Law Lingo: Personal Autonomy

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain the concept of personal autonomy. Personal autonomy is the ability to live life on your own terms, according to your own belief system and preferences – regardless of how other people may feel about your choices. Personal autonomy can be as simple as choosing what to eat for dinner or what types of clothes to wear. It also applies to more significant life choices such as where to live, what friends to have, what career to pursue and what religious beliefs you want to follow (if any). In short, personal autonomy is freedom. Unfortunately, freedom can be cut short. We are not talking freedom lost due to incarceration, but rather freedom temporarily or permanently lost if you should become incapacitated due

Can a Family Override a Living Will?

There is a reason why a living will in Denver is such an important legal document: it cannot be changed by anyone other than the person who writes it. If you have prepared a living will, this means you have stated in writing what type of medical care you want administered if you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. If you should fall into a coma, suffer from dementia, become seriously injured, have a terminal condition, enter into a persistent vegetative state, etc., this prepared document would go into effect. Within this document, you can outline things such as: Which types of life-sustaining procedures you want to have performed (or which ones you do not want administered); CPR Artificial nutrition/hydration with feeding tubes Mechanical breathing assistance with a ventilator How long you want these procedures to continue; Who you want to enforce these decisions (medical power of attorney);

#FreeBritney: A Conservatorship for the Books

In 2008, singer Britney Spears lost full control over her estate and assets (today estimated at $60 million) when her father and an attorney were named the co-conservators of her estate. A conservator is a person(s) chosen by the courts to protect an incapacitated or incapable adult’s financial affairs and estate. In this case, the unplanned conservatorship was deemed necessary due to several alleged public mental breakdowns suffered by the singer. Those around her were concerned that she was incapable of making financial decisions for herself and vulnerable to people trying to take advantage of her. Typically, a conservator is responsible for such duties as: Paying monthly bills Managing investments Purchasing or selling property Filing tax returns and appropriate forms with the state regarding financial dealings In this particular conservatorship, the duties also include controlling her career and extend into Spears’ personal life – keeping her distanced from toxic relationships,

Things to Know Before Your First Estate Planning Meeting: “Who is in charge and when?”

Whether you have an abundance of assets, or very few, making a plan for what happens to them after your death could make things a little easier for the loved ones you leave behind. The best way to ensure that your assets are disposed of pursuant to your wishes is to hire a Denver estate planning attorney to draft a comprehensive estate plan. However, you should know a few simple things before you go into your estate planning meeting. This month, we will address three questions to which you should know the answer. Today we ask: “Who is in charge and when?” When drafting your estate plan, there are several fiduciary roles at play. Those are: Personal Representative—This person is nominated in your will, but must be appointed by the court in a probate proceeding after your death in order to have any actual authority. The personal representative is only

Super Lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC

Brown & Crona LLC is proud to announce that Nicole Economy Brown and Spencer Crona have been named as 2021 “Super Lawyers” in Denver by Thomson Reuters. Ms. Brown’s selection is for her experience in estate planning and probate.  Mr. Crona’s selection is for his experience in estate and trust litigation. This is a highly-respected rating service of lawyers from more than 70 practice areas. This is a distinction that many attorneys strive to achieve but few receive. In fact, only 5% of attorneys across the United States are selected for Super Lawyer status. The Super Lawyers selection process is quite extensive and has received a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2013. The process involves 4 steps: Step 1: Nominations Lawyers can be nominated by their peers, from third party feedback, from a managing partner survey or identified through the Super Lawyers research team. Step

Things to Know Before Your First Estate Planning Meeting: “Who are the beneficiaries/heirs and how do you want to benefit them?”

Whether you have an abundance of assets, or very few, making a plan for what happens to them after your death could make things a little easier for the loved ones you leave behind. The best way to ensure that your assets are disposed of pursuant to your wishes is to hire a Denver estate planning attorney to draft a comprehensive estate plan. However, you should know a few simple things before you go into your estate planning meeting. This month, we will address three questions to which you should know the answer. Today we ask: “Who are the beneficiaries and how do you want to benefit them?” Beneficiaries are the people you wish to benefit through estate planning. Heirs are the people entitled to receive your assets through intestacy (dying without a will). These two terms are often interchangeable, but it is important to know the difference. This is

Things to Know Before Your First Estate Planning Meeting: “What are your assets?”

Whether you have an abundance of assets, or very few, making a plan for what happens to them after your death could make things a little easier for the loved ones you leave behind. The best way to ensure that your assets are disposed of pursuant to your wishes is to hire a Denver estate planning attorney to draft a comprehensive estate plan. However, you should know a few simple things before you go into your estate planning meeting. This month, we will address three questions to which you should know the answer. Today we ask: “What are your assets?” The definition of an asset is “property owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments, or legacies”. A comprehensive estate plan will address & divide your assets into two categories, probate assets and non-probate assets. The biggest mistake that can be made

Are DIY Wills Legal?

Seemingly unlimited internet resources have made DIY (do it yourself) all the rage – especially during the pandemic when we have all had extra time on our hands. Love to wear tie dye shirts? DIY! Want to update your bathroom? DIY! Always wanted a fire pit in your backyard? DIY! Cannot find a tablecloth to fit your table? DIY! Need to make a will? DIY! Wait…what? Is it truly possible to DIY your last will and testament? Would such a document really be legally binding? The answer is yes, but only if it is done correctly. Every adult should have a last will and testament that outlines where they want their assets and possessions to go after they pass from this world. While it is best to have a legal professional help you draft this important document, it is possible to do it yourself. There are a couple of options:

Law Lingo: Attorney

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain the concept of what an attorney is. Attorney is another word for lawyer or attorney at law. These are umbrella terms that encompass the vast legal field. There is no single type of attorney that can cover any type of legal issue – because the legal system is so complex and specialized, it is important to hire the right type of attorney to handle your unique case. Types of Attorneys Here is a sampling of the different legal situations that could arise and the type of attorney that can help you through the legal process. Situations: You want to create a will or trust You need to create a business entity (corporation, partnership, limited liability company, etc.) Your loved ones require

What are the Duties of a Probate Administrator?

People tend to accumulate possessions and money throughout their lives. When they are gone from this world, something must happen with those items and assets – they cannot sit idly around. A probate administrator is someone who has been appointed by the courts to make sure everything in a deceased person’s estate is settled. For example, if Aunt Betty passes away and has not identified a specific person to act as the executor of her will (or if she has no will at all), the probate courts will appoint a professional fiduciary or someone close to Aunt Betty to handle these duties. This may be one of her siblings, parents, children, nieces, nephews, cousins – whoever is a logical choice to help settle the estate. The probate administrator will become well acquainted with Aunt Betty’s affairs. That person will: Gather her mail Pay her bills using money from the estate

What Does it Mean to be the Administrator of an Estate?

If a probate court has appointed you to be the administrator of an estate, you will be responsible for ensuring that a deceased person’s possessions and assets are overseen until they can be distributed to the appropriate people. These are the same duties that an executor of an estate would handle. However, instead of being appointed by the courts (like an administrator), the executor is specifically named in a will or trust. In Colorado, the term used for both of these is a Personal Representative. Duties of an Estate Administrator Think about all of the responsibilities you have in your own life: paying rent/mortgage, paying bills, maintaining your home (mowing/watering the lawn, home repairs, cleaning, etc.) collecting mail, filing taxes, and much more. After you pass away, someone has to assume all of these duties on your behalf. That’s what the administrator will do – and much more. Ensure the

What Does a Litigator Mean?

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of litigate is “to seek resolution of a legal contest by judicial process, rather than settle.” Litigators help individuals, groups or businesses take legal action against someone else in a civil dispute. A litigator can also represent you if a legal suit is brought against you. In estate planning, litigation suits often take the form of challenges to the validity of a will (probate litigation). For example, family members who are omitted from a will may sue to try to get invalidate the will. The probate process can become especially sticky if there are multiple marriages, family rivalries, step-children or family dysfunction. While litigation can create solutions to perceived injustice, the process is not as simple as having your lawyer jump straight into the courtroom. There are a significant number of steps that must be done on your behalf to make sure your case will

Is a Special Administrator the Same as an Executor?

In estate administration, an administrator will have the same duties as an executor. Why do they have different names? The difference lies in the way the person is assigned. A special administrator is a person chosen by the probate courts to perform the duties of estate management and distribution of assets after a person passes away. This may be done if the deceased person did not make a will or if they did not specifically name a person to handle these duties. An executor is someone who is specifically named in a will to handle the same types of duties. This person has important responsibilities that include tying up loose ends after a person passes away. Most people have material possessions (home, car, furniture, clothing, jewelry, etc.) as well as bank accounts and savings that must go somewhere. If there is a will, these items may be left to specifically-named

What Happens if an Executor Doesn’t Follow a Will?

When you write your will, you can name a specific person to carry out the wishes you have outlined in that legal document. This person is called the executor. If you do not name someone in your will, the probate courts will name an executor or special administrator to handle the administration of your estate.  Regardless of how the person gets chosen, the executor has a great deal of responsibility. Some of the tasks include: Filing the will with the probate courts Distributing assets to beneficiaries Managing bank accounts Pay bills, debts and taxes with money from the estate Notifying important entities of the death (Social Security office, banks, credit cards, etc.) Maintain property if necessary until it is sold Imagine the temptation if the executor is not 100% trustworthy…if the executor has fallen on hard times…if the executor has made some poor life decisions that are negatively affecting their

Law Lingo: Estate Lawyer

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain an estate lawyer. Estate attorneys help people navigate the intricacies of law in the areas of: Estate planning (wills, trusts, powers of attorney, living will, etc.) Business planning (creating a corporation, partnership or limited liability company) Estate/trust administration Protective person proceedings (guardianships and conservatorships) Probate/trust litigation You do not have to be a multi-millionaire to benefit from an estate lawyer’s expertise. If you own possessions, that means you have an estate. If you have loved ones, that means you should take measures to protect their financial, emotional and social well-being after you leave this earth. If you own a business, that means you should draft legal documents to keep your company running smoothly after your death. An estate lawyer may introduce

Advantages of having an Estate Attorney

An estate planning lawyer can help you navigate the intricacies of the law in regard to protecting your possessions, providing for your family and helping your family make difficult decisions on your behalf while you are alive and after you pass away. The attorneys at Brown & Crona, LLC have over 50 years of combined experience handling estate planning, estate and trust administration, estate and trust litigation, guardianships, conservatorships and more. We routinely receive 5-star ratings from our clients due to the personalized attention we give and our attention to detail. Don’t take our word for it. Read some of the amazing words our clients have to say about their estate planning experiences with us: “Nicole Brown has helped me immensely settle both of my parent’s estates. She listens to all my concerns, explains processes and concerns very clearly and itemizes To Do items in detail. Also good follow up

Does Colorado Use the Uniform Probate Code?

In 1973, Colorado approved and enacted the Uniform Probate Code (UPC) to simplify and streamline the probate process and move toward standardizing laws surrounding wills, trusts and intestate cases (people who pass away without a will or trust). Colorado is just one of 19 states that has adopted the UPC. The UPC includes information surrounding seven articles: General provisions and definitions Intestate succession (dying without a will) Probate of wills and estate administration Estates in probate located outside where the deceased resided Protections for people under disability (and their property) Non-probate transfers of property Trust administration While the UPC does not answer every question you may encounter in the probate process (where the court verifies and finalizes the contents of a will), it may make your probate process less complicated. Originally approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and the House of Delegates of the American

What is the Difference Between an Estate and a Trust?

Your estate comprises everything you own. It is your net worth, which includes: Homes/cars/boats/land Personal property (jewelry, tools, furniture, etc.) Bank accounts Businesses Retirement accounts Life insurance policies Debts (credit cards, mortgages, student loans, etc.) Whether you have an enormous estate with millions of dollars in assets or a simple estate, someone will inherit what you own after you die. You can choose to create a will and outline how you want your possessions distributed or you can choose to create a trust. A trust is a way to leave your estate to your loved ones, charitable organizations or anyone you want to inherit your personal belongings. By creating a trust, you can possibly achieve tax savings, keep your estate out of probate after you pass away, protect your assets from creditors and ensure that your estate is kept private (out of public record). You can also name your trust

How Do I Get a Conservatorship in Colorado?

