Protecting Your (and Your Client’s) Real Estate Legacy

picture of house that was protected by an estate planning attorney

For homeowners and real estate investors alike, it’s prudent to protect the investments you’ve worked so hard to acquire and grow throughout your lifetime. Whether you’re the owner of a single family home, or you’ve amassed a few investment properties, we’ve put together a quick Q&A to help you better understand what you can be doing to protect your real estate legacy.

Q. What happens to my assets when I don’t have a last will and testament?

A. If a person dies without a will, that person’s real estate and other tangible and intangible assets are considered to be intestate, where they will go into probate and will be divided according to Colorado law. The probate process is lengthy, taking up to a year, can be quite costly and emotionally traumatic for the surviving family members. It’s important to note, that verbal wishes of the deceased, made while alive, will not be considered in court’s decision. To avoid probate, save money and keep your real estate legacy intact, an individual should consider the use of a trust. An estate planning attorney can help establish a trust.

Q. What if I have a blended family?

A. Generally, without a will the deceased assets will be divided between the closest kin. So for those who wish to keep their estates intact, or dictate who gets what, or split the division of the estate into equal or unequal shares, then you will need to complete a last will and testament. Creating an updated will for those in a blended family can mitigate future issues such as:

  • The surviving/inheriting spouse or partner favors their own children over the deceased’s biological children in the division of the assets.
  • Leaving large amounts of money or property to an unprepared/irresponsible family member.
  • Causing ressentiment by making your kids wait until the death of your surviving spouse to inherit anything.

Q. What if I have a co-owned vacation property?

A. Depending on what type of co-ownership you have will determine how to proceed. For those in a joint tenancy, the surviving owner will inherit the deceased’s portion of ownership. For those in a tenancy in common, there are no rights of survivorship, so a will is needed to determine who will inherit that portion of ownership/interest in the property.

As you can see it’s not only prudent to put your wishes in writing, but also thoughtful, so your children and other family members are not left trying to sort everything out while grieving. A lack of a will or unclear directions can cost a family’s peace of mind and the loss of your financial legacy. If you or your clients would benefit from legal counselling on this matter, please contact us for an assessment.

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