Evaluating the Necessity of a Colorado Estate Plan
Preparing an estate plan is not mandatory for anyone. Contrary to what many believe, the government will not take your assets after you die if you do not have a will. Colorado has, by statute, dictated who will inherit and in what shares and amounts if someone dies without a will. Only in rare circumstances will someone’s estate “escheat” to the state. It is also true that some families can get by without a power of attorney.
However, intentionally forgoing an estate plan leaves a great deal to chance and may very well cost you and your loved ones more in the long run. Many individuals, mainly surviving family members, may not believe that the default rules of inheritance match what they think a deceased person wanted, leading to strained family relationships, if not outright litigation.
It is also common for family members to disagree upon what properly honors a deceased loved one when arranging their burial and funeral. Furthermore, suppose a person becomes incapacitated but has not prepared powers of attorney. In that case, concerned family members would likely have to apply to the Courts to become someone’s judicially appointed guardian and/or conservator.
Guardianships and Conservatorships are always judicial proceedings and will require a hearing. It can take upwards of a month or more for this hearing to occur and is fertile ground for interested persons to litigate over who is best qualified to serve as guardian and conservator.
These risks for strife and litigation are exceptionally high for blended families, such as where a parent has remarried later in life but has children from a prior marriage. For instance, if a person remarries and dies without a will, their surviving spouse will inherit more than ½ of their estate, regardless of the decedent’s wishes concerning dividing their estate between their spouse and children.