Grand Junction Estate Planning Attorney
Estate Planning, Probate and Elder Law in Grand Junction
Everyone needs an Estate Plan. Think not? Consider the following scenarios:
Your 19 year old daughter is thrown from her horse and is now lying comatose in the hospital. Because she is an adult, you don't have the legal authority to make decisions regarding her long term medical treatment. Now, weeks or months later, you find yourself stressed out by her condition and in probate court seeking appointment as her Guardian. Had she appointed you as her Agent under a Durable Medical General Power of Attorney when she turned 18, you would have been authorized to make all decisions regarding her care and the Guardianship would be unnecessary.
You and your husband don't think you need an estate plan since your home, cars and bank account are owned in joint tenancy. You have three children ranging in age from four to twelve. You die, and several years later, your lonely husband remarries. He sets up all the assets in joint tenancy with New Wife, then suddenly dies of a heart attack. Now, New Wife has all the assets and your minor children are disinherited with no Guardian designated to take care of them. You could have executed Wills to name a Guardian for the children and a Trust that would have protected assets for their future care.
You're a single parent of two minor children (one with special needs) and share custody with your debt ridden ex-spouse. Your widowed mother dies, leaving you a substantial inheritance. Unfortunately, your family's new financial security is shattered when you unexpectedly die and your ex-spouse becomes sole parent to your children with unfettered access to their inheritance. A Trust with a Special Needs Provision would have protected your estate for both children by naming the Successor Trustee of your choice. As Trustee, this person acts as gatekeeper to the assets, thus blocking access from the ex-spouse.
Like many responsible parents, you and your wife obtained life insurance policies naming each other as beneficiary when the first child was born. However, you failed to name contingent beneficiaries and when you both die in an auto accident, probate must be opened for both of you before the insurance company can pay the death benefits. If any of the children are minors, Guardianships and Conservatorships must be established for each child as well. A review and update of your beneficiary designations would have avoided probate; Wills would have allowed you to name a Guardian for your minor children; and a Trust would have avoided a more expensive and cumbersome Conservatorship.
Lucky you! A few years ago your widowed father signed a long term lease with Make You Rich Gas Company, and the royalty checks have been rolling in ever since. In fact, his estate is now worth $6,000,000. Your accountant congratulates you on the family's new found wealth, but then mentions that the estate taxes on his estate could be as much as $350,000 if he should die this year! Knowing that your father has never done any estate planning, you (after a sleepless night) take your father to an Estate Planning attorney the next afternoon where you learn that a Family Limited Partnership and aggressive Gifting Program can be utilized to reduce the size of the estate below the estate tax exemption.
Estate Planning would have protected the grieving loved ones in every one of the above situations. When we talk about estate planning, we address issues such as the distribution of assets, avoiding probate and taxes, and planning for an unexpected disability or incapacity. Yet, ultimately, our goal is the protection of your loved ones by sparing them as much emotional turmoil as possible and providing for them financially in your absence. As you can see, Estate Planning is really more about the people you love than just dollars and cents.
An estate plan, in simplest terms, is an organized approach to preparing for the future. Remember, an "estate" is not just a columned mansion perched on a hill in the most expensive neighborhood in town. If you own assets, you have an estate. And, your estate may be larger than you realize when you include life insurance, increased property values, healthier retirement accounts or an inheritance. Estate Plans range from the extremely simple to simply extreme, depending upon the value of the estate, estate tax exposure and family needs and dynamics. A solid estate plan is never more complex than the situation warrants and always plans for potential disability or incapacity as well.
Regardless of the value of your estate, it is critical that you have the assistance of a qualified Estate Planning lawyer who will listen to your concerns and tailor your estate plan to your unique family situation and goals. If you are a Western Slope farmer or rancher, chances are that your estate plan will be very different than if you are a salesman or school teacher. But, if you do nothing, state law will determine who inherits your assets, no matter how humble or extensive, no matter what the tax consequences and costs may be. Do you trust the state legislature to choose who will inherit your assets? Likewise, a "fill in the blank" Will or Trust is a poor substitute for a professionally prepared estate plan and is apt to leave your heirs with more problems than solutions. Estate Planning is not for amateurs!