A conservatorship is a court-appointed person who is chosen to manage the finances of an adult who has become incapable of doing it for themselves. This may be needed if a person suffers from mental illness or dementia, becomes seriously injured or incapacitated, etc., and cannot make sound legal, medical or financial decisions on their own. The conservator has a very big responsibility to act in the person’s best interest, ensuring that they are able to continue a good quality of life with appropriate levels of food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, social engagements (if possible) and more. Note: conservators can also be requested for minors. If you have a loved one who is in need of financial assistance, there are many different Colorado conservatorship forms that must be filled out and filed with the courts. While these forms are available online, it may be prudent to enlist the assistance of an

Law Lingo: Litigator

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain a litigator. A litigator handles the entire process of suing or defending a person, group or company in civil disputes. The litigation process may or may not end up in a courtroom. If it does, a litigator will be able to present their case in front of a judge and/or jury. Litigators have many responsibilities outside the courtroom to help their clients. In order to take successful legal action, the litigator must: Gather as many details as possible about the case by reviewing records, talking to witnesses, interviewing all parties involved, etc. It may be necessary to get outside assistance to collect supporting evidence – such as hiring a private investigator, expert, accountant or other specialists. This is referred to as

When Should You Do Estate Planning?

If you are the breadwinner of your family and have amassed a large fortune over your lifetime, it is a no-brainer that you need an estate plan. However, there is no absolute age threshold or financial minimum that must be met before you can start making plans to protect your future. There are many reasons why having an estate plan in place can benefit younger single people just starting out in their adult lives. Here are a few estate documents that can be created to protect your possessions, help your family in the event of an emergency and ensure your wishes are fulfilled in case you are unable to speak for yourself. Will/Trust: Wills and trusts allow you to state how you want your property distributed upon your death. You can even leave very specific items to friends and family members in a personal property memorandum: your favorite Fender electric

Law Lingo: Personal Property Memorandum

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain a personal property memorandum. A personal property memorandum is an addendum to your will that allows you to list out specific personal property items that you wish to leave to specific individuals. This can be a very short list or a lengthy one. To avoid confusion, the more specific you can be in this document, the better. For example, you may want to list out the contact information for each person to make it easier for your personal representative to locate each individual.. (This may require that you update the document frequently.) Examples of a Personal Property Memorandum Line Item “I, Mary Sue Jones, bequeath my vintage brown Disney Mickey Mouse Leather Bomber Jacket Flying Squadron to my niece, Jennifer Eloise

What is the Difference Between Probate and Estate Administration?

The end of a person’s life is also the start of the legal process to ensure that the decedent’s estate (personal possessions, financial accounts, etc.) does not go unclaimed. Probate and estate administration are different aspects of this legal process. Probate: the court process to ensure that an estate is properly settled and all property is distributed to beneficiaries. Estate Administration: the process undertaken by a specifically-named individual to handle all of the details of settling the estate such as ensuring all assets are accounted for, distributing assets and paying all outstanding debts/taxes, etc., on behalf of the deceased. If there is a will, the probate process may be a little simpler – especially if the deceased named someone they know to be the estate administrator or executor. If there is no will (meaning the person died in intestate), the courts will assign a person to be the estate administrator/executor

What is a Disposition of Last Remains?

Death is not a pleasant thing to think about. Unfortunately, it is inevitable for all of us. The more prepared and organized you can be about what you want to happen to you after you pass away, the less your family will have to make difficult decisions on your behalf. A disposition of last remains document is typically part of your estate plan. In which, you can outline specific end of life details such as: Your wish to be cremated, buried, or entombed Your funeral home of choice The location of your burial What to do with your ashes What type of ceremony, if any, you want to be held in your honor Wake Funeral Celebration of life Memorial service Private event with close family members only Public event No service at all Organ or tissue donation; donate your body to science Name an executor to ensure your wishes are

What is the Purpose of Probate?

Over a lifetime, most people accumulate material possessions and have financial assets that they work hard to accumulate/achieve. While we are alive, these things are very important to us. We may work hard to support other people financially; and when it comes to sentimental possessions, we often want to ensure those items are passed down to other generations. It is safe to say that most people also want to leave a positive legacy behind and continue to care for and protect those they love – even after they are gone. Probate is a safeguard to ensure your wishes are carried out. Probate helps ensure that all of your chosen beneficiaries or surviving family members receive exactly what you want them to have from your estate. If you have named people specifically in a will, the probate process may be a little simpler than if you pass away intestate – meaning

Do Litigators go to Court?

Yes. Litigators can argue civil cases in courtroom settings on behalf of the plaintiff or defendant. However, a trip to the courtroom is one of the last phases of the litigation process. In fact, some cases never actually make it to court, but rather get settled out of court. When you hire a litigation attorney, they will listen to your case, assess the validity of your claim and gather up as much information as possible so they can adequately represent you. During this step in the process, they may consult with other professionals to gather more information or statements from witnesses. Throughout the process, the litigator is required to share information with all other interested parties involved in the case: the court, other attorneys, etc. There may be a significant amount of paperwork that must be shared in order for all parties to be on the same page, Therefore, it

Law Lingo: Litigation

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain litigation. Litigation refers to the process of settling a civil dispute in a court of law. Not all cases end up in front of a judge; sometimes the lawsuits can be settled out of court. Some examples of litigation lawsuits include: Injury as a result of another person or company’s negligence Discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace Breach of contract for work that was not performed according to the agreement Medical negligence that resulted in death Litigation is also very common in regard to estates. When a person passes away, the possessions of that person (the estate) are distributed to the people or entities that designated in the decedent’s will or trust.  If there is a will or trust, this

How Can a Parent Sign Over Guardianship?

Sometimes parents have to make the difficult decision to allow another person to care for their child. Luckily, we have a legal process called guardianship in this country that allows parents to choose this option for different reasons such as: Being mentally or physically unable to provide proper care Having an addiction to drugs or alcohol Residing in unsafe or unsanitary conditions Being unable to control abusive tendencies Guardianship in Colorado can be temporary or permanent, giving another person the responsibility of caring for a minor (child under age 18) or an adult child with special needs. The parents can choose a specific person to act as guardian – it must be someone who they feel will make the right types of medical, educational and social decisions with their child’s best interests in mind. It’s also important for the child to be placed in a home that is loving, safe

Law Lingo: Living Will

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain living wills. A living will, sometimes referred to as an advanced directive, is a legal document that gives you a voice when you are unable to express your medical wishes. Everyone has a right to refuse or allow medical treatment, but that is not always possible. Let’s say you are a healthy individual who falls into a coma after a serious accident. If you have not prepared a living will, your loved ones will have to make medical care decisions on your behalf. In fact, they may have to decide how long to continue life-sustaining treatments – something that can rip a family apart if not all parties are in agreement. Terminal conditions sometimes require physicians to intervene with measures such

Can a Conservator Sign Documents?

The courts appoint conservators in Colorado to manage the financial affairs of an incapacitated adult (protected person) or a minor child who is under age 21. These duties include: Paying monthly bills Managing investments Determining the value of property or real estate Purchasing small and large items Selling large items like a car, home or rental property Filing tax returns Filing appropriate forms with the state regarding financial dealings Getting court approval for certain duties Keeping detailed records of all transactions Filing reports to the courts As you can imagine, these duties come with a lot of paperwork and it may be necessary for documents to be signed on a regular basis. If the protected person is physically or mentally unable to sign documents, the conservator is approved to sign on behalf of the protected person, as long as it is within the scope of his or her delegated authority

How Do I Set Up a Conservatorship?

Conservatorships are set up to help incapacitated adults (respondents) manage their financial affairs. This can also be set up for a minor child who has assets in his or her name. If you have a loved one who you feel can no longer handle the responsibilities of paying bills, managing investments, buying or selling property, filing tax returns, etc., you can request that a conservator be appointed. Steps to Set Up a Conservatorship for an Incapacitated Adult File a petition in the probate court of the state and county in which the respondent resides or owns property. Complete all necessary forms for your particular situation. There are almost 20 different forms that may be required. File your forms with the court and pay the $199 filing fee. (There may be other fees as well.) Ensure the proposed conservator has undergone a criminal history record from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation

Is an Attorney Needed to Settle an Estate?

The death of a loved one can be an emotional rollercoaster: sadness and heartbreak can mix with confusion to leave you feeling overwhelmed – especially if you are named the executor of the deceased person’s estate. In the midst of your grief, the duties of executor need to move forward in a timely manner to settle the estate. While there are many responsibilities for this appointment, it is not required to hire an attorney. It is entirely possible to handle these duties on your own. However, if the estate you are settling is quite large and complicated, it may be wise to consult a Colorado estate lawyer to help you: Locate the will and file it with the probate courts (trusts do not go through probate) Check to see if a living trust has also been created and work with the trustee to wrap up the estate Take inventory of

Law Lingo: Power of Attorney

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain a power of attorney. A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document which appoints another person or organization (known as the agent) to act on your behalf. POAs can be completed for your medical or financial decisions: carrying out your wishes or making decisions for you. Special/Limited Power of Attorney: appointed to handle specific tasks that you cannot handle. Their powers will be more limited and will need to be spelled out specifically. This designation can be set to end at a certain time or terminate after an event has taken place. Financial Power of Attorney: such as business transactions, filing tax returns, buying life insurance, making banking transactions, gifting money or assets to others, processing payments from Social Security

Is a Guardian Responsible for Bills?

If you are named a legal guardian, you will be responsible for the well-being of another person (legally referred to as a ward). Whether the ward is a minor or an incapacitated adult who is incapable of handling their own affairs, caring for this individual can be costly. Think about the bills you incur each month for yourself and your own family: Education Healthcare/medications Housing Transportation Clothing Food Entertainment Cell phone The ward will require all of these same types of support. If the ward has sufficient assets, a conservatorship may also we required to manage the ward’s finances.  Legal guardians are entitled to receive reasonable compensation to help cover the costs of caring for another human being. However, sometimes family members who take on this responsibility often do not request compensation. Guardianship compensation in Colorado varies from circumstance to circumstance. In some cases, the ward will continue to collect

Can You Sue a Conservator in Denver?

The short answer to this question is YES, but let’s delve a little deeper. A conservator is a person appointed by the court to manage the financial affairs and estate of an adult person that becomes incapacitated. A conservator can be appointed for a minor. Conservators are responsible for duties such as: Paying bills Managing bank accounts Selling real estate (with permission from the courts) Purchasing property Filing taxes Managing investments Basically, a conservator can be in charge of another person’s entire estate, sometimes with little supervision. If that person is not 100% trustworthy, it may be all too tempting to commit fraud and steal money or goods from the person they are supposed to protect. Unfortunately, the protected person is often completely unaware of the situation so it is a good idea for their loved ones to keep a close eye on the estate. If you suspect that the

Who Gets a Copy of a Trust?

One of the reasons to create a trust instead of a will is to keep your estate private after you pass away. The information contained in a trust is not public record and does not move through the probate process (in contrast to a will). In fact, trusts aren’t recorded anywhere in the court system. So, who actually gets a copy of these private documents? The trust can state who is entitled to receive information regarding the trust.  If the person who created the trust is still alive (trustor), no one besides the trustee (the person responsible for managing the trust) is required to have a copy of the trust. Even after the trustor passes away, beneficiaries and heirs may not automatically get a copy of the trust. In some states, if you want to obtain a copy of a trust, you must ask in writing for the trustee to

How Do You Dispute a Trust?

We’ve all watched movies where the wealthy family of their deceased patriarch gathers together in the library for the reading of a will or trust. Prepared to inherit millions, there is a feeling of excitement and entitlement in the air. As the lawyer begins the reading, “I, Biff Digby, being of sound mind and body, hereby leave my entire fortune to my dog,” the family gasps in horror, shouting erupts and threats are made. While this may seem like Hollywood exaggeration, situations like this have actually happened. In fact, when American businesswoman and hotelier Leona Helmsley passed away, she left $12 million to her 9-year-old Maltese dog and the remaining $8 billion trust to be used for the care and welfare of dogs. Most of her human relatives were cut out of her estate plan completely. After disputes by the Helmsley family, Trouble, her Maltese, eventually only received $2 million

What is the Purpose of a Trust Agreement?

