Estate PlanningAnd Other Services
Kids Protection Plan
Did you know that 69% of parents have not yet named guardians for their kids?
And of the 31% who have, most have made one of 6 common mistakes? Click this link to review the 6 common mistakes most parents (and their lawyers!) make when naming legal guardians and then schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session with us today, so we can fix those mistakes with you.
Having a Will Alone Simply Does Not Ensure the Care of Your Kids If the Unthinkable Happens to You!
If you are a parent of minor children (or those with special needs) who are counting on you, your estate plan must begin with your children would always be taken care of by the people you want, in the way you want, no matter what happens.
At Cris Carter Law, one of our areas of greatest expertise is planning for the well-being and care of the children you love
- Your children could be placed into Child Protective Services (CPS) even if you have a will in place; even if you have a living trust while your legal documents or located or your family is identified. Or worse, your kids could be left in the care of the one person in your family you would never want raising them;
- A Judge who doesn’t know you, or your family, will decide who will raise your kids, even if it’s the last person you would ever want
- Approximately 5% of the total value of your assets could be lost due to probate, a court process that can tie up your assets for months or years and deprive your kids of the resources they need to live comfortably;
- When your kids turn 18, they get a check for whatever assets are left – outright with no protection
- There are unscrupulous people who make it their business to review public records to find out what 18 year olds are coming into money;
- The vast majority of estate planning attorneys simply do not address these issues, and do not plan from a parent’s perspective.
Yes, these things scare us too. That’s why we offer a Kids Protection Plan® with every estate plan we prepare for families with young children.
What is a Kids Protection Plan®?
A Kids Protection Plan® is a set of instructions, legal documents and even an ID card for your wallet, which you need to have if you have kids at home who count on you for their well-being and care.
If you are in an accident, your Kids Protection Plan® will make sure your children are never taken into the custody of Child Protective Services, strangers or the care of anyone you wouldn’t want because the authorities don’t have clear instructions from you. And your Kids Protection Plan® will ensure your children are raised by people you choose, not someone chosen by a Judge who doesn’t know you.
To get started with your Kids Protection Plan®, contact us.
In 10 minutes, this FREE website will help you protect your kids if something unthinkable happens to you prior to creating your formal estate plan. Think of it as the first step to ensuring your kids are raised by the people you want, in the way you want, no matter what.
Planning for Everyone You Love and Everything You Have
Do you know what would happen legally- to you, your loved ones, your money and everything else you care about – if something unexpected happened to you?
If you have an estate plan and it’s out of date, your assets could be lost to the State Department of Unclaimed Property, or to an unnecessary Court process.
If you don’t know exactly what would happen for everyone you love and everything you own, then the first step is to find out exactly what would happen, legally and financially, so that you can decide if the current state of your affairs is okay with you.
How Do We Help You With Estate Planning?
We start with a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we spend time together and help you understand what is involved in estate planning. Before your Family Wealth Planning Session, we ask you to complete a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment, which will help you to get clear about what you own and what you have to think about when it comes to planning for the well-being and care of your loved ones and your belongings. If you decide the current state of affairs is unacceptable, and if we both decide that there is a good fit to work together, then together we design an estate plan that will best suit the needs of your family.
The foundation of your estate plan will often include a revocable living trust; a trust that allows you to transfer your property into this trust for your benefit during your life. One of the benefits of a revocable living trust is that, when done correctly and maintained over time, your estate plan should help your family to avoid the cost and delay of probate and minimize or eliminate estate taxes.
Can I DIY My Estate Plan?
We Are Professional Estate Planners
At Cris Carter Law we will spend the time to educate you and make sure all your questions are answered. We take the time to get to know you, your family, your concerns, your goals, your assets and your issues. We patiently work with you to produce an estate plan that is exactly right for you; an estate plan that will keep your loved one’s out of court and out of conflict.
If you are a family with young children, then your estate plan should begin with a foundation that ensures your children would always be taken care of, no matter what happens. At Cris Carter Law, one of our areas of greatest expertise is protecting minor children.
Guardianship/Naming Legal Guardians for Minor Children
69% of parents have not named legal guardians for their children. Of the 31% who have, most have made one of 6 common mistakes. That means that if you have minor children at home (or children who have special needs), it’s time to review your plan for their care, if and when something happens to you.
Begin here with our report on the 6 common mistakes parents make when naming legal guardians for their kids and how you can fix them now.
Then, consider taking the very first step that every parent must have in place (no matter whether you have $1 or $10 million), and name legal guardians for your children for the long-term here.
