Understanding the Documents in Your Estate Plan

Despite popular misconceptions, estate planning isn’t just for wealthy entrepreneurs or famous celebrities. In fact, if you pass away tomorrow without a valid will in place, the state will automatically create one for you through a process called “intestate succession.”  Unfortunately, this type of will can’t safeguard your end-of-life decisions or protect your assets and beneficiaries from the probate process. Your estate will be managed and distributed per the will of the court, and with little care for your personal wishes. The only way to avoid this outcome is to develop a comprehensive estate plan.

The Purpose of an Estate Plan

An estate plan is comprised of several customizable legal documents that work together to protect your interests in the event of a medical emergency or your death. Each document in your plan serves a specific purpose and should be updated every 2-3 years to guarantee that it reflects your current personal, medical, and financial circumstances. After all, your lifestyle and economic status inevitably change with time, especially when you’re on the brink of retirement.

Don’t rely on a “cookie cutter” estate plan. You need to draft documents that accurately dictate:

  • Your chosen agents and beneficiaries
  • Which agent has the authority to manage your finances during a medical emergency
  • Who can make health care decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated
  • Your end-of-life wishes
  • How you want your estate distributed upon your passing
  • Which designated guardian has the authority to care for your minor children
  • Your funeral and burial choices

Your estate plan can expedite the probate process and protect your assets from being whittled away by state, federal, and estate taxes. Probate is a court-supervised process that can take 6-9 months to complete. During this time, the court will validate your will (if it exists), review your assets and properties, and settle any outstanding debts or taxes associated with your estate. Without an estate plan, you’ll have no posthumous control over this process or the division of your estate.

The documents in your estate plan serve as important legal directives for your doctors, beneficiaries, agents, and even the court assigned to handle your case. Before you start drafting your estate plan, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how each document can protect your interests. To help you recognize the importance of estate planning, the Colorado Springs estate planning attorneys at Drexler Law have created this summary of information.

A properly drafted an executed will can serve the following functions:

  • It designates your beneficiaries
  • It establishes an executor to manage your estate
  • It allows you to waive any bond requirements of a chosen executor
  • It dictates how you want your assets and properties to be distributed
  • It protects your assets from being given to potential heirs  
  • It allows you to donate your assets to charities
  • It names a guardian for your minor children

An advance health care directive/Colorado medical durable power of attorney specifies:

  • Your personal wishes in the event of a medical emergency
  • Your decisions regarding emergency treatments (including CRP and ventilator use)
  • Who has the legal authority to make medical decisions on your behalf
  • Which agent can admit or discharge you from your nursing home or hospital
  • How you want your body to be disposed of when you die
  • If you want to donate your organs

A durable power of attorney for finances grants an agent the power to:

  • Handle your financial affairs during a medical emergency or your incapacitation
  • Pay your medical expenses, bills, and taxes
  • Manage your real estate assets
  • Access your financial accounts
  • Invest on your behalf
  • Transfer or sell your assets
  • Buy insurance for you

Revocable and irrevocable trusts provide the following benefits:

  • Protects your assets and beneficiaries from the probate process
  • Expedites the probate process
  • Diminishes the impact of state, federal, and estate taxes
  • Prevents your family from paying costly legal fees
  • Distributes your assets at once or over a period of time
  • Allows you to build wealth by investing your assets

Of course, this is just an introductory list to give you a basic idea about a few of your estate planning options. At Drexler Law, our goal is to see our clients leave our office feeling confident in their estate planning choices. If you’re ready to start the drafting process, contact our firm to schedule a consultation with our legal team. We can discuss your individual needs and help you design an estate plan that fulfills your personal and legal objectives.

Draft or Update Your Estate Plan Today  

The Colorado Springs estate planning lawyers at Drexler Law have a comprehensive understanding of the laws and regulations surrounding this complex legal process. Our legal team makes a dedicated effort to stay updated on fluctuating state and federal tax laws to guarantee that we’re always prepared to aid our clients. In the future, you can also rely on our attorneys to help you update or modify your existing estate plan to better serve your interests.

You can’t predict the future, but you can always prepare for it. Contact Drexler Law at (719) 259-0050 to schedule a consultation.