By: Sue A. Kokinos, Esq.
An estate plan is set up to make sure that both you and your family are taken care of in the future. An estate plan tells your family where you would like your assets to go and allows you to appoint someone to make important financial and medical decisions for you when you are unable to. These documents ensure that your wishes are communicated to your loved ones after you are unable to tell them what you would like. This guide is to help you understand what estate planning is and how it will work for you.
Your estate plan can consist of three important documents. They are a General Durable Power of Attorney, a Medical Durable Power of Attorney, and a Will. Each document plays an important role in ensuring that your wishes are a part of the care of both you and your assets.
A Will is a document that allows you to leave your property to specific friends and family. You can leave a piece of jewelry to someone who you know would enjoy receiving it. You can even give a piece of property that you own to a charity. It is important that you make your will when you are able to decide who you would like to leave your property to so that your family cannot dispute who received those gifts later after you pass on.
An estate plan not only consists of a Will but also Medical Durable Powers of Attorney and General Durable Powers of Attorney.
Medical Durable Powers of Attorney is a document that allows you to appoint someone else to make medical decisions for you when you are unable to. Through this document, you can tell anyone who reads it what kind of medical care you would like when you are unable to communicate. These decisions include giving pain medication, withdrawal of nutrition or hydration, and whether life support should be terminated. This document is effective when you are unable to make these decisions and need medical treatment. The person you chose to make these decisions must be trustworthy and also be aware of what kind of medical treatment you would want in specific situations so they can make decisions based on your values and beliefs.
A Durable Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to appoint someone else to make financial decisions for you when you are unable to. This includes paying your bills, selling property, hiring medical professionals, and obtaining insurance on your behalf. This document can be made effective now when you are able to do these things for yourself, or later when you are unable to take care of these matters for yourself. The advantage of having this document effective now is that you can see if the person you appoint is trustworthy with your assets.
You should see an attorney to help you draft these documents for. An attorney will make sure that the documents say what you want them to and make sure that they are valid documents in the eyes of the law.
Once your estate plan is complete it is important to review your documents every two years to make sure that they describe your wishes completely. It is important to work with your attorney to help you adjust your estate plan to reflect any important changes in your life. You should also take your documents to an attorney if you move to a new state because the law in that state may be different from the state where the documents were created. The new law may not allow your documents to work in the way you would like them to. With the help of an attorney, your documents can be redrafted to reflect the change in the laws.
Estate planning is an important planning tool for both you and your family’s future. These documents help to communicate your wishes to your loved ones after you pass away or when you are unable to communicate with them.
Nancy R. Crow, Colorado Practice vol. 3A, §104.32 (4th ed., West 2005)
James W. Hill & R.L. Steenrod, Jr., Colorado Practice vol. 3, §100.25 (4th ed., West 2005)
Nancy R. Crow, Colorado Practice vol 3A, §103.3 (4th ed., West 2005)