Important considerations for estate planning needs of Colorado residents

With the holiday season nearly here, many people are planning parties to celebrate with family. Thanksgiving feasts usually include children, siblings, in-laws and other members of extended families. Typically, it is not too difficult to determine who your family is for Christmas and other religious holiday get-togethers. However, determining one's family members for purposes of estate planning is not often so straightforward.

While most individuals realize their siblings, children and grandchildren will be the heirs of their estates, they are at a quandary when it comes to deciding how to treat a widowed sister-in-law, a stepbrother, an adopted or long-time foster grandchild, an estranged spouse or a favorite aunt who is not actually related by blood or marriage.

Estate plans can be tailored to fit the needs of your family members and loved ones, as well as your desires. When establishing your estate plan, it is important to consider the following points:

  • Decide whom you count as family. When you sit down with your lawyer to address your estate planning needs, have a clear idea - or be ready to talk about - who you consider to be your heirs and loved ones who you wish to inherit from your estate upon your death.
  • Be intentional. Family wealth can easily dissipate over time. If your true intention is to provide for your grandchildren, do not give everything to your children with the expectation that they will be willing and able to provide for their own children as you hoped.
  • Consider other options. If you have already provided for certain family members during your lifetime, you may chose to omit them from your estate plan. However, in Colorado, you cannot disinherit a spouse. If you do not believe a particular family member is fiscally responsible, you can set up a trust that will disburse funds over a set period of time. You may also decide you wish to donate your hard-earned assets to a favorite charity.
  • Manage expectations. Although it is often difficult to have frank conversations about money and inheritances, talk with your family members and loved ones about your estate planning wishes so there are no surprises. Unrealized expectations can lead to will contests and bitter disputes among family members.

Consult an attorney

Colorado residents of all ages and levels of wealth can benefit from estate planning. If you have not recently reviewed your existing estate plan or do not currently have one in place, consult an experienced estate planning lawyer. An attorney experienced with issues of probate, wills and trusts, elder law and estate administration can help you establish a plan that insures your wishes will be carried out after your death.