A trust agreement is a document that allows you (the trustor) to legally transfer the ownership of specific assets to another person (trustee) to be held for the trustor’s beneficiaries. While this may seem odd, it’s done for a number of reasons: to promote wealth management, gain tax advantages (some trusts are not subject to estate tax), keep the document out of public record when you pass away,  possibly to protect your estate from creditors and let your loved ones avoid probate after you pass. The trust agreement is typically a lengthy document that outlines all of the terms of the agreement such as: Assets controlled in the trust Powers and limitations for the trustee Compensation for the trustee How the beneficiaries shares will be distributed to them (outright or in further trust) Terms for termination of the trust The trustee has fiduciary responsibilities to manage the assets in the

Law Lingo: Fiduciary Responsibility

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain fiduciary responsibility. If you are named a fiduciary, this means that you are responsible for managing the assets (money, property, legal matters, etc.) for someone else. In regard to estate planning, you may choose one or more fiduciaries to act in your best interests and help protect your assets and your family. There are many types of fiduciary roles that can be hand-picked by you and specifically named in your will: Executor: responsible for distributing your assets according to the wishes you’ve outlined in your will. This person will also tie up the loose ends of your estate such as alerting important parties of your passing, paying all debts (from the estate), filing taxes and more. Guardian: responsible for the health

Who Should Have Trusts? 9 Situations to Consider.

Most people have assets that they want to remain protected while they are alive AND after they pass away. In many cases, a last will and testament is sufficient to plan for how you want your assets distributed after you are gone. However, some people might benefit from setting up a revocable or irrevocable trust instead of a will. Here are 9 examples of situations that might warrant this type of estate plan in Colorado: You are concerned that you might become incapacitated and unable to care for your estate and/or manage your assets in the future (or you simply want to plan for any type of emergency situation). You have a person in mind that you would want to act as the trustee to manage your estate while you are alive and make the distributions pursuant to the terms of the trust after you pass away. You want to

Can Guardianship be Contested?

Guardianship in Colorado is a legal appointment in which a specific person or family is chosen to care for a minor child (or adult child with disabilities) if you should become incapacitated or pass away. This is a great responsibility because the guardian is in charge of caring for the ward in virtually every physical, emotional and financial aspect of life: Living arrangements Healthcare Education Social interactions Nutrition Religion Sometimes, the person who has been named the guardian simply isn’t up for this level of responsibility. If the guardian is suffering from any type of substance abuse, mental illness, imprisonment/conviction or any type of personal conflicts within the family, they will not have the capacity to provide a safe environment for the child. If you suspect that a guardian is not providing the right level of basic care for a child or if the child is being mistreated, you can

What Does an Estate Planning Attorney Do?

Imagine working your entire life to amass a sizeable amount of personal property and money – only to see all of your possessions: Fought over by your loved ones Held up in a lengthy court process as legal fees chip away at the value Divvied up among distant relatives you’ve never met If you don’t create a will or trust, these are scenarios that could actually happen – even if you aren’t a multi-millionaire! Passing away without a will or trust is called dying intestate. That means the courts decide who will receive your estate after you pass away pursuant to the laws of intestacy– regardless of how large or small your estate is. This process can stir up trouble if family members or creditors come out of the woodwork to challenge how the estate is divided, demanding a larger portion of the pie. While it isn’t legally required to

What Kind of Attorney Do I Need for Guardianship?

People often think of a guardian as being a person responsible for raising a child under age 18. While this is true, guardianship can also be arranged for adults who are unable to care for themselves – those with mental or physical disabilities, serious illnesses, etc. The appointment of a guardian is not something to take lightly – and it is not something that should be done without legal help. The best type of attorney to arrange guardianship is one that has extensive experience with family estate planning in the state in which the guardianship is needed. This area of law can be very complex and it is constantly changing, so it is very important to have an advocate on your side to protect your loved ones. The guardianship lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC have over 50 years of combined experience in this area of the law as well

Why is Personal Autonomy Important?

We all like to be in control of our own destiny. Personal autonomy is the idea of making your own decisions in life – regardless of how others may agree or disagree with your choices. This can apply to any aspect of your life: friendships, careers, living arrangements, religion, medical treatments, etc. Many people take personal autonomy for granted – especially when they are healthy and living life to the fullest. But what if you were unable to make those decisions for yourself? None of us like to think about the possibility that life could drastically change. But the truth is that no one knows what the future holds. Disease, injury, trauma – seemingly unfathomable situations could occur that leave you incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. The inability to speak your own thoughts and voice your life choices would effectively remove your personal autonomy temporarily or even permanently.

Law Lingo: Probate

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain probate. It is rare for the word probate to be considered in high regard. But in reality, probate is a good thing: it is in place to carry out a deceased person’s last wishes and protect their loved ones. To fully appreciate probate, you must understand that it is the court’s method of ensuring that all beneficiaries or surviving family members receive the proper assets from the deceased person’s estate. This process is also used if a person passes away intestate – meaning without leaving a will behind. Probate is another layer of protection for beneficiaries to receive their inheritance. Sadly, probate gets a bad reputation because it can be very time-consuming and very expensive – although not all probate falls

Do I Need a Lawyer for Guardianship?

The short answer to the question “Do I need a lawyer for guardianship?” is no. It is not required to hire a lawyer to appoint a guardian for your minor child or for your adult child who is incapacitated (a ward). The state of Colorado Judicial Branch has a list of instructions and forms online that can be handled by individuals on their own. That said, you need to know what you are getting into when you decide to take on the process of setting up legal guardianship on your own. Contained within the instructions are a list of over a dozen different forms to complete for this process. Not all forms are required and it will be your responsibility to complete and file the right forms in the right order with the correct court. There are also fees associated with filing petitions. Any hiccup in this process could delay

What is a Personal Property Memorandum?

The purpose of a will is to outline who you want to inherit your estate after you pass away. If you want everything to pass down equally to a spouse or your children, including a blanket statement in your will may suffice. However, most people have sentimental possessions that have great memories or significant meaning to others – and you may wish to leave those specific, tangible items to other people outside of your immediate family. While it is perfectly fine to list those items out in your will, if you have many different possessions you would like to leave to different people, it may be easier and more efficient to create a personal property memorandum. Plus, it will be easier to modify if you want to add or change the document in the future. A personal property memorandum is an addendum to your will. In this document you can

Does Colorado Have Probate?

The state of Colorado does have a probate process for the following situations: A deceased person does not have a will. This is also known as an intestate estate. A deceased person has a valid will and the estate is worth more than $70,000 for the year 2020 and includes substantial property or includes real property. A deceased person has a valid will but the document is being contested, is found to be invalid or the contents of the will are questionable. This circumstance requires a formal probate process that could become expensive and lengthy. A deceased person has a valid will and all parties connected to the will are in agreement with the contents. This may result in an informal probate process that is carried out by an appointed personal representative named in the will. If the estate is worth less than $70,000 for the year 2020 and the

Law Lingo: Conservator

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by Brown & Crona, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain conservator. In this case, a conservator is not someone who helps protect, repair or preserve works of art or other cultural objects (although, that is one definition of the word). In the estate planning realm, a conservator is a person who is appointed by the courts to manage the financial affairs and estate of an adult who is physically or mentally unable to handle these duties on their own. A conservator can also be appointed for a minor who has assets titled in their name. Reasons for Incapacity A person can be deemed incapacitated after a stroke, brain injury, accident, etc. This situation can also occur if the person suffers from mental illness or  dementia. The person does not have to

Who is a Protected Person?

There are several situations where someone may be classified as a protected person when it comes to conservatorships in Colorado: An adult who has become incapacitated due to a disease or injury. This could be a mental or physical disability that renders the person unable to communicate and/or function to be able to make decisions on their own. A minor (someone under age 21) who has parents who are deceased or who has significant assets in his or her name. Because a protected person cannot fully care for themselves, it is important that someone step in to help. The courts will appoint a conservator to fill this role: a family member, close friend or a professional fiduciary who will be responsible for managing the financial affairs and property on behalf of the protected person. The exact duties of the conservator can range, depending on the protected person’s age, mental capacities

Can a Trustee Steal from a Trust?

The lure of easy money is sometimes just too powerful for some people to resist. Although it may seem incomprehensible, it is possible for a person to steal from a trust. In fact, it may be especially easy if that person is placed in a position of power – like being named the trustee of a trust. A trustee is a person that has been hand-picked by the creator of the trust – or by the courts – to manage and distribute the assets of a trust after a person passes away. Trustees have access to bank accounts and physical property. They are responsible for assessing the value of possessions, coordinating sales and ensuring all property goes into the correct hands and managing and overseeing the assets of the trust. In short, trustees have a lot of power and responsibility. Unfortunately, if your trustee is not 100% honest and ethical,

Brown & Crona Raises Over $3,800 for Alzheimer’s!

The team at Brown & Crona, LLC participated in the 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday, September 14 in Denver, Colorado. It was a beautiful day to join with 4,980 other walkers representing 662 teams to help put an end to this devastating disease. We would like to say thank you to everyone who sponsored our team – we raised over $3,800 for this organization that means so much to us. We all walked in honor of our loved ones who have been personally impacted by Alzheimer’s or other dementias. But we also walked in honor of our many clients and their families that we have helped cope with the medical and financial challenges of this progressive disease. The Denver event raised $1,224,917 for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Although the event is over, you can still donate to our team by clicking here. To learn more about Alzheimer’s,

Do I Need a Trust Attorney to Administer a Trust?

If you have been named a trustee to administrator a trust for a loved one who has passed away, you may not fully understand the scope of your responsibilities – especially if this appointment came as a surprise to you and if the trust estate is very large. As a trustee, you will be responsible for handling the management of the trust estate and the distribution of the person’s assets after they pass away. This is big responsibility, so it is often recommended that you hire a professional trained in the legal aspects of trusts to help speed up the process, avoid litigation, ensure that you are in compliance with your fiduciary duties and help lessen the conflicts among surviving family members. A trust attorney can handle the whole gamut of trust administration including: Notifications: all beneficiaries as well as government entities and other organizations will need to be notified

Do I Need a Trust if I Don’t Own Property?

Property ownership is not the only reason a person might want to create a trust instead of a will. In fact, you do not have to own property to create a trust which in some instances could be the smarter estate planning choice. In addition to naming who will receive your assets after you pass, a trust allows you the flexibility to: Reduce the amount of estate and gift taxes your loved ones may have to pay after you pass away Eliminate the need for your estate to go through the probate process Protect your assets from lawsuits and creditors Specifically name a person (trustee) to manage your assets if you become incapacitated as well as after you pass away There is not a singular type of trust – in fact, there are many different types that can provide taxation benefits for your loved ones. For example, you can create

What is the Purpose of an Estate Plan?

Most people would never give someone else a gift and then ask the recipient to pay money in return. But that is a very broad example of what could happen in an inheritance situation if there is no estate plan. An estate plan goes beyond the creation of a will – an estate plan can outline how you want your assets distributed as well as instructions for the care of minor children but it can also protect your heirs from being subjected to paying estate taxes, court costs and other fees associated with their inheritance. It is wise to create an estate plan if you have a very large estate, wish for your estate to be kept private, you own a business, have retirement accounts or have other special circumstances. Large Estates If the value of your entire estate will exceed the federal tax exclusion amount of $11.58 million (for

Court Battles & Caregiving: How to Manage When Families Don’t Get Along

Spencer Crona from Brown & Crona, LLC was recently featured on The Caring Generation® radio program, hosted by Pamela D. Wilson. The segment, “How to Manage When Families Don’t Get Along,” discussed how dysfunctional families create conflict and drama when it comes to caregiving for older family members. Sibling rivalries, difficult parent/child relationships, lack of trust, poor communication and many other family dynamics can not only affect our lives as we are growing up; these dynamics also affect how families come together to care for aging parents. The program includes tips on how to manage family disagreements. During the program, Mr. Crona helps sort out what happens when these disagreements turn into court battles. His discussion includes an overview of two specific family situations: A daughter caring for her elderly parent would not allow the siblings to visit. A private caregiver hired to care for a parent actually influenced the

What are the Basic Estate Planning Documents?

