The Final Touches to Your Colorado Will

Filed Under (Wills and Estates) on 05-11-2014

You did it! You wrote your will. Now you just need to make sure you have a clean final copy. It’s important that your will has no errors or spelling mistakes because any corrections written on the will you sign could invalidate it completely, or require an expensive court hearing for a judge to determine your intent. Here is a list of important things to remember when finishing your will.

1.    No cross-outs or corrections written on the will. If it’s necessary, you will need to re-type or re-write a corrected version. If you cross something out it could invalidate it completely.

2.    You must print a hard copy. A will that is stored in a computer has no legal significance. If you do not print a hard copy of your will to sign and date, it will not be valid.

3.    When you have a clean copy of your final will, you need to sign it to make it legal. This is called executing your will. You should date and sign your will in ink. Continue reading “The Final Touches to Your Colorado Will” »

Evaluating Your Estate

Filed Under (Wills and Estates) on 05-02-2014

If you’re in the process of evaluating your estate it is important to know the ways you can own property. When you are creating your asset list, it will be very helpful to your family to state how the property is owned and save them the leg work.

There are two types of property: real property and personal property. Real property is the term used to describe real estate—land and the buildings on it. Personal property is anything that is not real property. Personal property includes everything from your bank accounts to the diamond necklace you got on your 16th birthday.

Real Property can be owned a few different ways. Depending on the type of ownership, you may be able to leave the property to someone in your will.

•    Sole owner. This is the most basic type of ownership. You are the only owner and do not have any co-owners. Anything you are sole owner of, you can also give away. Therefore, if you are the sole owner, you can list the property in your will. Continue reading “Evaluating Your Estate” »

Bradford Publishing Launches Colorado-Only Attorney Directory

Filed Under (Bradford Publishing News & Updates, Business, Child Support, Custody and Visitation, Colorado Deeds, Divorce and Legal Separation, Domestic Partnership, Employment Law, Eviction, Leases and Landlord Tenant, Mechanics Liens, Medical Marijuana, Probate, Real Estate, Wills and Estates) on 08-11-2013

We’re excited to announce our new Colorado Attorney Directory! On November 1st we launched an online directory to link Colorado consumers with Colorado attorneys. Bradford has offered information, products and services for Colorado attorneys, businesses and consumers for more than 100 years.  With changing technology, most of our products and services have moved online to our website.  Now, more than 12,000 people visit our website each month in search of legal resources.

Bradford provides lots of self-help solutions for you to complete a legal procedure on your own, but sometimes it’s not enough and contacting a legal expert is necessary. Now we can connect you to attorneys practicing in your local Colorado community. Deciding whether to hire an attorney is a big decision.  The bottom line is knowing if you’re capable and willing to take on a particular legal task yourself. Sometimes you don’t realize immediately that the task is beyond your capabilities.

The new Colorado-only Attorney Directory can help you find the right attorney. Laws vary by state so it’s important to follow Colorado law. We make sure the attorneys listed are lawyers in good standing with the Colorado Supreme Court. They also have completed profiles on the site, so their expertise and experience is clear and allows you to know as much as possible about the lawyer’s practice before picking up the phone. Our goal is to provide easy access to Colorado attorneys who can help you find legal solutions.

Check out our new Colorado Attorney Directory and let us know what you think!

Should I Hire an Attorney for My Legal Issue?

Filed Under (Business, Colorado Deeds, Divorce and Legal Separation, Eviction, Leases and Landlord Tenant, Mechanics Liens, Power of Attorney, Probate, Real Estate, Small Claims, Starting a Business, Wills and Estates) on 23-05-2013

The decision to hire an attorney depends upon assessing the situation — and then being honest with yourself about your ability to handle the matter on your own.

First, always consult an attorney for:

•    Criminal charges
•    If you are sued
•    Bankruptcy
•    Employment issues (whether you are a business or an employee)
•    Personal injuries
•    Entering a franchise agreement
•    Selling a business, or bringing new owners into a business.

Individuals may effectively handle family law matters, business transactions, estate planning, and tax issues. However, one has to consider the costs of time and expertise when deciding to act without an attorney.

