People have been making New Year’s resolutions for 4,000 years since the Babylonians started the practice, according to the History Channel. The beginning of a new year is a time to examine your life to see what steps you may take to make improvements, including things you might have been putting off. For many people, a smart resolution would be to establish or update an estate plan.
Estate planning is the process of putting in place a legal framework for taking care of your health, your personal affairs, your business interests and your loved ones should you become medically disabled or after your death. Tools are also available to create safety nets for children or adults with disabilities or who have become incapacitated.
The kinds of events or situations that call for the legal protections of new, solid estate plan or modification of an existing one may include:
- Birth of children and grandchildren
- Disability of children or other relatives, either as minors or adults
- Incapacity of senior relatives
- Children reaching adulthood
- Business ownership
- Real estate ownership
- Protection or transfer of wealth
- Medical crisis
- Mental incapacity
- Death of heirs, beneficiaries and close relatives
- Tax ramifications
- Planning for your own death
- And more
Some of the estate-planning tools available in Colorado are:
- Guardianship or conservatorship of an adult with disability or a senior parent facing incapacity
- Guardianship of minor children
- Financial or durable power of attorney to give authority to another adult to manage financial affairs should incapacity strike
- Will to designate when you die who will inherit property, who will be guardians of your minor children and who will administer your estate as well as to create trusts at your death as vehicles to manage and transfer property
- Health care directives like a living will, CPR directive and medical durable power of attorney to designate who will have the power to make medical decisions in case of your incapacity and to direct your wishes if you become incompetent or face end-of-life medical decisions
- Trusts during life to protect or manage assets for your benefit or for the benefits of loved ones, including those with special needs
- ABLE accounts to preserve public benefit eligibility of loved ones with special needs
- Business succession may involve a variety of legal tools to facilitate the anagement or transfer of your business interests in case of your incapacity, exit from the business or death
- Real estate ownership may be structured to see that property is transferred and owned by the people you choose
- Designation of beneficiaries for life insurance, retirement benefits and other financial accounts or instruments
- Private foundation to reach personal charitable and tax goals
- And others
Talk to an attorney
By now, you may have decided that a resolution to talk to a lawyer about your estate-planning needs is a good idea. We have just scratched the surface here about the reasons to do so and the tools available to meet your goals. Every situation is unique and a comprehensive discussion with an experienced estate-planning attorney is a good place to start.
This is true whether you already have an estate plan, but it has not been revisited for some time or if you have had major life changes since it was put in place, or whether you are just getting started. You are never too young or too old to get the peace of mind of a sound estate plan.