If you and your spouse/partner cannot agree on who would be the ideal guardian(s) for your kids, that’s something we can help with. We have special training from the Family Wealth Planning Institute on helping parents work through this critical decision.
If you do nothing, the decision about who would raise your children (if something were to happen to you) would be left up to a judge to decide.
A judge who doesn’t know you, doesn’t know what’s important to you, and doesn’t know your children will make all the decisions about who cares for the people who are most important to you in the world.
We know that’s not what you want.
And, the truth is there may never be a perfect solution for you, but there is definitely a solution that is better than your children being raised by someone you didn’t choose or someone you adamantly do not want to raise your children.
Perhaps you think the way so many parents do, “if we don’t anticipate it, it will never happen, right?”
Then I guess that means you don’t need things like insurance or any other type of protection since bad things never happen to good people, right? And wouldn’t it be great if that were true.
Responsible parents protect their children, and that means you must think about the unthinkable.
Fortunately, there is a sensible approach to the selection of a guardian for your children that makes it a lot easier. And we can guide you through this most important of decisions.
In addition, we will guide you to put in place a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan® that will ensure you have handled all 7 Must-Dos when it comes to ensuring the well-being and care of your children by naming legal guardians for the long-term and for the short-term to protect your kids, no matter what.
Asset Protection Planning
Nobody expects to be sued. Just ask the 20 million people involved in lawsuits last year.
Divorce, inheritance, health issues, creditors, employees, theft, changing markets, malpractice suits, sexual harassment claims, natural disasters and disgruntled business partners are just a few issues that can result in devastating lawsuits for unprepared business owners. The highest level of risk falls on those who think they are immune.
Americans are now more concerned than ever about protecting their assets from creditor claims, taxes, divorce and other disasters. And rightly so.
The more success you have (especially in business, professional practice or real estate activities), the more at risk you are as others see your success grow.
Here are just a few of the “risky behaviors” you may be engaging in right now that could end up with you being sued:
Will you be signing loan documents, a personal guaranty, or a lease?
Do you have rental properties or employees?
Are you an attorney or physician?
Do you work in construction or perform professional services?
Are you getting married and have children from a prior marriage or separate property assets you are bringing into the marriage.
Here’s the problem: all of these activities are things people do on a regular basis and are considered pretty normal. But they can easily and rapidly turn into a serious problem and impact your life negatively.
That’s where we come in. We can set up your business and life with structure and legal protection to ensure that you can take maximum risk with minimum worry.
We assist our clients in determining the appropriate level of asset protection planning for their particular circumstances. We will consider insurance, prenuptial agreements, asset segregation, choice of jurisdiction, gifting, LLCs, partnerships, corporations, and asset protection trusts. Customized combinations are layered depending on the needs of the client and as appropriate.
There are many different strategies to accomplish the protection of your assets while you are alive and after you are gone. To find out which strategies may be right for you, contact us for a Family Wealth Planning Session.
Obtaining Adult Guardianship
Although naming a guardian for a minor child involves a somewhat similar process, obtaining adult guardianship is vastly different, especially in terms of what the court requires as proof that guardianship is warranted. In fact, the process begins with the interested party filing a petition in court that requests the court declare the incapacitated person incompetent.
Sometimes, these filings are made “ex parte” (in secret), so a guardianship can be established before family and friends even know it’s happening. Other times, guardianship filings can lead to heated disputes between family members and/or friends, who may claim they’d be better suited for the role.
Regardless of who files the petition, guardianship will only be granted if the court determines there’s enough evidence to show the person is mentally incapacitated—to the point where they can no longer make legal, financial, and/or healthcare decisions for themselves. If guardianship is granted, the incapacitated person is known as the guardian’s “ward.”
Who Can Serve as an Adult Guardian?
Although courts typically give preference to a spouse or another close family member, a guardian doesn’t have to be a relative. Provided the person is a competent adult, a close friend, or any other interested party can serve as long as they prove they’re best suited for the position.
If a relative or friend is not willing—or capable—of serving, the court will appoint a professional guardian or public guardian. Sadly, this can lead to horrible financial and/or physical abuse of the incapacitated, so it’s best to plan ahead and name a guardian in your estate planning documents to keep courts out of the picture entirely.
Adult Guardianship Responsibilities
Depending on the extent of the person’s incapacity, a court-appointed guardian can be given near complete control over a person’s life. There are two types of guardianship: guardianship of the person and guardianship of the estate.
Guardianship of the person involves making decisions about the ward’s place of residence, physicians, medical treatment, and a host of other personal issues. Guardianship of the estate involves decisions about the person’s income, legal actions, assets, insurance claims, and many other matters.
