A will is probably the part of an estate plan with which Coloradans are most familiar. Today we will talk about how a will can help with the orderly winding down of your affairs after your death in the way that you direct.
Distribution of property
Most people first think of a will as the legal way to direct where your money, real estate, investments and personal property will go – to family members, friends or charities. Should you not designate your beneficiaries in a will, Colorado law specifies who will inherit based on their family relationships to you – a process called intestate succession. If you have a close relative to whom you do not want to leave anything, a will can prevent that from happening. There are probably other ways in which state law would distribute your assets that you would disagree with, as well.
You also may have specific assets – real estate, jewelry, family heirlooms and other more personal or sentimental items – that you would like certain people in your life to have.
Ease of transition
Upon your passing, your will would be filed with the court for probate, the court process of paying your bills and distributing your assets. In your will, you can designate a personal representative, and the person you choose will manage the probate process on your behalf. The probate process may be easier, quicker and cheaper if you have created a will.
Guardians for minor children
If you have kids, you can designate in your will a guardian for them should you die before they reach adulthood. Many people do not know this, and for a parent, this may be the most important reason to write a will. You can also leave money and assets for minor children in a trust created upon your death through the will. You may also name a trustee for management of the trust for the benefit of the kids.
If you have a child or other loved one with special needs, you can use the will to provide for them, but do this with careful direction from an estate planning attorney. Usually you will want assets to go into a special needs trust for their benefit and not to them directly to preserve their eligibility for public benefits like Medicaid (Health First Colorado) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
This introduces the basics of a will, but a lawyer can explain additional aspects and potential complexities that may apply to your situation.