5 essential pieces of your estate plan

Too many people believe estate planning is only for the wealthy - in fact, a recent survey shows only four out of 10 American adults have a will or trust in place. However, everyone can benefit from planning for how their property and other assets are taken care of after they die.

Without a legal plan in place, estates worth at least $50,000 must go before a probate court here in Colorado where a judge will decide who gets what and how much. Estate planning also gives family members or a trusted agent the ability to carry out your wishes if you are unable to do so while you are still alive.

Crucial estate planning decisions

There are several documents and designations to consider when putting an estate plan in place, including:

  • Wills and trusts: A will is the most basic estate planning document and, regardless of your net worth, makes sure the assets you have are distributed according to your wishes. Trusts can help an estate avoid taxes and some legal challenges and can also keep your estate private while passing directly to heirs.
  • Durable power of attorney: This document names a family member or another trusted agent to make financial decisions for you if you become injured or ill and are unable to make those decisions for yourself.
  • Healthcare power of attorney: Also known as a healthcare proxy, this person is usually a spouse or other close family member who can make medical decisions if you become incapacitated.
  • Designated guardian: If you have young children at home, choosing a guardian to raise them if both parents die is essential for their well-being. Many trusts and wills include this provision.
  • Living will: This document, which is also called an advance directive, details your wishes for end-of-life medical care, including the types of procedures and medicines you want to try to extend your life. A healthcare proxy is a type of advance directive.

Seek legal guidance for your estate planning needs

Whether you want to draft a will or look into the benefits of a trust, consulting an experienced estate planning attorney here in Colorado will help protect you and your family by finding a plan that fits your needs. Your attorney can help you not only plan for how your assets are distributed when you are no longer here but make sound financial decisions for you and your family's care for many healthy and happy years to come.

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