If you are thinking about creating a will, you may be under the assumption that you only need a singular document to protect all of your assets. In reality, there are several different types of documents that should be incorporated into your overall estate plan – regardless of how much property you own, how much money you have in the bank and how many people you want to leave your estate to (beneficiaries). 4 Estate Plan Documents There are 4 basic estate plan documents that every adult should draft to not only protect your possessions but also your livelihood: Will or trust Financial power of attorney Medical power of attorney Living will Will/Trust A last will and testament and a living trust are both documents that allow you to specify how you want your assets, such as property and money, to be distributed after you pass away. In Colorado, if

What Does a Trust Attorney Do?

The term trust attorney does not refer to a lawyer who is trustworthy (although this is an important characteristic to have in your attorney). A trust attorney is an estate planning professional who can help you create the necessary paperwork to set up a trust for your estate. A trust, unlike a will, allows your surviving family members to avoid the probate process after you pass away. In fact, trusts are kept private and out of public record. Trusts can include provisions to lower estate taxes which helps your loved ones receive more of what you intended to leave them. Trusts are especially useful documents for people who have large estates. The downside of trusts is that they can be expensive and complicated documents to draw up and ensure their validity. While it is possible to write your own trust, a trust attorney will go beyond the basics and delve

Can I Write My Own Living Trust?

DIY (do-it-yourself) projects are in abundance online. If you want to learn how to build a piece of furniture for your house, fix an automobile problem or create a useful craft, there are endless options. But what if you want to DIY a living trust? Is it possible? Is it advisable? Yes, it is possible to create your own revocable living trust (revocable meaning that you have the ability to change it whenever you wish). Here are some of the very basic steps that must be followed: Prepare the living trust process by downloading the proper forms. Specify the following individuals in your trust: the trustee (person/bank/lawyer to manage your assets and distribute them after you pass away) and beneficiaries (the people who will receive your inheritance) Choose what assets you want to place into your trust and change the legal ownership of those assets to the trust. Include all

Can You Withdraw Cash from a Trust Account?

The short answer to the question, “Can you withdraw cash from a trust account?” is Yes, but there are some caveats. If you have created a revocable trust, not an irrevocable one, and are the trustee of the trust, you can add and remove assets of the trust, A revocable trust allows you to make amendments to your trust and it also allows you to keep control of your assets. You will relinquish ownership and control of your estate with an irrevocable trust. If you have created a revocable trust and have appointed someone else as trustee, you will have to request the cash withdrawal from the person you appointed as the trustee. However, the trustee has a fiduciary duty to administer the trust for your benefit while you are alive. When you create a revocable trust and name someone else as the trustee, it can be helpful to specifically

Cars to Rings to Fancy Things: What Can an Estate Planning Attorney Do for You?

Back in 1984, pop sensation Madonna was a material girl living in a material world. In 1993, the Barenaked Ladies dreamed of everything they would buy if they “had a million dollars” (even a monkey!). Flash forward to 2019 and Ariana Grande sings, “I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it” in her song 7 Rings. For decades there have been dozens of songs about the pleasures of having money. If these songs are any indication, it’s a simple fact that we like our stuff: our homes, cars, jewelry, clothing, shoes, electronics – all the things money can buy. We work hard to be able to afford these possessions for ourselves and our loved ones. They are status symbols, measures of success and meaningful in many different ways for different people. If you can relate to these statements, stop and ask yourself this question: What would

What Happens When a House in a Trust is Sold?

When you create a revocable trust, you (as the grantor/settlor of the trust), typically name yourself as the trustee of the trust.  If you own a house and place that property into a revocable trust, you, as trustee, have the ability to sell any type of property, including your home, while it is in the revocable trust. The home is sold in the normal fashion, most likely through a real estate agent and the assistance of a title company The sale may be subject to capital gains taxes. However, if the house you own is your primary residence and you lived in it for 2 out of the 5 years before it is sold, you may exclude up to $250,000 in capital gains (for single people) or up to $500,000 (if married and filing jointly). Alternatively, if you have been named the trustee of a trust established by another person

Can a Husband and Wife Have Separate Wills?

It is a customary estate planning practice for each spouse to have his or her own will.  While some practitioners may draft a joint will for a married couple, it is not recommended.  Here are a few reasons why. When you create a joint will with your spouse, and one spouse passes away, the joint will becomes irrevocable: an irrevocable document that cannot be changed by the surviving spouse. That means that the surviving spouse may not be able to do things like: Sell property/assets listed in the will Limit or change the inheritance for beneficiaries who are estranged, irresponsible or have made poor life choices Use money from the estate to pay for a new home, business venture or education expenses Change a beneficiary or executor Leave any part of your estate in the joint will to a new spouse If your spouse passes away, you will ultimately have

9 Questions to Ask a Probate Lawyer

professional careers to helping people navigate this confusing, scary and sometimes quite lengthy process. If you have been named an executor of an estate and need help with the probate process, how do you choose one probate lawyer over the other? There is no single answer to this question. The best plan is to interview several different probate lawyers, ask them questions about their experience and services and make sure you can establish a good rapport with that person and their team. Here are 9 questions to ask probate lawyers in Colorado: Have you handled a wide variety of probate cases (simple, complicated, large estates, small estates, contested)? How long do you think it will take to go through probate for my specific situation? What potential problems do you expect with my case? How many years have you handled probate cases in Colorado? Will the work on my case be

Living Will vs. Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)

A living will and a Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) are different medical advance directives that can allow you to tell your loved ones how you want to be cared for in the event you are unable to do so yourself. A living will outlines what medical measures you want taken (if any) to be kept alive (artificially) if you are in an end-of-life situation. Stipulations can include life support, tube feeding, mechanical breathing, dialysis, palliative care, pain management, organ donations, etc. The living will document can also state how long you want medical intervention continued (days, weeks, months, etc.). This is typically a document that your Denver estate planning lawyer will draft for you. A DNR is an order that states you do not want be resuscitated with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with or without an electric shock to stimulate your heart if your breathing stops. This order must be

What is Trust Litigation?

When it comes to distribution of money and property after a person passes away, all of the interested and involved parties don’t always play fair. In fact, when there is a trust set up, the actions of a close family member or friend can influence the provisions in the trust – fairly or unfairly.  A trust is created when a person (grantor) is alive to dispose of that person’s assets as well as name beneficiaries for those assets after the grantor passes away. In a revocable trust, the grantor has control of the assets and can act as the trustee or they can name another person to act as the trustee in the event they are unable to serve as trustee.  In an irrevocable trust, the grantor gives control of their assets to a trustee (a specific person named for this responsibility). An irrevocable trust cannot be changed or altered.

When Can You Contest a Will?

In Colorado, there are two ways in which a will can be offered for probate—formal and informal.  With formal probate, a beneficiary or heir must object to the probate of the will at or prior to the hearing.  Once a Court has granted formal probate of a will, a beneficiary or heir typically cannot object to the will. With informal probate, an heir or beneficiary can object to the will any time before the estate is closed.  Typically, time is of the essence when it comes to deciding on whether or not to object to a will. The longer you wait, the more your options may be limited. Probate law varies from state to state so the courts will determine the validity of the challenge based on certain parameters.  Situations that May Warrant Contesting a Will After Probate Let’s say that six months after your mother’s estate is opened with

Scary Scenario: Paying Medical Bills for Others

The season of Halloween just passed, with scary images of witches, ghosts and vampires all around. But none of these images can compare with the scare of looming medical bills – especially if you are responsible for another person.  If you have been named a legal guardian for a minor or incapacitated adult who is incapable of handling their own affairs (also called a ward), you may be wondering if you, as the guardian, are responsible for their medical bills.  The short answer is No. (Scary scenario avoided!) In most cases, guardians are not responsible for the costs surrounding the care of the ward to whom they are assigned. This includes medical bills, education, living arrangements, etc. In Colorado, legal guardians are entitled to receive reasonable compensation for their services as guardian. There is no set amount of compensation for legal guardians; it will vary based on the yearly income

Can a Guardian Deny Visitation?

Before this question can be answered, it is first necessary to remember the potential situations that may have warranted guardianship for a minor or an incapacitated adult.  Reasons for Guardianship The parent or caregiver of the minor or the incapacitated adult may have fallen into one of these situations, making them unfitunable to make decisions on behalf of their minor children or themselves:  Mental illness  Drug/alcohol abuse Physical/mental abusiveness Dementia Exploitation Neglect Reasons to Deny Visitation A guardian does have the power to deny visitation of a minor or incapacitated adult if they feel the visitation could put that individual into a harmful situation. This is not absolute power; the courts may step inplace limitations on the authority, if necessary, to demand require visitation or deny visitation if there are challenges by one of the affected parties.  The child does not want to have a relationship with the parent/visitor The

3 Estate Planning Tips

Estate planning can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be – as long as you have a team of people to help you along the way. While creating a valid will or trust should be on the top of your To Do list, there are other estate planning tips that can add other layers of protection for your estate as well as your family’s financial future. Here are 3 tips to take into consideration when you start estate planning in Colorado:   Tip 1: Divide and Conquer the Responsibilities There is a lot to be said for teamwork when it comes to estate planning. Rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket by appointing a single individual to handle your affairs, spreading responsibilities to several people or groups can make the process more efficient. Some individuals can work with you directly while you are

Difference Between a Conservator and Fiduciary

A court-appointed conservator of an estate is a person named to handle the financial affairs for an incapacitated adult or minor child. This includes activities such as:  Paying monthly bills Managing investments  Purchasing and selling large ticket items like a car, home or rental property Filing tax returns and other financial forms A conservator is not responsible for caring for the individual on a personal level by handling guardianship duties such as making healthcare, educational or social engagement decisions.  In contrast a fiduciary is a person or group of individuals who can be court appointed or named in advance in a will, trust or power of attorney) to handle all of these duties – and more – under one umbrella. A fiduciary may be called upon to provide:  Probate administration Financial affair management Personal care coordination Help with daily activities Health and well-being support Power of attorney for financial and

Can a Conservator Change a Protected Person’s Will?

A conservator of a protected person is someone who has been selected by the court to manage the financial affairs and estate of an adult who is unable to make those decisions on their own. A conservator is appointed if the protected person had not named an agent under durable financial power of attorney or if the agent who was named has acted in contravention to the principal’s best interests.  A conservator in Colorado will handle financial matters such as paying bills, managing investments, purchasing or selling property, filing tax returns, etc.  Within these realms, there are financial and relationship scenarios which can warrant the changing of the protected person’s will. Conservators do have the power to make changes to the will if those changes will continue to support the pre-incapacitation wishes of the protected person and the Conservator seeks Court approval of the changes.  Here are a few possible

Estate Planning Mistakes Can Be Costly

We all make mistakes. Some mistakes can be easily remedied while others can leave lasting financial and emotional distress. When it comes to protecting your possessions and your loved ones, the more you know about legal processes the less chance you will have at making costly mistakes.    Situations that May Incur Financial or Emotional Costs   Regardless of your level of wealth, you most likely have earthly possessions and money that you would like to see passed down to your family members. A common mistake that many people make is thinking that you need to be rich to need an estate plan. The word estate may conjure up images of mansions, Maseratis and mega money. But an estate can be anything you own: a 10-year-old car, sentimental jewelry, a savings account or even a pet. If you want these possessions passed down to specific family members or friends, you

The Loss of Control When Your Child Turns 18

When your child turns 18 years of age, they are legally considered adults. In addition to earning the right to vote, being required to register for the military draft, serve on a jury, etc., they also get the ability to make medical, educational and financial decisions on their own. If you are a parent who has maintained close control over your child, this loss of power may come as a shock to you and create a bewildering field of choices for them.    Your 18-year-old child will have control over their educational records in college as well as financial accounts – even if they are not paying for school. As a parent, this can be disconcerting, especially if your child chooses not to share their grades with you.    Healthcare control, including mental health issues, also transfer directly to the 18-year-old. Unless your child requests you to be contacted, they

Brown & Crona Team to Participate in Alzheimer’s Walk

The team at Brown & Crona, LLC is participating in the 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday, September 14 in Denver, Colorado. This marks our fourth year of participating in the event. This is a very meaningful cause for us because all of our team members have a loved one who has been personally impacted by Alzheimer’s or other dementias. In our estate planning firm, we often work with families as they cope with the ravages of this disease. Because it is a progressive disease, we are often able to help individuals designate agents under medical and financial powers of attorney early in the diagnosis stage so they can feel confident that they will be well cared for later in life. We are proud to be walking in honor of our personal families and our client families. At the writing of this blog, our team has raised $2,597 of

Learn More About Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs)

If you are over age 70½, have a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your IRA and have a desire to support a charitable cause, you should consider the use of a qualified charitable distribution (QCD). You may be unaware that you can donate up to $100,000 of your RMD directly to a charity without getting taxed on the distribution. Among other restrictions, the charity you want to support must be a qualified 501(c)(3) institution that is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. The Denver estate lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC have found an excellent resource to help you understand the many different factors, rules, strategy options that exist with QCDs and traditional charitable contributions and how to file taxes with a QCD: CQD PDF The author of the QCD resource, Cascade Financial Management, Inc., is a trusted financial resource in Denver for many of our clients. If you have questions

What is a limited guardianship and conservatorship?