Advantages of handling a legal issue yourself:
•    There are Court-approved forms and books to help you.
•    You can move quickly, not waiting for an attorney to get to your matter.
•    You save money by not hiring an attorney.

Disadvantages of handling a legal issue yourself: Continue reading “Should I Hire an Attorney for My Legal Issue?” »

Avoid Common Mistakes When Writing Your Colorado Will

Filed Under (Wills and Estates) on 25-04-2013

There are a few things that comprehensive wills have in common. A thorough will should:

•    State the name of the person writing the will.

•    Be dated.

•    Revoke all previous wills and codicils.

•    Contain at least one major provision—such as appointing someone to care for your minor children, choosing a personal representative, or making a gift.

•    Have the signature of the person whose will it is.

•    Have the signatures of at least two witnesses.

•    Be notarized.

Beyond these provisions, what your will contains is up to you according to your personal situation. But watch out for common pitfalls when filling in the details of your will. Your will does not have to contain lofty legal language and complex sentences. Writing in plain English is all it takes to write a will in Colorado. Use simple, declarative sentences.

There are a few common mistakes found in wills written without the help of a lawyer. Some suggestions to avoid these mistakes are:

•    Always use the words “give” or “leave” when making gifts. Using “wish” may be misinterpreted. You wished it, but did you really want it?

•    Always be specific when a gift should be divided among more than one beneficiary. It is confusing if the will reads “I give $10,000 to my sons Benjamin Sanker and Isaiah Sanker.” $10,000 each? Or $10,000 together? Instead try “I give $10,000 to each of my sons Benjamin Sanker and Isaiah Sanker” or I give $10,000 to my sons Benjamin Sanker and Isaiah Sanker, in equal shares.”

•    Consider also what you want should the recipient of a gift die before you: Do you want the gift to go to nobody, to the recipient’s children or to someone else? Say so.

•    Always use the full name of the beneficiaries in your will. Leaving your car to “John” is not helpful if you have a cousin John, a son John, and a best friend John.

For more information about writing your will, get “Planning a Will in Colorado”, Bradford Publishing’s Legal Series.

One Big Decision: Choosing a Personal Representative in your Colorado Will

Filed Under (Wills and Estates) on 21-03-2013

One of the major decisions you will make when writing your will is to choose a personal representative. Colorado law uses “personal representative” rather than “executor” as the term to describe the person who will be responsible for your estate after your death. The personal representative pays your debts and taxes, files all the appropriate papers, collects probate assets, locates your beneficiaries, takes your estate through the probate process, and settles spats between your relatives. The personal representative you choose will have to be approved by the probate court.

Can a beneficiary be a personal representative?

Yes. It is common for one of your beneficiaries to be nominated to serve as a personal representative. This person already has a personal stake in your will, so he or she ought to do a good job.

Can my spouse be my personal representative?

Yes, but it’s not necessary. Many people choose their spouse to be their personal representative. Although, if your spouse does not have the business or mediation skills, you can add someone else who does to be a co-personal representative.

What if I don’t know anyone I want to be my personal representative?

Many banks or trust companies can serve in this position for a fee. While they will already be familiar with all the forms and procedures necessary, they may not be able to represent your wishes as well as someone who actually knew you.

On the other hand, for someone with a difficult family, an impartial third-party who will not be pushed around is about the best choice to administer their estate, despite the extra cost.

For more information about writing your will, get “Planning a Will in Colorado”, Bradford Publishing’s Legal Series.

It’s Already the Last Day of the First Month of the New Year. Have You Reviewed Your Estate Planning Documents Yet?

Filed Under (Wills and Estates) on 31-01-2013

So, you have all of your estate planning documents completed and in a safe place and you have peace of mind. Good for you!  How long has it been since you reviewed them?  While it’s true that these documents don’t have an expiration date, a lot of things can happen that may affect the validity of your important estate planning documents. Here is a list of possible life changes that might require you to update such documents as a Will, Power of Attorney, Living Will, or a Designated Beneficiary Agreement.

