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CourtNo person wants the court to get involved in their life.  However, the court may become involved during incapacity or after death if you do not plan for it.

The following describes two ways that the court can become involved in managing and distributing your assets and how you can avoid that involvement.

Two Ways the Court May Get Involved in Your Life

1. Guardianship and Conservatorship

If you are ever mentally unable to make financial or medical decisions for yourself and you do not have legal documents (powers of attorney) detailing what you want to have happen, the court will get involved.  If you cannot make medical decisions, the judge will appoint a guardian over you, and if you cannot make financial decisions, the judge will appoint a conservator.  During this process, your assets and medical condition will become public knowledge and subject to the court’s judgment and supervision.

How to avoid it:

Powers of attorney are legal documents that your estate planning attorney can prepare that name the individuals you trust to be your agents for financial or medical decisions, as well as their authority in certain situations.  This allows someone to make decisions for you privately and manage your property how you want it to.  Additional incapacity documents include a living will and HIPAA Authorization, which address different incapacity situations.

2. The probate process

“Probate” is the term used to describe the court-supervised process that governs your estate after you pass away.  All estates without or with a will are probated.  The court appoints an executor (Personal Representative) to pay final expenses and distribute your property.  In Colorado, while this process is efficient and cost-effective, it is still a public process and may take up to a year.

How to avoid it:

A will does not ever avoid probate.  Two options exist to avoid probate: use beneficiary designations for every different kind of asset, or you can use a funded revocable living trust to consolidate, preserve, and control all your assets.  On the whole, the preferable option is working with your estate planning attorney to create and fund a trust.

Final Thoughts

Estate planning can be intimidating to think about.  Life never stops, and planning for negative possibilities is not a good thought.  Working with an estate planning attorney can help handle that stress, take some load off, and walk you through that process.  The goal is to protect you as much as possible and relieve as much stress as possible.  Contact The Rains Law Firm or schedule a complimentary initial meeting to discuss your options and begin protecting yourself and your family.