A common question is why does a person need a Last Will and Testament. There are many reasons and some of them you may not realize. Whether it is to make sure your property and your remains are taken care of in the manner you would like or to make a record of what your desires are without interference of the courts.
Many people deed their real estate into joint tenancy with rights of survivorship with their children or whomever they wish to inherit the property. They wish to avoid probate court, attorney costs and “hassle”. However, in doing this their heirs may be subject to capital gains taxes that they could possibly have avoided by selling the house or land through an estate. In addition, depending on when the house or land is deeded to others it can affect your qualification for benefits such as Medicaid to help with your long-term care. Other complications can include difficulties obtaining a reverse mortgage, debates about mental competency of the person giving away the property or undue influence on that person by those listed on the deed.
Probate need not cost an arm and a leg, depending on the work needed to be done, the Personal Representative’s willingness to shoulder the majority of the work and how much property, real or personal, you have at the time of your passing. Having a Will gives your heirs direction and takes the guess-work out of what they think “Grandma” or “Dad” would want done. It relieves them of the burden of trying to figure out what you would have wanted done. Another advantage is that your wishes are clear and must be followed.
If you pass without a Will you risk every action taken by you prior to your death being questioned and children or friends who have helped you being grilled about how they have taken advantage of you. It can lead to greater litigation when truly people should be grieving and not fighting. Also depending on who out lives you, you may not want your estate to be divided according to the Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 15. Dying without a Will could mean that the Court will divide up your property according to who the law says gets top priority if that your parents or your spouse or your children. This becomes complicated when you have remarried and your children are not the children of your current spouse.
Information needed to make a Will is simple: names, addresses and dates of birth for all heirs; knowing what property and accounts you own, as well as, life insurance policies, annuities, etc.; having one person to handle carrying out your Will and a back up in case the person you choose cannot act as your Personal Representative; and an idea of how you want things to be done. A good lawyer can advise you on if your estate will have to pay taxes or how best to handle leaving funds to persons with disabilities or minors.
Making a Will is painless and, in the long run, cost-effective. Costs of having a Will drafted will depend on how complicated you want your estate plan. In the end, what it saves is guess-work, frustration and a heavier burden for those already grieving your passing.
Written by June F. Bourrillion, Esq. for http://www.rkymtnlaw.com