There are numerous estate planning documents that provide different functions during and after your life. A Colorado will is utilized after you pass away. This document is used to distribute your money and other property to your heirs. You can think of a will as a set of instructions for the court.
How a Colorado Will Works
A Colorado will names a fiduciary called a personal representative. In other states, the personal representative is called an “executor.” Under Colorado law, a fiduciary is held to a certain set of standards:
Duty of Loyalty: A fiduciary must put his or her own self-interests aside and act in the best interest of the parties listed in the will.
Duty of Impartiality: A fiduciary must distribute assets fairly and equally to both beneficiaries and creditors in accordance with your intent.
It’s important that you choose the right individual to be your will’s personal representative, as they shall hold a variety of important duties and responsibilities.
Personal Representative Responsibilities
- Carry out your funeral and burial wishes
- Take inventory of your estate’s assets
- Open your estate in probate court
- Manage your assets during the probate process
- Pay your final bills and debts
- Close out your estate
- Distribute assets to your beneficiaries
Since a will is only used during the probate process, your personal representative must file it in probate court in order to begin completing their obligations. It’s important to note that a will lodged in Colorado is public record.
Here’s what a typical probate process looks like:
- Lodging the Will in Probate Court – The formal process to open your estate.
- Formal Personal Representative Appointment – The court issues the personal representative a letter of appointment.
- Estate Administration – Inventory of your estate is taken, final taxes are filed and paid, last debts are settled. Assets are then distributed to heirs.
- Closing the Estate – Your personal representative will close your estate in probate court.
Think a Colorado Will is Simplistic? Think Again…
A Colorado will can be as complex or simple as needed. Far too often, though, people confuse when a will is used and what it can transfer. A will only transfers probate property, such as, a house, money in bank accounts, vehicles, and personal effects.
Since a will is used after someone passes away, it can almost always be changed at any time until the person who made it dies.
Colorado Will Complexities
Here’s where things can get tricky. Who you say gets your property in your will can be different than who actually gets your property. How is that possible, you ask? Let’s look at an example:
Let’s say you list your brother on your stock account as the beneficiary “by representation,” and your will lists your children as your beneficiary. If your brother dies first, who gets your stock? If your brother has children, then your brother’s children get the stock. If your brother does not have children, then your children get the stock. (For another example, watch the video.)
Any time you think about creating or updating a will, it is equally important to consider all of your other assets and how they are titled.
You May Need Other Estate Planning Documents
A will is considered a very useful tool in estate planning, but it normally won’t transfer all of your assets when you die. A will is merely one method of distribution.
Other ways to transfer money and property include:
- A living or inter vivos trust
- Joint tenancy
- A beneficiary agreement
- Powers of appointment
- Beneficiary designations
- Payable on death accounts
Why You Should Consider Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney
A Colorado will can easily be created online. However, you may miss important details that could have devastating affects on your loved ones later. Online will creation sites do not always include how state laws could affect your estate plan. In the worst case scenario, your wishes may not be carried out, disputes could develop within your family, and costly litigation may be the only resolution.
Let’s Talk Your Colorado Will
Schedule a convenient time for your free initial assessment online or call 303-688-0944.
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