When an adult is considered mentally or physically incapable of making their own decisions, then they are often referred to as being incapacitated. In such instances, the courts will often appoint a conservator to look after the financial needs of the individual, while a guardian would typically oversee this person’s physical needs.  You can think of both guardians and conservators as full-time substitute decisions makers.   They assist those whom the courts have considered to be incapable of making responsible decisions on their own.    There are instances when a person can still act in their own best interest in some areas of their lives, just not others. The Court could order such individuals to be under a limited guardianship or limited conservatorship to make decisions on their behalf – but only in the areas in which the incapacitated individual needs help.   In other words, the guardian may exercise

What is Supervised Probate?

Probate administration is a legal process that safeguards the estate or assets of a deceased person, ensuring they are distributed appropriately. This typically involves transferring the title of assets from the decedent to their devisees (recipients named in the will) or heirs (recipients named by law).   All wills and intestate estates must go through probate, but the degree to which the courts are involved can vary greatly, depending on the complexity of each case.     Whether or not your devisees or heirs will have to go through probate depends on how your assets were owned when you died. There are some cases when you might not have to go through this process because you either had a well-crafted estate plan or intestacy laws may not control the distribution of some or all of your assets.   Supervised probate, is a sub-category of probate administration and is often considered the

What are the duties of a conservator?

A conservator is appointed by the courts to help protect an individual who has been determined to be incapacitated and unable to manage his or her finances. A guardian is appointed by the court to manage the health and physical decisions for an incapacitated person. Those incapacitated persons are referred to as wards or protected persons. By their very nature, guardians and conservators have different roles they fill. For example, a guardian is responsible for a ward’s personal and medical needs, while a conservator is in charge of the incapacitated individual’s finances. But in general, a conservator typically would be asked to: Oversee a ward’s real estate and tangible personal property, determining whether they should be bought, held or sold Be placed in charge of investments in liquid assets (either by doing it themselves or by hiring a financial adviser) Manage bank accounts to handle monthly bill payments File a

Lawyers Just Wanna Have Fun!

Who says lawyers have to be stuffy? Sure, the Denver estate lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC “live their lives right.” They spend their working days helping people in our community protect their estates, plan for the futures of their loved ones and receive what is rightfully theirs. But “when the working day is done” (and even during our work days) we have fun! We love dinosaurs, superheroes, the Broncos, nature and many other things…and you’ll see these glimpses into our personalities when you visit our office. We feel it’s important to have a good personal connection to foster two-way communication with our clients. We want to get to know you and we want you to get to know us. So, whether you: Are just starting to think about creating a will in Denver… Need help performing estate administration… Want to contest a will… Are confused by probate litigation… Or

Who is an Incapacitated Adult?

A person 18 years of age or older who is incapable of effectively making/communicating decisions or receiving and/or evaluating information to such a degree that the individual lacks the ability to take care of their own basic needs including physical health, welfare and safety. If a judge determines that someone is legally incapacitated, the court has the authority to appoint a guardian or conservator to manage that person’s property and ensure their daily needs are met. A person can be considered legally incapacitated if they: Are unable to make rational decisions Lack the capability to engage in responsible actions Have been diagnosed with a mental and/or physical disability or illness Were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, causing temporary or permanent impairment Declarations of incapacitation vary state by state. While states also vary in the terminology used for this legal status (i.e. interdict, disabled person and incompetent), most states

What Does Protected Person Status Mean for Estate Planning?

There are certain individuals who need to be protected because they are unable to care for themselves. The most obvious example of this is a minor: a child under the age of 18 that is incapable of providing their own food and shelter. However, some adults also require protection such as those with mental or physical disabilities or any type of incapacitation that makes it unable for them to care for themselves and their finances. If the parent or caregiver of these individuals passes away, a court proceeding will be initiated that will give them the status of protected person. This type of court proceeding is sometimes referred to as a protected person proceeding.  In this case, the court will appoint a conservator and/or a guardian to manage the finances and/or well-being of the protected person. Conservator vs. Guardian The conservator will handle finances such as making safe investments, paying

What’s the Difference Between a Power of Attorney and a Conservator?

Both a power of attorney and a conservator are legal appointments made to help other people handle their financial affairs. The difference between the two lies in when these appointments are actually made. Power of Attorney: established before a person becomes incapacitated and is unable to make financial decisions on their own (a durable power of attorney will continue if the person becomes incapacitated in the future) Conservator: established after a person becomes incapacitated and is unable to make financial decisions on their own (this can be a general or limited conservatorship) An agent under power of attorney is named in a durable financial power of attorney. This is the ideal way to help protect your estate because you can choose the person you trust most with your financial well-being. In most cases, having a power of attorney in place will ensure that a conservatorship will not be needed.  In

Who Can Start the Probate Process in Colorado?

Executors of a will are tasked with the responsibility of initiating the probate process. These are individuals who have been specifically named in a deceased person’s will to handle all of the many duties surrounding estate administration. Probate isn’t meant to be a punishment for the executor and the beneficiaries. It is meant to ensure that the deceased person’s estate is distributed according to their wishes, thus protecting the money and property they worked so hard to amass over the years. One of the first tasks the executor will have is to locate the will and begin to determine what types of assets are held in the estate. This also includes debt. If the executor should uncover significant debt in the estate, they might decide to drag their heels in the probate process to delay the inevitable of paying off creditors. In this case, other people who have interest in

Do I Need a Lawyer to Administer a Trust?

Scenario: Someone you love has passed away and you just found out you have been named as the trustee to administer their trust. Do you need to hire a lawyer? Here’s a way to figure it out: YES, You Need a Lawyer NO, You Don’t Need a Lawyer The estate left behind is massive/worth millions. You are fully aware of all state and federal laws regarding trust administration and compliance. You expect people will contest the trust (litigation is likely). You know the complete list of beneficiaries, governmental entities and other organizations that must be notified of the person’s passing. You are overwhelmed and don’t have time to devote to the process. You know exactly how to obtain death certificates, file with courts, notify Social Security, inventory assets, etc. The trust has been deemed invalid. You have the ability to keep detailed records of financial matters (money moving in and

What is the Purpose of Estate Planning? To Show Your Estate Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Ten months after her death, Aretha Franklin is back in the news. In August 2018, it was reported that the legendary singer passed away without writing a will or trust. With an estate that was reportedly worth $80 million dollars and royalty money and future rights possibly adding to that amount, the estate would be left in the hands of the courts to decide how it should be distributed. Amazingly, three handwritten wills were recently discovered in a locked cabinet and under couch cushions in her Detroit-area home. Two were dated from 2010 and one was written in 2014. Also called holographic wills, handwritten wills are legal if they meet certain criteria and are deemed valid by the probate courts. Handwritten wills must be entirely handwritten, without any typed portions. They must be easy to decipher, clearly outlining how the estate should be managed and distributed. The holographic will must

How Do You Terminate a Conservatorship in Colorado?

Conservatorships do not have to last forever. There are circumstances when it becomes apparent that the role of conservator is no longer needed to protect the financial affairs of another individual under the Court’s supervision. Termination of a Colorado Conservatorship can be requested (either by the protected person or by the conservator) based on several situations: The protected person passes away The protected person turns 21 and is able to handle financial affairs on their own The protected person’s mental or physical capacity is restored, allowing them to handle their financial affairs There are not sufficient assets to warrant conservatorship As with most legal matters, it is necessary to file a petition with the courts to end a conservatorship. In Colorado, there are several legal forms that must be completed, depending on why you are requesting termination. All applicable sections of these forms must be completed and some require signatures

Is Probate Required if there is a Will?

In Colorado, there are two answers to the question “Is probate required if there is a will?” No: if the estate has certain types of assets that amount to less than $64,000 and there is no real property included in the estate. This is designated a Colorado small estate probate. Yes:  if the estate contains real property and/or contains probate assets more than $64,000 probate is required. There are two types of probate in Colorado. Informal: if there are no contests to a valid, will, the informal probate process can be utilized. Formal: if the will is contested, if there may be a dispute regarding who should serve as personal representative, if the will is invalid or if the will is questionable, a Colorado formal probate process may be required. While the Colorado probate process is fairly inexpensive and direct, there can be obstacles that draw out the process, adding considerable

How to Wrap Up a Trust Administration

Creating a trust is one way to ensure that your property, money and other assets will end up in the hands of the people you want to receive them. As part of the trust, it is recommended that you name a specific person, a trustee, to handle the duties of estate settlement after you pass away. The trustee should be someone you feel confident will be honest, organized and able to allocate the appropriate amount of time and energy for the many duties that surround this responsibility. Because a trust does not go through probate in the court system, it will be up to the trustee to ensure that the trust settlement process gets underway in a timely manner. While a lawyer might not be required to help with these steps, it can be very beneficial to have a professional help identify all of the necessary steps, file the appropriate

What is a Disposal of Last Remains?

No one likes to think about death – especially their own. However, it’s entirely possible that you have attended a funeral, memorial service or celebration of life where you felt uncomfortable with the process or the setting – silently thinking that you would have done things differently. If you want to have control over how others say their goodbyes to you in a formal or planned setting, it is important to fill out a Disposition of Last Remains document. The Colorado Declaration of Disposition of Last Remains form allows you to make decisions such as: How your body will be handled after you pass away: buried, cremated, entombed, etc. Ceremonial arrangements: funeral, memorial service, celebration of life, religious or non-religious ceremony, burial site, etc. Special instructions: donations to charity in lieu of flowers, no black at your service, no open casket, ceremony to be held at a specific location, instructions

What is a Pet Trust?

“Animals are sentient, intelligent, perceptive, funny and entertaining. We owe them a duty of care as we do to children.” Michael Morpurgo, English book author, poet, playwright & librettist Pets today are truly members of our family. We have birthday parties for them…we include them on holiday cards…we get them special beds and toys…we organize playdates…we get them massages…we even create social media pages for them. The bonds between pets and their owners are unmistakably strong, sometimes rivaling the bonds between parents and children. It only makes sense that people would want to protect their furry/feathery/scaly friends in the event they are unable to care for them anymore. A Pet Trust  is a legal document that allows you to name a guardian to care for your animal(s) in the event you become incapacitated or pass away. The trust can be quite detailed in the care instructions, even stating the preferred

Do You Need an Estate Tax Planning Lawyer?