While Estate Planning is the major focus of our practice, we also offer assistance to clients who are dealing with Probate or
Elder Law issues within the family. From our years of experience we know that Probate, Guardianship and Conservatorship Administration take an emotional toll on the family, and thus we make every effort to lessen the burden with compassionate, professional and expeditious service.
Wills, Trusts, Probate and Estate Planning
Our firm provides high quality, personal legal services to our clients in Grand Junction and throughout Western Colorado, and can assist with all types of Estate Planning matters, including preparation of Trusts and Wills, Trust Litigation, Probate Administration, Trust Administration, Litigation involving a Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Distribution of Assets, Formal Probate, Informal Probate, Ancillary Probate, and Probate Litigation. In matters of Elder Law, we assist our clients with Powers of Attorney, Medicaid Planning, Guardianships and Conservatorships.
Changes in your circumstances may dictate the need for more complex Estate Planning or you may require assistance with something as simple as a change of beneficiary. We can assist you in all matters related to estate taxes, tax planning, drafting a Last Will & Testament, Gifting Plans, Codicils, creating a Family Limited Partnership, Charitable Remainder Trust, or Irrevocable Trusts.
We have extensive legal knowledge regarding Asset Protection Plans, drafting a Special Needs Trust, assisting with matters related to probate avoidance, the benefits of probate, and drafting Prenuptial,
Co-Habitation Agreements. We focus on protecting your interests and creating a plan that reflects your wishes while facilitating the distribution of assets to your chosen heirs.
Business Succession Planning and Other Business Matters
Most family business owners, especially farmers and ranchers, want an estate plan that will keep the business they have nurtured for years within the family. To achieve this goal it is essential to develop a Business Succession Plan that will establish an orderly transfer of leadership to the next generation upon the owner's retirement or death. A well-developed plan also will specify how other family members will participate in the business. Equally important to the process is the development of a plan that will eliminate the federal
estate tax. Otherwise, though uncommon, the owner's children may be forced to sell all or a part of the business to pay the federal estate tax which is due nine (9) months after the owner's death. And finally, any Business Succession Plan must be carefully coordinated with the owner's estate plan in order to achieve the optimal result.
These are complicated issues that require a skilled and experienced attorney who has the expertise to guide the business owner through a maze of issues and problems. If you are starting a small business, we can assist you in selecting the best Business Entity (Corporation, Partnership or Limited Liability Company) and we can prepare a
Buy-Sell Agreement that addresses issues such as the death of a family member or what happens if a family member wants to sell his interest.
Business succession planning is one of the most difficult challenges facing CEO's or outgoing executive directors. In order to make the planning process as stress-free as possible, you should seek professional advice from the experienced attorneys at our firm. Even if your business is experiencing success today, we want to ensure that it will continue to grow and develop long into the future. Planning for leadership transition in your company is an important process that will help your eventual exit go more smoothly, as well as give your employees hope for the future of the business. Every member, supplier, employee and stakeholder will be affected by your business succession planning decisions, and we can give you the advice you need to make those decisions confidently. We work closely with you to fully understand the goals, objectives and expectations that you have for the future of your business and estate before we develop your business succession plan.
At the Law Offices of James A. Littlepage, we have the experience and commitment to clients that is reflected in the large number of personal referrals the firm receives every year. Recently awarded the
2012, 2011 and
2010 Five Star Wealth Manager Award, Jim and his staff are well-qualified to assist you with all estate management and business succession issues. We look forward to providing the same service to you.
For assistance, please contact our Grand Junction office for a complimentary consultation. Consultations are also available in Montrose, Delta, Cortez, Gunnison, Glenwood Springs and Edwards.