1.    Marriage.

2.    Divorce.

3.    Death of a spouse.

4.    Birth, adoption or death of children.

5.    Significant increase or decrease in your net worth.

6.    Serious illness or upcoming surgery.

7.    Change in Federal or state estate or inheritance tax laws.

8.    Change in state laws governing health care proxies and other health care documents (living wills).

9.    Move to a different state.

10.    Change in citizenship status.

11.    Having a will or trust which contains a marital deduction estate tax formula governed by the federal tax credit (which has significantly changed in the past few years).

12.    Your health care documents were created before 2004 when HIPAA (the Federal health privacy act) became effective.

13.    You have a durable general power of attorney that, in the subjective view of your financial institution, is “too old.”

Everyone’s situation is personal to them.  The federal estate and gift tax law changes over the past few years have been significant and can result in distributions of an estate which are quite different than your intent might have been.  It would be prudent to have any will or trust created before 2011 at least briefly reviewed so you understand the effect of the tax clauses.

The other frequent problem families encounter is either not having a current durable medical power of attorney at all or having one that was prepared prior to 2004 and does not give permission to medical personnel to share medical information with your designated agent or family members.


Who Gets the Diamond Ring?

Filed Under (Wills and Estates) on 26-07-2012

When a loved one dies, family members can find themselves clutching at furniture, jewelry, silver and artwork. Death heightens emotions, and sometimes relatives descend upon a home and help themselves to personal possessions without permission.  Other times, relatives say something was “promised” to them, even if there’s no evidence to support it.

To avoid this, Colorado law recognizes an easy-to-use tool for parceling out “tangible personal property:” a Memorandum of Disposition.

This Memorandum is not a complex legal form; it is simply a handwritten or typewritten list that describes items and states who is to receive them upon your death.  It must be signed and dated, and it should be kept with your will. The memorandum can cover items such as vehicles, jewelry and furniture.

Although we strongly suggest you write a will, even if you don’t, you can still create this list. Make sure you store it someplace prominent and sign it. And remember, a memorandum cannot be used to dispose of real estate, securities, insurance and many other assets. 

For more information about the practical and emotional issues related to handing a spouse’s affairs, see Life After Death – A Legal and Practical Guide for Surviving Spouses by Marilyn W. McWilliams, J.D.

Who Will Take Care of the Kids? (Part II)

Filed Under (Wills and Estates) on 19-06-2012

For many people, the main reason for writing a will is to be sure that their underage children will be provided for. A will can be used to do two major things: choose someone to care or your child, and make sure that the child’s inheritance is used in the way most beneficial to your child.

First, you need to choose a guardian to care for your children if anything happens to you. Second, you will need to choose a conservator for your child.

What is the difference between a guardian and conservator?

A conservator is different from a guardian because the guardian is responsible for the minor’s care, and the conservator is responsible for the minor’s money. Until the child turns 21, the conservator will manage the child’s property, money, and gifts, and use them in the child’s best interest. If you leave gifts directly to your child and do not choose a conservator, the courts will choose a conservator. Since this person could have a lot of influence over your child’s life, it is a good idea to choose a conservator yourself. Be sure to ask your choice if he or she is willing to be a conservator for your child, and do not forget to select alternate conservators.

Can the guardian and the conservator be the same person? Continue reading “Who Will Take Care of the Kids? (Part II)” »

Who Will Take Care of the Kids? (Part I)

Filed Under (Wills and Estates) on 14-06-2012

One of the main reasons for writing a will is to be sure that your underage children are provided for. A will can be used to do two major things: choose someone to care for your children and to make sure that your children’s inheritance is used to benefit them.

First, you need to choose a guardian to care for your children if anything should happen to you. Keep in mind the following when deciding who to pick.

1.    Is the person you’re thinking of selecting willing to the job? It is important to ask if he or she is up for the task should something happen to you.

2.    You want your kids in capable hands and to be wanted, so be sure the person you choose is enthusiastic and both physically and financially able to raise your child.

3.    Be sure to select one or more alternate guardians in case your first choice cannot or does not want the job if the time comes. Continue reading “Who Will Take Care of the Kids? (Part I)” »