The federal estate tax exemption limit has increased dramatically over the last few years. This is good news for many people! Estates that fall below a certain threshold of value will be exempt from estate taxes. For 2019, the federal estate tax exemption is: Under $11.40 million in assets (for a single person) Under $22.80 million in assets (for a married couple) An estate includes everything that you own such as your home(s), car(s), savings, stocks, cash, personal property, life insurance, retirement accounts, etc. An estate tax planning attorney can help you determine which of your assets are taxable and what total tax liability would be placed on your loved ones. This type of lawyer can also help you find ways around estate taxes such as developing a trust to shield your loved ones from estate taxes. Colorado Estate Tax Laws Colorado does not have an estate tax. In fact,

Finding an Estate Lawyer in Denver

Sometimes it’s the simplest online reviews that pack the most punch. When you are researching estate attorneys in the Denver metro area, you may come across simple reviews about the results and treatment at Brown & Crona, LLC – reviews like:  “Excellent!” and “Answered all our questions and completed work as promised.” These are two actual online reviews that really say it all when describing Nicole Economy Brown, Spencer J. Crona, and the support staff at Brown & Crona, LLC. In fact, the team regularly receives positive feedback from their clients. Here are just a few more statements that our clients have shared over the years: “We have trusted Nicole’s judgment for many years and highly recommend her.” “I can’t say enough about the dedication and genuine concern shown by both Spencer.” “Nicole is very professional and guided me throughout the entire process.” “Spencer enthusiastically works toward positive solutions in

What is Trustee Fiduciary Duty?

Trustees are individuals or institutions who are specifically named in a person’s trust to carry out certain duties. The trustee is responsible for managing the assets that are in the trust while that person is still living and after the person’s death. Being named as a trustee does not mean that you now inherit another person’s assets; you are simply responsible for managing the assets of the trust so the beneficiaries of the trust will ultimately receive what is due to them (as outlined in the trust). A trustee for a person who is still living person’s has many responsibilities including: Proper care: if the grantor (creator of the trust) is incapacitated, the trustee is responsible for distributing funds for the grantor’s wellbeing which could include medical insurance or other benefits to cover any costs associated with proper care. Record keeping: maintain accurate details of every transaction made or payments

Does Probate Require a Lawyer in Colorado?

The short answer to this question is: No. In the state of Colorado, you are not required to hire an attorney to help you with the probate process. In fact, executors of a will have the option to handle this process on their own. However, if you are not fully informed about the steps to take, the probate process can turn from quick and simple into a lengthy, complicated and expensive process – especially if litigation ensues.  The longer the probate process takes, there is a greater cost to the estate related to its administrative expenses.  Paperwork and attention to detail are the name of the game when it comes to probate. The courts will require that the executor perform these duties: Notify beneficiaries, heirs and creditors of the death Pay income and estate taxes Distribute assets to the beneficiaries Settle creditor claims Pay all outstanding and incoming bills and

Probate and Letters of Administration

When a person passes away, they may leave behind property and money that must be distributed to someone else. If the estate’s net worth hits a certain threshold, the estate will go through formal or informal probate based upon various factors.  The probate process is different depending on if the deceased had created a will (or if the deceased died intestate, meaning they died without a will). Probate is the legal process of estate evaluation, confirmation and distribution. In Colorado, an estate may not be necessary if the deceased had assets titled in their name alone that are worth less than $66,000 and owns no real property.  Assets that are held as joint tenants or have beneficiary designations typically do not count.  If that person wrote a valid last will and testament, they may have named an executor for their estate within the will. This is the person who will

Is a Handwritten Will Valid in Colorado?

A Holographic Will: This sounds like something right out of Star Wars. Does a holographic will mean you can record yourself reading your will and then have your 3D talking image projected through a droid after you pass away? Unfortunately, the answer is no for a couple of reasons: Princess Leia’s 3D projection from R2-D2 wasn’t actually a hologram, it was a “3D light printed image” or volumetric image, according to electrical and engineering professor, Daniel Smalley. (Although some people will argue that Leia’s projection IS a hologram.) A holographic will actually means a handwritten will. In this age of computers, word processing software, text messaging and internet accessibility, the idea of a handwritten anything seems outdated. However, handwritten wills are still being discovered and they are still being written by some individuals. The good news is that handwritten wills are valid in Colorado – if they are done correctly.

What Does Intestate Mean?

The legal term of intestate means to die without having written a valid last will and testament. If you die intestate in Colorado, your closest living relatives will receive the assets you personally owned as outlined in intestate succession laws. These decisions are based on your home life when you die – whether or not you are married, have children, have living parents, etc.   There are a number of pitfalls that can occur in these situations: Your relatives will be identified and your assets divided among them, regardless of the relationship you may or may not have had with those individuals while you were living. (You may not want your deadbeat son to get any of your property.) The guardianship of your dependent children may be decided by the courts. While the courts will try to identify the best people to raise your children, these may not be the

Can I Put My House in a Trust?

The short answer to this question is: Yes. Many people choose to put their home(s) in a trust. Your house does not have to be worth millions to make this a viable option. One of the main reasons people choose to do this is to help their loved ones avoid the probate process after they pass away. Any assets placed into a trust, including a home, will not be subject to probate which can free your loved ones of the costs, time and hassles of this process. If you own property in another state, it is usually a good idea to title the property in the name of your revocable trust to save the time, expense and possible inheritance taxes in the state in which your property is located. Types of Trusts Revocable Living Trusts in Denver: These documents can be amended or revoked at any time: you can change/add

How Does a Testamentary Trust Work?

Parents want to protect their children from harm at the hands of others, but sometimes they also need to protect their children from their own tendencies to make bad choices. Assume for a moment that you have a child that has any one or a combination of these personality traits: Lives beyond their means Addicted to shopping or gambling Addicted to drugs or alcohol Mentally immature and easily conned Inability to save money Has a list of creditors Unhealthy relationship choices If this person was to inherit a large sum of money or property all at once, there is a very good chance that the inheritance would be gone in a matter of months or a few short years. Your loved one could be left with nothing. Creating a testamentary trust in Colorado is one way to try to help beneficiaries help themselves. A testamentary trust allows you to place

What are Trust Services?

Trust services have nothing to do with gathering up faith or confidence in something…or do they? In a way, trust services are just that. Let’s delve further. Trust services, or trust administration, refers to the handling of your estate after you have passed away or are incapacitated (if you have created a trust as opposed to a last will and testament). Trust administration is handled by a trustee.  This legal appointment can be made by the creator of the trust or by the courts (if no one is named or if the person who is named has also passed away). A trustee can also hired a lawyer to assist them with the administration of the trust.  This can be beneficial if the estate is quite large and/or there is a great potential for contests to the trust. Since the trustee is in charge of so much, you most certainly want

Living Will & Medical Power of Attorney: Same or Different?

Happy 2019! As you establish your New Year’s resolutions to get healthy, lose weight, stop smoking, get a better job, etc., take time to plan for your future. Creating a will or trust is something that every adult should do – regardless of how wealthy you are. It’s a way to protect your assets, large or small, and make sure your possessions go to the people you love most. Although we don’t like thinking about “what ifs,” the New Year is also a great time to put plans into place in case of a medical emergency. We’re talking about mental or physical debilitations that will make it difficult or impossible for you to express your medical care preferences. There are two different legal documents/designations that can be drafted – well in advance of any type of medical situation – that will provide different levels of direction and protection for potential

Do Legal Guardians Get Paid?

A legal guardian is a person who is put in charge of caring for and making decisions on behalf of another person (referred to as a ward). A ward can be a minor or an incapacitated adult who is incapable of caring for themselves or making decisions related to their medical care.  The guardian can be thought of as a stand-in parent, responsible for providing well-rounded education, healthcare and mental health, healthy living arrangements, social engagements, assistance with bills, emotional support, spiritual needs, etc. The guardian can be another family member or a professional guardian that is appointed by the courts. Because this responsibility can be quite costly and time consuming, legal guardians are entitled to receive reasonable compensation to help cover the costs of caring for another human being. (Family members often do not request compensation.) The Colorado Probate Code states that any compensation paid to a fiduciary, including

Do Conservators of an Estate Get Paid?

If you have been named a conservator of an estate by the courts, this means you have been selected to handle the financial affairs on behalf of an incapacitated adult who is still living. This can occur if the incapacitated adult did not specify an agent under durable financial power of attorney. While appointment as a conservator or agent under power of attorney should be viewed as the highest compliment, it also comes with a lot of responsibility. As such, conservators are entitled to compensation from the estate and they can also seek legal assistance to help with these duties (also paid for by the estate). The Colorado Probate Code states that any compensation paid to a fiduciary, including a Conservator, must be reasonable.  There are a series of factors to be determined under the statute when it comes to arriving at a reasonable figure including any “special skills” that

What’s the Difference Between a Will and Estate Planning?

To understand the difference between a will and an estate plan, think of your will as one piece of a larger puzzle that encompasses more than just how you want your possessions divided and distributed. A full estate plan will include directives such as: Specifically named people to care for your minor children or adult children with disabilities Distribution of your estate to specific beneficiaries or charities you name Powers of attorney which name agents to make financial or healthcare decisions for you if you should become incapacitated Advance directive, also known as a living will, to let your family know what types of life-sustaining measures you want implemented or avoided if you should become unable to make those decisions known (so they don’t have to make these excruciatingly difficult decisions) The creation of a trust (in some situations) to allow your family to avoid probate, save on estate taxes,

6 Common Reasons for Estate Litigation in Denver

Sometimes the death of a person sets off a chain reaction of others coming in to stake their claim on a portion of the estate. Even if you have a valid will, anyone can legally challenge how it is written. Estate litigation can be filed by: People who are included in the will (those who think they deserve more than what was specified in the will) Those who are left out of the will (ex-spouses, stepchildren, business partners, creditors, caregivers, etc.) This can happen to estates of any size and any value. The situation gets even stickier if the deceased did not create a will and the courts end up distributing the estate pursuant to the law of intestacy. Common Reasons For Estate Litigation Greed, self-entitlement, family infighting: you may think that these are the only reasons why a person would sue to get more from a deceased person’s estate.

Living Will vs. Advance Directive

An advance care directive is a set of instructions made in advance to state how you would like to be cared for if you should become incapacitated in the future – or when you pass away. There are several different types of advance directives in Colorado: Living will Medical durable power of attorney Declaration of Disposition of Last Remains Living Will A living will is a legal document that outlines how you wish to receive medical care in the event you are unable to communicate your wishes. For example, you may have very specific wishes surrounding emergency care or end-of-life care such as: Mechanical ventilation to breathe Cardiopulmonary resuscitation Dialysis Tube feeding Organ or tissue donor Donate your body for scientific research Spending last days at home You may state that you want only certain types of medical care administered and others not carried out at all. Or you may

What is an Emergency Conservatorship?

An emergency conservatorship in Colorado can be requested if a person (Respondent) is involved in an accident or has a condition that leaves them unable to make decisions, communicate or perform daily functions related to their finances. This incapacitation will make it impossible for the person to pay bills, manage their property, etc. A loved one or close family friend can petition the courts to request emergency conservatorship to help the person protect their financial affairs and estate. This may be a temporary appointment that is revoked when the person is able to return to their lives in a healthy manner. An emergency conservator can be converted to a permanent conservator if the Respondent’s condition does not improve to the level that they manage their property. How to Request Emergency Conservatorship in Denver A Denver conservatorship lawyer can help you take the proper steps to request an emergency conservatorship. This

What is Business Law?

Business law encompasses all of the state and federal laws and regulations that surround starting, purchasing, running and selling a business. This can also involve how to file for bankruptcy. Regardless of your company size, it is advisable to hire a Denver business attorney to help you understand the legal steps you should take to protect your business and your personal life. For example, if you form a limited liability company (LLC), your business will not be tied to your personal assets. If someone takes legal action against your business, they cannot also go after your personal assets. There are many other examples of how a business lawyer can help protect you such as identifying paperwork to handle employee situations, how to keep proper records, how to control your finances and much more. A business lawyer will help you understand the specific laws surrounding things like: Establishing the right type

Who Will Carry Out Your Wishes Specified in Your Living Will?

A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a legal document that you can create to show your loved ones how you want your life handled if you become incapacitated due to injury, trauma, disease or other health conditions. We never know what the future holds for our lives; a living will allows you to take the burden of difficult decision-making off your loved ones if you become seriously ill and unable to make decisions for yourself. A living will is a proactive measure to direct your loved ones about how and when to continue medical treatment for you. Some people strongly oppose artificial life-sustaining measures such as life support, tube feeding, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, dialysis, palliative care, etc., because it simply prolongs the inevitable. If you feel this way, you can state in your living will that you do not want this type of medical care – or

What is a Personal Representative in Estate Planning?

