Estate Planning for the Beginner

~ By Tamra K. Waltemath, P.C. ~

What is estate planning? Estate planning is a process in which an attorney helps a client to make a written plan to pass on their assets at their death by taking into account the laws of wills, taxes, insurance, property and trusts to maximize the benefit of all laws to carry out the wishes of the client. To make an estate plan you need to know who your family is and what property you own. An attorney will need this basic information to help you devise a plan. A good plan will ensure that your assets will be transferred to your beneficiaries in a timely manner with minimal costs. An estate plan may include a will and or a trust as well as a power of attorney and a living will.

A good plan may include non-probate transfers like beneficiary designations. For example, you could designate a person to receive your bank accounts immediately upon your death by making a “payable on death” designation at the bank. You may also name beneficiaries on life insurance policies and retirement plans by contacting the companies holding these assets and completing its forms. You may transfer real estate upon your death by utilizing a “beneficiary deed.” You may place assets in a living trust to enable your trustee to transfer your assets to your beneficiaries at death, without probate.

Sometimes, you may not want to avoid probate and you can plan for this as well. There are some advantages to probate which include court supervision and a shorter time period for creditors to make claims against your estate. Probate is a court procedure in which a court supervises the management of your estate including appointment of a personal representative. Probate is required, even if you have a Will, if you own real estate at your death or your assets exceed the value of $64,000.00 for 2015 ( amount changes with date of death). In probate, the court requires your personal representative to file papers with the court like inventories, notices to beneficiaries and creditors and sometimes an accounting. These papers must be filed to transfer property and close your estate. When beneficiaries are disputing the transfer of assets and or there are creditor’s claims, it may be helpful and necessary to involve the courts.

There is not one estate plan that fits all, so it is advantageous to consult an attorney who has experience in estate planning for advice.

Tamra K. Waltemath

Tamra K. Waltemath

This article was written by Tamra K Waltemath of Tamra K. Waltemath, P.C. This information is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For specific questions, you should consult a qualified attorney. Tamra K. Waltemath is an elder law attorney focusing on wills, trusts, estate and trust administration, probate and non-probate transfers, guardianships and conservatorships. She can be contacted at: Tamra K. Waltemath, P.C., 3843 West 73rd Avenue, Westminster, CO 80030; 303-657-0360; or visit her website at: