media account. While you can reference your digital assets in your will, many people prefer to prepare a separate document listing their digital assets. Remember to include your passwords so the beneficiaries you specify can access your online accounts.
8) Tax Returns for the Past 3 Years
A tax return alone is not necessarily categorized as an estate-planning document. But keeping copies of your most recent personal and business tax returns in a secure location can prove to be helpful if tax-related questions ever arise while you are incapacitated or after you pass away.
9) A Summary or Guide for All Your Estate Planning Documents
This final document is much like a table of contents for your collection of estate planning documents. It should be stored in a secure location that is only accessible to you and your attorney. You may wish to share the location with a trusted family member or the person you designate in your power of attorney form.
What is the key to ensuring your estate planning documents are complete?
By gathering and storing the estate planning documents above, you can experience peace of mind knowing that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. The best way to ensure that you prepare these documents properly is to seek the expertise of a skilled estate planning lawyer. With an attorney guiding you through the estate planning process, you can be certain that you do not omit any critical parts of your estate.
We encourage you to contact our team of estate planning lawyers to begin your estate planning process today. We will walk you through the process to ensure that your plan reflects your final wishes and make sure that your documents are comprehensive and properly prepared. We look forward to helping you prepare a flawless estate plan.