Estate planning key for all incomes

Wills, trusts only way to make sure what you have goes where you want

Kathleen Dunlap
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 1/8/20

Beyond all the legalese and the ideas of having a will or a trust or a retirement fund, attorney Richard Romeo believes it’s important for eveyone to do some estate planning for after they’re …

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Estate planning key for all incomes

Wills, trusts only way to make sure what you have goes where you want

Posted

Beyond all the legalese and the ideas of having a will or a trust or a retirement fund, attorney Richard Romeo believes it’s important for eveyone to do some estate planning for after they’re gone - whether they have a multi-million dollar home or not.

“If you own property or have children - or both—you should consider putting together an estate plan, whether you are young or old,” Romeo, of the Law Firm of Vincent, Romeo, and Rodriguez LLC, said.

Romeo has been working in this field of law for over 25 years. He has seen the full range of estate plans, both those that work efficiently and those that have gone badly.

Planning for one’s death in his mind is both practical and efficient.

If a person dies without a will in Colorado, the state determines heirs. The state has an “intestacy” chart that outlines how property gets distributed among blood relatives, based on the nearest degree of relation. Without a will, the deceased has no say.

“If you don’t want your property going to your Uncle George who you’ve always hated, a will is a good idea,” Romeo said.

A person may want their property to pass to the partner they’ve been living with for years, a good friend or even to a beloved charity. But if there isn’t a will, there may be no way, he said.

Fear and resistance

Some of the greatest deterrents to creating an estate plan have to do with cost, fear of lawyers and the belief that we are all invincible, Romeo said. It’s less expensive than most think, however.

A simple will or trust is around $1,500. These documents clearly lay out what goes where and who is in charge of the estate. A small price to pay for peace of mind and safeguards from a weird uncle or greedy cousin, he said.

An attorney can help navigate the process. In addition to protecting your property, a will or a trust can designate guardians for minor children or set up a pet trust for the care of beloved pets. Romeo has seen provisions in wills for the dogs and cats, of course, but also a bird and a tortoise. Everything can be planned for.

“If you care about those you are leaving behind, you’ll put a plan in place,” Romeo says.

Probate matters in Colorado are currently loosely supervised, but if fiduciaries administer an estate against a decedent’s wishes, they can face criminal charges.

“The hand from the grave remains in control,” Romeo said, recalling a phrase often referred to in his law school days.

Well-drawn up legal papers can also diminish turmoil in the wake of a death. Lack of direction from a will or a trust can often create family feuds. The more documents put in place prior to death, the better it is for those left behind, Romeo said.

Estate planning isn’t just planning for when you’re gone, but while you’r living tooBut Romeo isn’t only concerned about planning for after death. Romeo recommends everyone older than 18 have Medical and Financial Powers of Attorney and Advanced Medical Directives put in place, in case of an emergency.

“I would even consider those of higher priority than a will,” he says. “Everyone should have those.”

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