Usually one person is appointed for both roles, but the court can also split the responsibilities among multiple parties. For instance, one guardian may oversee the financial decisions, while another handles living arrangements and healthcare. Moreover, the court often requires the guardian(s) to file detailed status reports—like financial accounting—at regular intervals or whenever important decisions are made, such as the sale of assets.
Some of the most common duties of adult guardians include:
- Paying the ward’s bills
- Determining where they live
- Monitoring their residence and living conditions
- Providing consent for medical treatments
- Deciding how their finances are handled, including how their assets are invested and if any assets should be liquidated
- Managing real estate and other tangible property
- Keeping detailed records of all their expenditures and other financial transactions
- Making end-of-life and other palliative-care decisions
Trusted Colorado Guardianship Attorneys
If you are here to learn about Colorado probate after the passing of a loved one, we first want to say that we are very sorry for your loss. We hope that the information you find on this page will simplify any legal and administrative headaches you might otherwise face during such a difficult time.
With that said, probate in Colorado is a court proceeding (a lawsuit). The purpose is to ensure that all debts and claims against the deceased person are paid before any transfer of assets occurs. Only after all potential creditors and the public are notified of the death and had the opportunity to obtain monies owed them do the rightful heirs or beneficiaries receive any inheritance. Probate is typically filed in the County where the deceased person resided prior to their death
Probate is also necessary to:
- Prove that the Last Will and Testament is valid
- Appoint someone to manage the estate (That person is called an “executor” if there is a will or “administrator” if there is no will)
- Inventory and appraise the estate property
Pay all debts and taxes (including estate taxes)
- Distribute the property as directed by the will. If there is not a will, the state law determines what happens to the property.
In Colorado, if someone has $80,000 (as of 2023) in total assets or real property, they will probably have to have their assets probated.
What’s so bad about probate in Colorado and what should I do next?
If you are one of the many residents in Colorado that have heard that probate is bad news, you are right. It tends to be very expensive, it’s time-consuming, and it’s also a public process.
The easiest way to avoid the probate process is to plan; but if you are now in a situation where you must go through probate courts to finalize the estate of a loved one, the best thing you can do is get educated and get help to complete the process as quickly, and cost-effectively, as possible.
How is a Probate Started in Colorado?
Although any beneficiary or creditor can initiate probate, normally the person named in the will as the Executor starts the process by filing the original will with the court and filing a Petition with the probate court. If there is no will, typically a close relative of the decedent who expects to inherit from the estate will file the Petition.
How is the Executor Chosen?
How does the Executor Get Paid?
Could I Be Held Personally Liable For Making a Mistake as an Executor?
My loved one had a trust…will we need to go through probate?
In most cases, no. If your loved one’s assets are owned in the name of a Trust, the family can contact a lawyer who will complete some paperwork and guide the loved ones through the process with ease without the need for court involvement.
Unfortunately, many people who have a Trust think they have it all taken care of. But time and again, family members’ of a recently passed loved one come into my office and they find out they are facing the frustration, expense and delay of a probate, even though the person they loved had a trust.
Why is that?
Often the Trust was prepared many years ago and was never updated; or the assets of their loved ones’ were not put into the Trust. That is why it is so very important that you carefully choose your estate planning attorney and have regular reviews of your plan and assets so the planning you do now works as planned when the time comes when it is needed.
It’s why we do things differently at Cris Carter Law.
What Assets are Subject to Probate?
Assets owned solely in the name of the deceased person are subject to probate. Assets that pass by means of title, such as real estate titled as “Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship,” or bank accounts titled as “Transfer On Death” are not subject to the probate process provided that things have been handled properly. Assets that pass by means of a beneficiary designation, such as life insurance or some retirement accounts, are intended to not be subject to the probate process. However, in some situations, assets that would otherwise pass by title or beneficiary designation will be required to go through the probate process which is why it is important to talk to an attorney about your specific situation.
How is Distribution of the Estate Handled if there is no Will?
If there is no will or trust, the estate will be distributed according to Colorado probate and intestate laws, which state that a person’s estate will be distributed in the following order:
- Parents (if you have no children)
- Siblings (if you have no children or parents).
How long does Probate take?
The length of time of a probate will depend on several factors. It usually takes a minimum of 12 months and can take up to two years or even longer for complex cases.
How much does Probate Cost?
Probate legal fees are typically based upon an hourly fee, and the rate depends on several factors, such as the attorney’s expertise and experience, the novelty and difficulty of the case, the results obtained, and costs involved.
