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Don't leave an estate mess for your loved ones to clean up

Why is it so important to leave a road map for loved ones after you are no longer able to make decisions or communicate your wishes? If you fail to put your wishes in writing, the state of Colorado will use a default (intestacy law) to determine what happens.

With intestacy, you lose the ability to choose who inherits the bulk of your estate. If you have remarried and blended families, this can cause problems. A favorite charitable organization you volunteered with and had hoped to leave a gift (but never put it into writing) could be left out.

Even celebrities aren't immune

Recent years have given us high-profile examples of what happens without a clear, comprehensive estate plan. Rock star Prince, for example, died without leaving instructions for what should happen to his assets. Potential heirs emerged from all over the country, including several people claiming to be illegitimate children or other relatives. The issue, and the embarrassment for his family and friends, could have been avoided if he'd had an estate plan.

Other high-profile legal issues arose because of the poor estate planning choices of Tom Clancy. While he passed away in 2013, debate over his estate continued for years because of an ill-timed and vaguely worded codicil (addition) signed shortly before his death that undid careful prior planning. His heirs have challenged the provision. Legal challenges persisted until late 2016.

These lessons should serve as a cautionary tale that estate planning cannot be put off. Learn more about getting started on your estate plan by contacting an experienced local attorney as soon as possible.

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