A personal representative in estate planning is also called an executor. When you create a last will and testament, it is advised that you name a personal representative in your documents that will be responsible for ensuring the instructions in your will are carried out. That person needs to be organized and willing to take the appropriate steps with the courts and within the estate to settle your estate. There are a lot of responsibilities that go along with this appointment, so it is important to choose a personal representative you feel will be honest, efficient and motivated to get the job done right. Duties of a Personal Representative Obtain the latest version of a will Alert family members, creditors, etc., of the person’s death File the necessary paperwork with the probate court Locate and determine the value of all of the assets, including physical property and accounts (accounts such

Probate Horror Story #20: Series Recap

Welcome to the 20th (and final) blog in our series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. The fact that we have been able to share this many different types of probate horror stories should drive home the importance of creating a comprehensive estate plan that will do the very best to protect your assets and your family. If you have missed any (or all) of our previous probate horror blogs over the past 19 months, here is a short recap of the fictional situations (based on real life issues) we have covered in our series: Week 1: Estranged Parents. A person passes away without a will, so the estate goes to the closest surviving family members: his estranged parents. All of his possessions would go to the two people he had not had contact with for years – the two people he would not want to

Why Create a Trust, Rather than a Will

Many people will tell you that one of the main benefits of creating a living trust, rather than a will, is because the probate process is completely avoided upon your death. This is only true if your living trust is fully funded with all of your assets prior to your death.  If this is the case, it could result in a quicker distribution of your assets to your beneficiaries, as outlined in your trust. In reality, there are other advantages of creating a trust in Colorado – and you don’t have to have a large estate to make it worthwhile. Here are some facts to consider when estate planning: Unlike a will that is made public upon your death, this is a private document. Only your beneficiaries will know the contents of your trust. This may minimize the number of creditors that come knocking for payments. Although ownership of your

How Does a Living Will Differ from a Will?

A living will is completely different from a last will and testament. A living will outlines what type of medical care you want to receive while you are still living while a last will and testament states how you want your estate distributed and dependents cared for after you pass away. Both are legal documents, but one goes into effect while you are living and the other after you have passed away. You can think of a living will in Colorado as a document that tells your loved ones how you want to live if you are unable to tell them (or your doctors) on your own. For example, if you are in a car accident or contract a disease that leaves you unable to communicate, your living will can remove the burden of deciding your medical care from your loved ones. You can state in your living will whether

Probate Horror Story #19: Forgotten Valuables

Welcome to the 19th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered the potential problems that can occur if the executor you choose declines the responsibility. This month features how valuables left out of a will can cause tax problems down the road. Fictional Situation: Marty 77-year-old widower Suffered from early signs of dementia 3 adult children residing in different states Avid collector of antiques Created a will Marty loved reliving the past by purchasing antiques at auctions, estate sales and even yard sales. Because he had such an extensive collection, he decided not to list out the value each specific item in his will. Instead, he and his lawyer worked together to lump his collection into a personal property category, placing a ballpark monetary value on the entire collection. Unfortunately, Marty began to have lapses in memory and was

Perfect Gift for Small Business Owner: Business Attorney

If there is a small business owner in your life – or if you are a small business owner – one of the best gifts you can receive (or gift to yourself) is that of legal stability. In other words, the gift of a business attorney. Whether you are just starting a business or have been going strong for years, there are always legal complications that can arise that can threaten your livelihood. In fact, there are some situations you may never even think about that could lead to financial ruin. A Denver business attorney can help your small business identify common pitfalls and create safeguards to protect your company. Here are just a few legal situations that are best handled by a business attorney in Colorado: Lawsuits over employee situations such as discrimination, worker’s compensation or personal injury Fraud from business partners or even customers Challenges over intellectual property

Do You Have a Living Will?

If you’ve created a will while you are still living, you’ve created a living will, right? Wrong. A living will serves a different purpose than a traditional will. A will is a legal document that allows you to specify how and to whom you want your estate – all of your personal belongings and money – distributed after you die. A will only goes into effect after you pass away. In contrast, a living will goes into effect while you are still living. It’s a way for you to plan ahead for any future emergency that may occur. Let’s say you get into an accident or fall victim to a disease that leaves you incapacitated – one that makes it impossible for you to communicate with your loved ones or your doctors. There are many different medical technologies and procedures that can be performed to keep you alive – even

Probate Horror Story #18: Runaway Executor

Welcome to the 18th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered how greed can lead to major legal battles after a loved one passes away. This month looks at the potential problems that can occur if the executor you choose declines the responsibility. Fictional Situation: Patricia 89-year-old widow 2 adult children that do not speak to each other 4 adult grandchildren Owns several properties and valuable possessions Created a will and named a friend as the executor Try as she could, Patricia could never get her adult children to see eye-to-eye on any matter. When she was creating her will, she knew that she could not name one of her children as the executor of her will and she certainly could not name them as co-executors. To try to remedy that situation, Patricia named a family friend, Molly, as

What Assets Can Be Included in an Estate?

When you start thinking about creating a will, you may think that you don’t really have an estate. You may visualize an estate as being a sprawling, hundred-acre property filled with priceless antiques. In reality, everything you own is part of your estate. Your estate can be worth a vast fortune or consist of smaller, sentimental items that you want passed down to your loved ones in a specific way. Your estate may include: Homes Cars Watercraft Aircraft Rental properties Furniture Artwork Jewelry Tools Musical instruments Fitness equipment Clothing Bank accounts Retirement plans Businesses Investments The list goes on and on. If you have items that you want passed down to specific individuals, it is best to note that in your will or trust. For example, you can leave your fitness equipment to your friend from the gym, your furniture to your son, your tools to your daughter, etc. It

Colorado Guardianship vs. Parental Rights

A guardian in Colorado is a person chosen to care for children under age 18 or adult children with special needs in the event that their biological parent(s) cannot do so. Guardianship also takes effect after the parent(s) pass away. For this blog, we will focus on guardianship when the parent(s) are still living. Reasons Why a Guardian May Be Appointed In the case of living parents, a guardian may be appointed for their children if the parents: Are mentally or physically unable to care for the children Abuse drugs or alcohol Put the safety of the children at risk Provide unsafe or unsanitary living conditions Are abusive Cannot or will not properly care for the child Guardianship of the children may be requested by the parents themselves or by a concerned family member, friend or other person who feels the children are in danger. Guardians Take on a Nurturing

Probate Horror Story #17: Greedy In-Laws

Welcome to the 17th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered the possibility of infighting over the inheritance (or exclusion) among stepparents, natural children and stepchildren. This month we will look at how greed can lead to major legal battles after a loved one passes away. Fictional Situation: Rodney Widower 3 adult children, all married Owns free-and-clear his home, a lake house and 2 cars Created a will Over his lifetime, Rodney had many successes. He fell in love with his high school sweetheart; they married and had 3 children. He was also a successful doctor, so he had accumulated many material possessions that he wanted to pass down to his children. After his wife passed away, he modified his will to make sure that each child received an equal share of his estate. When Rodney’s mobility began to

Meet Your Denver Lawyers

Estate planning in Colorado encompasses more than just creating a will. There are many situations to consider when you are making plans to protect your family and distribute your assets after you are gone. For your unique situation, it might be more beneficial to create a specific type of trust that meets your exact circumstances. You might be faced with estate litigation. You may need to create a new business entity. Because estate planning is a constantly moving process, having a trusted team of experts on your side will help streamline any changes you need to incorporate into your plan. The Denver estate planning lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC have the extensive experience to handle simple and complex estate and trust administration matters for people of all ages and financial statuses. Nicole Economy Brown Ms. Brown received her J.D. in Law with honors from the University of Florida. She

Thank You for the Music, Aretha

The entire team at Brown & Crona, LLC were saddened by the news of the passing of legendary singer Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul had an amazing career and her music will continue to enrich the lives of anyone that listens. Thank you, Aretha, for the music. It’s hard to imagine the wealth of estate she must have accumulated over the years, but we have seen estimates that the estate may be worth $80 million dollars. This amount could actually grow over time with royalty money and as people scramble to purchase her music post-mortem. Unfortunately, it has been reported that she did not leave a will or trust. Her 4 sons stand to inherit her wealth in equal shares since she was not married at the time of her passing. However, right now her estate is in the hands of the court. And Aretha’s sons will have to

How Hard is the Colorado Bar Exam?

To become a licensed lawyer in the state of Colorado, students must pass the Colorado Bar Exam. This is a very intensive and difficult 2-day exam that truly assesses the knowledge of each student. This Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) used in Colorado consists of three sections. Day 1 (Morning): Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) This 3-hour exam tests the student’s knowledge of different topics related to a wide variety of subjects such as trusts and estates, family law, agencies and partnerships, torts, conflict of laws, real property, evidence, contracts, criminal law and much more. In order to answer the 6 essay questions in the time allotted, the student must be extremely well versed in all of these topics. Even if they do not plan to practice law in some of the specialties listed, they must show a working knowledge of the law overall. This portion of the exam is worth 30%

Probate Horror Story #16: Feuds with Stepmothers

Welcome to the 16th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered the potential pitfalls of blended families without a will. This month looks at the possibility of infighting over the inheritance (or exclusion) among step-parents, natural children and stepchildren. Fictional Situation: Darren Divorced and remarried to Jocelyn Has 2 adult children from previous marriage Jocelyn has 1 adult child Has created a will When Darren remarried, he updated his will to state that Jocelyn would receive his estate. If Jocelyn should pass away before him, all of his assets would be divided equally among the 3 adult children. When Darren passed away first, all of his assets were legally dispersed to Jocelyn. As the stepmother of Darren’s 2 adult children, Jocelyn did not give any of the estate to her stepchildren at the time of his passing. Instead, Jocelyn

How Does a Will Become Operative?

People make wills to ensure that their estate (large or small) is passed on to family members, friends, charitable organizations and others they care about deeply. Anyone can create a will and the recipients are often completely unaware they are included in the will. There are some instances, however, when a person will create a will and share the contents with others. For example, Aunt Sally can inform her grandson that he stands to inherit a lump sum of $10,000 in the future from her. If this gift is included as part of her will, can Aunt Sally’s grandson get access to that cash whenever he wants it? The answer is no (unless Aunt Sally decides to gift it to him before she passes away). A will only becomes operative upon the death of the creator – in this case, Aunt Sally. However, this process does not magically happen. Upon

Is a Self-Made Will Legal if it is Notarized?

According to the National Notary Association (NNA), notarization is “the official fraud-deterrent process that assures the parties of a transaction that a document is authentic and can be trusted.” It stands to reason that if you write a will by yourself and have it notarized it would be completely legal…right? Not necessarily. For example, if you hand-wrote your will (created a holographic will) and did not follow the requirements for this type of document, simply having it notarized will not automatically make it legal. One requirement is that it be completely handwritten (no part typed or printed from a computer). Another requirement is that it is signed by the testator. If those two requirements are ignored, the notarization will not help. However, if you have created a will on your own using online software or other will programs, it may be advisable to have the will notarized. In Colorado it

What is a Revocable Living Trust?

A revocable living trust allows you to specify in writing how you want your assets distributed after your death. It also allows you to specify a person to manage portions of your estate while you are living and if you become unable to do this for yourself. How a Revocable Living Trust Differs from a Will This is a private document that is not made public after your death (unlike a will). The estate will not go through probate after you pass away; a specific person, called a trustee, is designated in the trust to distribute your estate per your written instructions. Other Benefits of a Revocable Living Trust The document can be altered at any time as long as you still have capacity. Beneficiaries can be changed or added, assets can be reallocated to different beneficiaries, etc. You still have access to and control of your property while you

Probate Horror Story #15: Blended Families

Welcome to the 15th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered how inheritance can be affected when there are multiple marriages in the mix. This month we will focus on a potential pitfall of blended families without a will. Fictional Situation: Alice, Joe & Brandon Alice & Joe, married for 10 years, 2 children, divorced Alice & Joe: no will or trust Brandon, divorced, 2 children Alice & Brandon, remarried together, had 1 child together Alice & Brandon: 5 adult children between them Alice & Brandon: no will or trust When Alice and Joe were married, they quickly started a family and found themselves busy with the life they were building together. Making a will was always on the To Do list, but never actually done. As time went on and Alice and Joe drifted apart, they ultimately decided

When Should I Apply for Limited Conservatorship?