The Personal Representative (i.e. Executor or Administrator) is also entitled to a reasonable fee for their services. The Coloraod Probate court can determine the amount of the Personal Representative’s fee based on the time spent, the skill and expertise of the Personal Representative and how complicated the case is. There are also court costs and filing fees, document certification and recording fees, property appraisal fees, accounting and tax preparation fees.
Getting Help: Choosing The Right Attorney For Your Probate Case
The best way to ensure your probate is done right is to choose your attorney wisely. Do not assume that all attorneys are the same! Too many lawyers only “dabble” in probate or trusts. Don’t choose a lawyer who does probate as a filler or on the side because these lawyers often blunder causing real problems for their client. Additionally, their cases often take longer than those handled by an experienced probate lawyers.
You don’t have to use the attorney who prepared the Will either! Just because a particular attorney prepared the Will, this does not mean that attorney must or should handle the probate case. That attorney is not necessarily the right person for the job. You need to be comfortable with the attorney and confident that they are the right attorney for you. Choosing your probate or trust lawyer is one of the most important decisions you will make. If you put in the time and effort to find the right lawyer, you will be rewarded with a skillful guide who will help you navigate the probate process.
Contact Cris Carter Law, your Trusted Attorney For A Complimentary Post-Death Estate Review
If you’re ready to get started with the probate process after the passing of a loved one, please contact our experienced County probate attorneys at 719 434-0000 or use this link to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation to help determine your next best steps. We are here in service to making this all as easy as possible on you.
During this appointment, we will answer all of your questions about probate and guide you and your family through the next best steps. We are committed to helping you administer your loved one’s estate as quickly and efficiently as possible, and look forward to relieving any administrative or legal burdens you may face during this time of loss.
Trust & Estate Administration or Probate After the Death of a Loved One
When a loved one dies it can be a confusing time in which you are in immense grief while also needing to make sure all the technical details are handled. Technical details such as locating all the assets, paying bills and making sure your loved one’s assets get to the right people, without conflict. We are here to help.
Whether your loved one created a trust to hold their assets, or did not, he or she did have assets (called the estate of the deceased) that must be handled with careful attention and it’s critical that you work with an attorney who can help you to do the right thing, minimize conflict and ensure the smoothest possible transition.
When someone creates a trust as part of their estate plan, they must name a trustee to ensure the trust’s terms are handled properly. These individuals must carry out all of the trust’s instructions, and they’re legally responsible for doing so within the scope of federal and state law. Such duties are known as trust administration.
Serving in this capacity entails a huge level of responsibility and liability. What’s more, most people named as trustee will have limited, if any, background or experience in the legal and financial duties that come with administering a trust. In this case, the trust administration lawyers at Cris Carter Law can work with the trustee to ensure the trust is administered properly and all legal requirements are satisfied.
If there is not a trust or if not all assets have been properly titled in the name of a trust that was created, we can help your family through the process of estate administration, usually requiring a court process, called probate. If you are a beneficiary of an estate, or an executor or trustee, contact us for support in handling the transition of your loved ones assets as easily as possible.
Trust and Estate Administration
As your Attorney, we work closely with the family, beneficiaries, and other advisors to ensure the decedent’s trust assets are collected, debts are paid, and the remaining assets are distributed to the named trust beneficiaries, or to the heirs of the estate. Depending on the type of trust involved, assets may be distributed outright to the named beneficiaries, or they might be held in trust for the future benefit of the named beneficiaries. If there is no trust, assets will either be distributed outright to heirs named in a will, or by statute, or held by a guardian named by the court until an heir reaches the age of majority.
During this time, we may also need to have appraisals of major assets completed in order to get a clear picture of what the decedent’s net worth was for estate tax purposes. Additionally, the title of trust or other estate assets may need to be changed to indicate new ownership by the named beneficiary outright or under a continuing trust.
All of this can be a hugely complicated and time consuming, but our trust and estate administration lawyers will transfer assets as quickly and smoothly as possible, resolve outstanding issues, and ensure that everything occurs within the applicable legal deadlines.
Trust and Estate Administration Services
Below, we’ve outlined some of our most common trust and estate administration services. We can accomplish the following duties without unnecessary delay and with utmost respect for your personal privacy and your family relationships.
- Identification, collection, and determination of values of assets
- Payment of all debts, expenses, and taxes from estate and trust assets, with submission of regular accountings
- Advice as to disposition of jointly held assets, life insurance, and retirement benefits that pass outside a will or trust
- Preparation of state and federal, gift, generation-skipping transfer, and gift tax returns
- Notifying all heirs and beneficiaries of the trust or estate
- Communicating with beneficiaries
Our primary objective is to make this process as easy as possible for you, and minimize the impact of going to court, while also keeping your family out of conflict.
