Our Denver Estate Planning Practice Areas


Estate Planning

Although it often seems difficult, estate planning is one of the most important steps anyone can take to be assured that their final wishes are fulfilled and their family provided for. A complete estate plan can assist in clearing up the uncertainty that arises whenever someone dies. Meeting with an experienced and proficient attorney to discuss your estate plan helps to provide your total assurance that your family and loved ones will be protected.

There are many questions and concerns that must be addressed after death. For instance, how should the funeral arrangements be handled? What kind of personal property or real estate did they own? How are these possessions dispersed? What kind of taxes will be applied for property transfer? The process of planning your estate with an experienced attorney will clarify these questions and so many others. An appropriately organized estate plan can also save a lot of time and money for your family with minimal commotion.

If you do not make a will before your death, the state may decide how to disburse your estate and to whom. Your entire estate may include any property owned at death, including bank accounts, real estate, stocks, securities, life insurance or other personal property. By planning out your estate you are provided certainty that your wishes are followed through and your family protected. Yet, there is so much more that the properly arranged estate plan includes.

You may also manage many healthcare directives should the time ever arise. Certain situations require decisions for life-prolonging medical assistance that you may not be able to answer had you not developed a plan. These difficult and complex questions can then be easily resolved without family upheaval. Final funeral arrangements may be set in place and expenses covered. While often difficult to comprehend, preparing for death with a properly devised estate plan may be one of the most important decisions in a lifetime.

Wills

Wills are the most common way for people to define the manner in which their estate will be distributed upon death. Also called last will and testament, a will is a very important document that helps to protect your family and your estate. A will may be used to distribute your estate to people or organizations (such as nonprofit or charitable donations), define a personal guardian for any minor children you may have while also describing in detail how and when to distribute estate to minor children.

An attorney or someone else in trust may be named to ensure the terms of the will are accomplished. A properly developed will helps to ease the transition for the family members by rapidly allocating the estate while also helping to steer clear of many tax issues.

Wills vary in length and complexity depending on many factors, such as estate volume. The more property one owns the more complex the will. Personal preferences regarding final decisions are also a large factor for determining how long or complex your will may be.

Each state has unique laws and differing rules regarding wills, and Colorado is no exception. If someone dies without a will in Colorado, the estate may be distributed by the state under intestacy laws. These laws create a sort of ordered hierarchy of relatives that will receive parts or a whole of the estate. If someone dies without a will and no distant relatives may be found the estate may even be absorbed by the State of Colorado.

An experienced estate planning attorney knows all of the details of these inconsistent laws and will be best suited for helping protect your family and possessions through a well devised will.

Estate, Gift and Generation-Skipping Taxes

Transferring property from one person to another is not free. The federal government issues a tax on possessions transferred after death, an estate tax, or during life, a gift tax. Federal laws are sometimes changing the details of whom and what is taxed, so meeting with an experienced attorney will ensure no mistakes will be made.

The estate taxes are quite substantial; the current rate is forty-five percent. Certain deductions and exemptions are not taxed, including marital deductions and other personal exemptions. Parts of the estate left to nonprofit organizations or charities are also tax exempt.

Certain states may also impose estate taxes. Even property not taxable by federal tax procedures may be taxed by states. In order to minimize taxes, it is important to know the details of your states tax laws and know the different exemptions the state may also recognize. Some states also impose an inheritance tax, but Colorado is not one of them.

Gift taxes are applicable transfers of money or property that are taxed by the federal government. To apply as a gift, property must be transferred from one individual to another while receiving nothing, or less than fair market value of the property in return. Usually the person giving the property pays the tax.

As with the estate tax, certain gifts are exempted from the tax. These exemptions are mostly gifts that are not worth more than the annual exemption rate for the given year. They also include those given to charities or nonprofits, your spouse, political organizations and also tuition or medical expenses.

People used to be able to give gifts directly to their grandchildren, thus keeping their property out of their childrens taxable estate. Because of this Congress enacted the generation-skipping tax to apply to gifts bequeathed during a lifetime or following death. These taxes work much the same like estate and gift taxes.

The exemptions are somewhat the same as well as the manner in which they are filed and managed by the Internal Revenue Service. While all of these taxes could amount to a large portion of the estate, many procedures and strategies devised by a practiced attorney may help in diminishing the size and scope of the taxable estate.