Conservatorship is granted to an individual to help protect an incapacitated person’s financial affairs and estate. Limited conservatorship is a legal appointment that protects an adult with developmental or cognitive disabilities while allowing that person to maintain their independence as much as possible. A family member or trusted family friend can establish a limited conservatorship for a person with cognitive impairment or a developmental disability. This gives the protected person the freedom to live life with a sort of safety net. The limited conservatorship can provide these types of assistance: Assisting with securing the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing Paying bills Managing investments Marriage consent Transportation needs The goal with a limited conservatorship is to allow the protected person to live the comfortable life they choose, as much as possible. The process to set up a limited conservatorship in Denver can be complicated. In order to get the

Is a Handwritten Will Legal?

A handwritten will is also called a holographic will. Handwritten wills are legal in Colorado but there are a few requirements: It must be completely handwritten It cannot be typed; any typed portions can make the statutes on holographic wills not apply It must clearly indicate how you want your property and material possessions distributed (and to whom) It must be signed by the person that wrote it (the testator) Witnesses are not necessary in the state of Colorado It does not need to be notarized in the state of Colorado It does not need to be dated in the state of Colorado While it is not typically advised to write a holographic will, there are some instances when this is the only way to express your wishes. For example, if you are in a life-threatening situation that you do not expect to survive, you may jot down your wishes

Types of Business Entities

The entrepreneurial spirit lives in some people. From humble beginnings running a lemonade stand or lawn mowing service, the feeling of receiving payment for hard work sparks a fire that can grow into big things later in life. If you have taken the leap to build your own business, you need to decide what type of entity you want to create. Do you want to be your own boss? Do you want to do it all? Are you comfortable letting others make business decisions on behalf of your company? These are all questions that will come into play as you navigate the different types of business entities available. Types of For-Profit Business Entities Sole proprietorship Corporations S Corporation Partnerships Limited partnership Limited liability companies (LLC) Sole Proprietorship A sole proprietorship has an emphasis on the word sole. As the business owner, you will make all decisions regarding your business. This

Do You Have to Go Through Probate if You Have a Will?

If you have written a will, either on your own or through an attorney, you may think that your surviving family will be spared the hassles of probate. If your assets amount to less than $66,000 and your estate contains no real property, it is true there may not be any probate action necessary. However, if your estate is over that limit, it will be necessary to open a probate estate with the Court.  There may be an informal probate process – even if your will is uncontested and the heirs/beneficiaries are all in agreement. Although the probate process in Colorado is a fairly economical and straightforward process, it is still advisable to have an attorney on your side to guide you through the process. In contrast, a formal probate proceeding will absolutely be necessary if the will is contested or if it is considered invalid or questionable. For formal

How to Settle an Estate with a Will: S-E-T-T-L-E-D

While it is easier to settle an estate that has a valid and legally-binding will, there are still many different steps involved in this process. To help boil down some of the steps, you may want to use the acronym SETTLED to help somewhat simplify the plan. The SETTLED Method S: Search for the will in the deceased person’s home, office, safe deposit box, vacation home, friend’s house, family member’s house or anywhere you think the document may be kept. E: Establish an inventory list of all of the person’s assets. This will help to set the total value of the estate. This will most likely be a very extensive list that could include a home, vacation home, cars, boats, jewelry, furniture, antiques, artwork, rental properties, land, stocks, bonds, checking/savings accounts, etc. Hone your spreadsheet skills! T: Tell the legal system about the person’s death. This can be accomplished by

Probate Horror Story #14: Multiple Marriages

Welcome to the 14th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered the unlucky estate fate of a small family that passes away without a will. This month we are focusing on how inheritance can be affected when there are multiple marriages in the mix. Fictional Situation: Arnold 2 ex-wives 2 children with each ex-wife (total of 4 children with ex-wives) Currently married 2 children with his current wife Created a will when married to first wife, never updated it Over the past 15 years, Arnold has been in several relationships. Having met his first wife in college, they quickly started a family and realized that they needed to create a will to protect their assets and provide for their 2 children. However, life often throws relationships curve balls and Arnold and his first wife divorced. In a whirlwind romance,

6 Questions to Ask an Estate Planning Lawyer

With so many lawyers in Colorado, it can be difficult to know which one is right for your unique situation when it comes to estate planning. When deciding on an estate planning lawyer, you should get to know members of the legal team, discuss your individual estate planning needs and, most importantly, ask questions. If you are investing in legal help, you want to make sure your money is being well spent. Here are 6 questions to ask estate planning lawyers in Colorado during your initial meeting: Is estate planning your specialty? How many years have you practiced estate planning in Colorado? Will the work on my case be handled by you or others in your office? Do you charge an hourly rate or a flat fee for services? Can you provide a list of client references? What sets you apart from other estate planning lawyers in Colorado? Don’t feel

How Do You Amend a Will in Denver?

If you have made a last will and testament, kudos! You have taken a very important step in protecting your estate and providing for your family after you are gone. However, this should not be a static, one-and-done document. Things change – life circumstances change – and those changes often need to be reflected in your will. Reasons to Amend a Will There are many different circumstances that can warrant changing your will in Colorado: Marriage or divorce Birth or adoption of children Death of loved ones named in your will Purchase or sale of expensive things (home, car, boat, etc.) Significant change in relationships with other people named in your will (beneficiaries, executors, power of attorney, medical power of attorney, etc.) Shift in values that may alter ancillary documents (living will, funeral arrangements, etc.) Codicil vs. New Will If you need to make only minor edits to your will,

How Long Does it Take to Settle an Estate in Denver?

When people pass away, their earthly possessions (bank accounts, cars, homes, household items, clothing, insurance policies, etc.) must go somewhere. Otherwise, there would be abandoned property everywhere! In addition, their outstanding debts must be paid. All of the duties surrounding the distribution of a deceased person’s assets (as well as financial restitution) is legally referred to as settling the estate. If the deceased person has a will or trust, an executor or trustee will be named in the documents to handle the many responsibilities that surround estate settlement. The executor/trustee should be extremely trustworthy and capable of spending the proper amount of time and energy for these duties. This leads us to the question, “How long does it take to settle an estate?” Unfortunately, there is simply no single answer to this question. While the typical estate settlement process in Denver will take 6 months to one year, there are

Probate Horror Story #13: The Only Child Pitfall

Welcome to the 13th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered the best way to set up your IRA beneficiaries. This month, we will look at the unlucky estate fate of a small family that passes away without a will. Fictional Situation: Mark & Ella Mark and Ella, married, both in their early 70s 1 adult daughter, single, no children No will Own a home, 2 cars, 2 vacation homes Traveled extensively No living relatives Active with charity work Mark and Ella were a happily-married couple with one adult child. Over their lifetimes they worked hard, invested wisely and were able to retire very comfortably. In addition to taking their adult daughter on lavish trips, they also spent much time enjoying their 2 vacation homes and attending charity functions. Because they assumed that their estate would naturally be passed

Is a Business Lawyer Really Necessary for a Small Business?

It’s almost always better to be proactive, rather than reactive. This is especially important when you are running a small business. While enlisting the services of a business attorney in Denver might seem like overkill for certain tasks such as writing a business plan or securing the appropriate permits and licenses, there are other areas that will best be handled by a trained professional. In fact, a business lawyer might alert you to potential legal problems that you had never thought about. When sticky legal situations arise, your business will be in a better position to act swiftly to resolve those issues if you have already established a relationship with a business lawyer. For example, your small business could find itself the center of: Discrimination lawsuits Disputes with contractors, vendors and business partners Customer or business partner fraud Lawsuits over intellectual property rights Worker’s compensation or personal injury lawsuits Wrongful

Pitfall of Transferring Your Home Before Entering a Nursing Home

The homes in which we live can carry great sentimental value. Beyond simply providing adequate shelter, they can have beautiful memories of a new wife being carried over the threshold…a child’s first steps…family game nights…backyard barbeques…or just lazy days with a good book. These happy associations with a home can pass down through generations. As a result, it is not surprising that many people elect to transfer the ownership of their homes to their children or other family members. This is an amazing gesture that can bring decades of joy to your family (and lead to even more names to the hand-written growth chart you have on a wall!). Unfortunately, it can also bring years of financial distress. If you transfer ownership of your home to a loved one, and within 5 years (60 months) have to move into a nursing home for long-term care, you may lose some of

Probate Horror Story #12: IRA Beneficiaries

Welcome to the 12th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered what could happen if you use certain wording in your will that leaves part of your estate to unworthy beneficiaries. This month we are discussing the best way to set up your IRA beneficiaries. Fictional Situation: Jonesy 57-year-old widower 2 adult children Has an updated will Has credit card debt and an upside-down mortgage Set up an individual retirement account (IRA) Jonsey had not made the best financial decisions over the course of his life. Despite his poor choices, he did manage to set up an IRA and had created a will to help protect some of his assets. Unfortunately, Jonsey designated that his estate be the beneficiary of his IRA. While this may sound like a logical move, it actually backfired for his family after his death.

What is a Probate Administrator?

When a person passes away, their estate (all of their possessions, not just their money) must be distributed to someone. It is necessary for the duties that surround this task to be appointed to a specific person to ensure that personal property and financial accounts are not left in limbo. When the deceased person has a legal will and has specifically named a person to handle these tasks, that person is called an executor of the will. However, if the deceased person has not created a will or has created a will but has not chosen a person to be their executor, in certain circumstances, the probate court could appoint a special administrator to handle these tasks. Duties of a Special Administrator Move through the probate process Maintain property of the deceased Pay all outstanding bills, debts, taxes, etc. Move bank accounts into a new estate account Notify Social Security

Starting a Business? Here are 6 Legal Documents You Need.

Having a great idea is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to starting a new business in Denver. When planning for success, it’s definitely an uphill battle: 20% of small businesses fail in the first year of operation and 50% fail by the fifth year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Business Employment Dynamics. While there is no way to guarantee success for your business, there are legal measures you should take as soon as possible to reduce some of your risk. Here are 6 legal documents you should craft right away: Comprehensive, well-thought-out business plan. This document should include your business goals and how you plan to achieve those goals. Besides an executive summary and overall description of your business, this plan should also include information on your competitors, an analysis of your financial projections, hiring practices, operational plans and strategies for marketing. Legal structure

What Happens to a Trust After Death?

Legal documents such as wills and trusts exist to help people protect their estates and provide for their families after they are gone. When you create and fund a trust, you are taking extra measures to keep your estate out of the probate system and, in the case of an irrevocable trust, potentially help your family save on estate taxes. It is important to note that, unlike a will, a trust will likely not become public after your death. During creation of a trust, you will name an trustee to handle the management of your estate and the distribution of your assets after you pass away. The trustee must be ready to step in after death to handle a number of responsibilities including: Notifications: the trustee will notify beneficiaries, government entities and other organizations of the person’s death. This includes Social Security Administration, the Department of Health, Veterans Affairs, life/health

Probate Horror Story #11: Unworthy Beneficiaries

Welcome to the 11th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month our topic covered what could happen if you unintentionally left a child out of your will. This month we are focusing on what could happen if you use certain wording in your will that leaves part of your estate to unworthy beneficiaries. Fictional Situation: Clara 77-year-old widowed grandmother 3 adult children 7 grandchildren (not in contact with 2 of them) Created a will, but had not updated it in 15 years Wording in her will included per stirpes for beneficiaries Clara is a doting mother and grandmother – to most of her grandchildren. Unfortunately, over the past 5 years, 2 of her grandchildren chose a path in life that led them to crime and drug use. As a result, Clara has severed all ties with those 2 individuals. When her husband