Estate Planning and Probate Administration
Colorado Estate Planning and Probate Administration
Wills and Trusts • Living Wills • Powers of Attorney
Preparing for the inevitability of death is an unfortunate, but very important, part of life. Failing to protect your assets or arranging for their distribution can lead to unnecessary costs and heartache. At the law firm of Harmon S. Graves, P.C. we have assisted clients in the Denver metropolitan area with their estate planning and estate administration legal concerns for over 50 years.
We take care of your estate planning needs
We believe that if you are over the age of 18, regardless of how much money or property you have, you should have estate planning documents in place, including wills and trusts, living wills, and powers of attorney for property and healthcare. Having these documents prepared ensures that your family members and loved ones have a clear understanding of your wishes in the event you become disabled or die unexpectedly, and have efficient means to implement those wishes.
If you have a larger estate, you want to take advantage of gift and estate tax planning to minimize future tax consequences and maximize the conservation of your assets for heirs and beneficiaries. Periodic increases in federal estate tax exemption (the current exemption, through 2022, is $12.6 million and $24.12 for married couples) can distort previously solid estate planning in larger estates and plans should be examined to assess the impact. In smaller estates, the current exemption level allows for considerable flexibility in the estate plan without concern over the federal estate tax impact.
We have encountered elaborate trusts that are carefully drafted, but have been left unfunded (assets not actually transfereed to the trust) either as a result of the client not understanding the funding instructions or the drafting lawyer not providing sufficient assistance. This can creat chaos in the administration process. Custodians of investment accounts, for example, may not have identified the trust as the account holder.
We offer to meet with you to develop appropriate plans or to consider possible revision of existing plans. We also provide business succession planning to ensure the smooth transition of all aspects of your business in the event of retirement or death.
Probate administration/Trust administration
In our wills and trusts practice, we also assist clients with:
- Inventorying assets of the estate
- Asset distribution
- Resolving claims against the estate
- Preparation of interim and final reports in probate administration
- Assisting the personal representative, guardian, conservator, or trustee in the performance of other duties in estate and trust administration
- Will contest
- Trust disputes
- Ancillary probate in Colorado for nonresident decedents’ estates
We also work closely with clients with art collections to provide guidance in securing proper valuations and advice in the ultimate disposition of valuable art objects, jewelry, and other collectibles.
Estate Administrative Expenses. Selling assets during the course of administration of an estate is often essential to generate cash for payment of taxes or to facilitate distribution of assets to the heirs. Administrative expenses incurred in the sale of assets may be deducted on the estate tax return if certain criteria are met. These and other estate administration concerns are discussed in Graves, Estate Administration Expenses and the Personal Representative, 29 The Colorado Lawyer , 69 (Sept. 2000)
Estate Tax Exemption. The estate tax exemption for 2023 is set at $12.92 million per individual. Looking ahead to January 1, 2026, the exemption is set to plunge to close to $6 million, adjusted for inflation. As we get close to 2026, consider some planning to meet this reduction should Congress fail to act with a more favorable exemption level.
Funding the Trust. Typically there is an Exhibit A attached to the text of the trust which is intended to identify the assets to be placed in the trust. This funding step can be complicated and tedious, but the client should arrange for the performance of this task as part of the engagement by legal counsel. An empty trust may appear impressive but it will not serve its purpose.
Joint Tenancy. Property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship does not pass under a Will. Upon the death of one joint tenant it passes to the surviving joint tenant(s) by operation of law. This has many benefits, among them simplicity and an effective way to hold property outside of the State of Colorado, but may impede federal estate tax planning.
Living Trust. A living trust-a trust created during one’s lifetime-is a very effective device for elderly clients who expect to experience difficulty in managing their assets. Most substantial assets are transferred to a trust, and are managed-preferably by a professional trustee-and upon death the estate is administered in accordance with the trust terms. The estate administration is greatly simplified.
Probate. Concern is often expressed about the expense and inconvenience associated with the probate of a Will. Fortunately, that has been dramatically reduced in Colorado under the informal probate procedures available, absent a dispute over entitlement to appointment as personal representative or a Will contest. CRS 15-12-301.
Put experience to work for you
When it comes to getting the best legal representation possible for your problems, experience counts. Harmon S. Graves, P.C., has over 50 years of experience representing clients throughout the Denver metro area. If you need estate planning or probate administration advice, contact our office to arrange for your complimentary 30-minute consultation.