Trust & Estate Administration Lawyers in Fort Collins Colorado
No matter how complex the trust or estate administration process may be, the trust and estate administration lawyers at Cris Carter Law will guide you every step of the way.
We’ll work closely with personal representatives, executors, beneficiaries, and other fiduciaries to ensure the terms of the trust are carried out properly. At the same time, we’ll make the process as understandable and stress-free as possible for the trustee.
Estate Tax Protection & Planning
You work your entire life to save and have enough money to comfortably retire—and ideally leave something for your loved ones when you pass away. During your life, you pay all kinds of taxes: income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and so on. And at the end, the government even wants to tax you on the assets you have left at your death.
This is known as the estate tax, sometimes called the inheritance tax or death tax. The best way to protect your assets and your family’s future from excessive taxation is to hire an attorney who specializes in estate tax planning. The experienced estate tax planning lawyers at Cris Carter Law, can help you reduce—if not entirely avoid—the federal estate tax burden.
How Does the Estate Tax Work?
The estate tax is totally separate from federal income taxes and is paid on the net value of all your assets owned at your death. However, there are fairly sizable exemptions to the estate tax, so it’s primarily high net-worth individuals and their families who are affected.
That said, the estate tax rate is a whopping 40%, so we’re talking about potentially massive sums of money being owed by one’s heirs. And that bill must be paid to the IRS within 9 months of the decedent’s death.
Exemptions to the Estate Tax
Notably, President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 nearly doubled the allowable exemptions to the estate tax, ensuring that even fewer families will be affected:
- Estate tax exemption for individuals expanded from $5.4 million to $11.2 million.
- Estate tax exemption for married couples expanded from $10.9 million to $22.4 million.
So unless your estate is valued at more than $11.2 million, you won’t have to worry about the estate tax at this time. But for those who are affected, there are numerous estate planning strategies available that can greatly reduce the amount owed. Our estate tax planning lawyers can advise you on the best options for your family.
Advanced Estate Planning Strategies
Families with high-value estates face several complex legal and tax issues—and the estate tax is only one of them. At Cris Carter Law, we offer a number of advanced estate planning strategies that are primarily aimed at reducing a family’s tax burden. In addition to the estate tax, we also help families navigate the gift tax and generation-skipping tax to pass assets on for successive generations without risk of estate tax decimating the estate at each generation.
Some of the most popular advanced estate planning tools and strategies include:
- Life insurance trusts
- Qualified personal residence trusts
- Grantor retained annuity trusts
- Asset protection trusts
- Land trusts
- Dynasty Trusts
- Family limited partnerships or limited liability companies
- Asset gifting
Special Needs Planning
Estate planning for a family with special needs children comes with a complex set of financial, social, and medical issues that some lawyers are ill-equipped to handle. At Cris Carter Law we are dedicated to ensuring your child with special needs will be well taken care of when you’re no longer able to serve as the primary caregiver.
We offer a variety of estate planning tools and strategies designed to accommodate the unique circumstances presented by children with special needs and their families in Colorado. We can help you pass on the financial assets needed for your child to live a rich quality of life without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits. We’ll also assist you in finding and appointing a trusted guardian and/or trustee to look after them in the event of your death or incapacity. And we’ll help with locating the best residential opportunities—as well as the means to pay for them.
Special Needs Trusts
One “Catch-22-like” situation surrounding estate planning for those with special needs is leaving enough money to pay for the massive amount of care and supports these individuals typically need throughout their lifetimes. Yet, if parents leave a large lump sum of money directly to a child with special needs, they risk disqualifying him or her for government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Social Security Income.
Fortunately, the government allows assets to be held in what’s known as a “special needs trust” to provide supplemental financial resources for the physically, mentally, or developmentally disabled child without affecting their eligibility for public healthcare and income assistance benefits. That said, the rules for such trusts are quite complicated.
For instance, funds from a special needs trust cannot be distributed directly to the disabled beneficiary and must be disbursed to a third-party who’s responsible for providing the goods and services they need to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. What’s more, the requirements for a child with special needs change dramatically over time, as do the laws governing public benefits.
Given this, it’s vital to work with an experienced special needs attorney who can create a comprehensive special needs trust that’s both properly structured and appropriate for your child’s specific situation.
Special Needs Planning & Trusts for Colorado Children
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