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Rethink guardianship if you get divorced

A key part of estate planning is deciding who will be your child's guardian if you pass away while that child is still a minor. Your peace of mind hinges on the knowledge that they'll be taken care of.

Naturally, if you're married, you probably just assume that your spouse will take care of your child on their own. Even if you get divorced, you may still assume that your ex is the best choice. That may be true, and it is the most likely outcome.

Will your estate plan cause discord among your family members?

Estate planning is a complex process that can involve many difficult decisions about both finances and future medical care. At the time you are drafting your plans, it is impossible to see into the future, but you would be wise to take care to consider how your choices will affect your loved ones down the road. Some estate planning choices may cause more harm than good. 

After you pass, the choices you made in your will and other estate planning documents will come to light. Your children and other beneficiaries will have the responsibility of settling your estate, and some of your decisions could cause discord and complications with this process. It may be smart to consider the long-term effects of your choices. 

Remember, you get your inheritance last

If a loved one passed away and you're in line for an inheritance, it's natural to wonder when you'll get it. In fact, that's one of the most common questions people have in this situation. You know that money is coming your way, but should you expect it in a few days or a few months?

The thing to remember is that giving you your money is probably the very last thing that will be done by the person tasked with administering the estate. The order of operations looks like this:

  1. Taking inventory of everything that the person owned and matching it up with the will.
  2. Determining everyone's legal roles in this process.
  3. Figuring out the value of all of the assets; for instance, if a home is one of the major assets, an appraisal may be needed to set the current market value.
  4. Paying off bills and other expenses that are connected to the estate.
  5. Paying off taxes and/or filing tax returns for the person's estate. They may still owe a significant amount for the portion of the year that has passed.
  6. Splitting up the money that is left between the people named in the will.

4 key reasons you may need an advance directive

As part of your estate planning, you may want to set up an advance directive. It works along with the rest of your plan to make sure that you get the medical care you need as the end of your life approaches.

Essentially, the advance directive is a list of your pre-approved medical care options. If you don't want doctors to use life support or resuscitate you, for instance, you can put that in the directive. No one can override it. Drafting this document in advance ensures that it really reflects what you want and that you are prepared for the unexpected.

Do most people have a will?

It seems fairly clear to you that you're going to need a will eventually. It's inevitable. The same is true for everyone you know.

That leads you to believe that most people must have planned for that inevitability. They must have wills and estate plans, right?

Obtaining guardianship of your elderly parent

As your parents age, you begin worrying about their ability to make sound decisions regarding their daily life. You worry that their forgetfulness and naïve awareness places them in health or personal distress.

In the state of Colorado, you have the ability to apply for guardianship of an adult. You and your parent both must meet certain criteria, but the court may grant you the necessary control and ability to securely make basic needs decisions for your parents. Applying for guardianship proves to be a selfless decision to aid your parent as they age.

Sentimental value, estate planning and lasting disputes

When you hear about two heirs who get into a dispute over a will and have a life-long falling out after the fact, you probably assume that it's about money. You wonder why people let financial gain get in the way of their relationships with their siblings.

The battle may be about money, but experts warn that little things often spark these disputes because they have a certain amount of sentimental value. To those adult children, these minor assets have major emotional attachments. They can also bring the children back to the rivalries they had growing up, which may be sparked anew after a parent passes away.

When is it better to have a trust instead of a will?

If you have finally made the decision to seek advice about making an estate plan, your family will likely thank you for your thoughtfulness. More than half of those in Colorado and across the country put off planning their estates until it is too late, leaving their families with confusion and sometimes resentment.

You may be among the many who wonder, "Do I need a trust, or is a will sufficient for my estate?" You may feel that your estate is too small to require a revocable living trust or that you can make the most efficient use of a will. However, even if you do have simple assets, there may be circumstances within your estate or among your heirs that may require a more sophisticated and complex estate planning tool.

How do you find the best guardian?

One of the key steps in planning for your family in the event of your passing is to choose a guardian for your children. This is usually done when they are minors or if they have special needs. Either way, you know that they need additional care. You love them, and you want to make sure their lives go well even when you are not around to help.

But how do you find the right guardian? First of all, look for someone who has similar values. It may help to make a list and then use it to compare candidates. You may want to think about things like:

  • Education
  • Religion
  • Empathy
  • Generosity
  • Work ethic
  • Passions

4 tips for an estate planning conversation with your kids

Parents often neglect to talk about estate planning with their grown-up children, feeling that such a conversation will just make everyone uncomfortable. However, this can lead to a lot of issues down the line because children may have unrealistic expectations or there may be confusion about what a parent really wanted. Estate disputes can erupt.

Communication is important and can prevent a lot of estate problems. Here are four tips that can help during that conversation:

  1. Talk about items that cannot be split. Money can be divided as many ways as you need to divide it. Family heirlooms cannot. These cause many disputes. Talking about your plans helps ensure that children know what is coming.
  2. Talk about unequal giving. If you have two children and one is going to get more than the other, you need to tell them why. This can give them realistic expectations and help avoid arguments and hurt feelings later.
  3. Be honest. Let the children ask questions. Be open and give them all of the information that they want and need. Even if you feel uncomfortable, this attitude helps the conversation become productive.
  4. Be positive. This conversation does not have to center around how they may be using the estate plan soon. Tell them that you're still feeling good and healthy and that you hope they won't need to use it for decades. Explain that you just do not want to put it off for too long when you know how much it can benefit your family.