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BEACON Senior News

Kain & Burke: Know what would happen if you died today

Apr 04, 2022 12:46PM ● By Melinda Mawdsley

I don’t have $3 million in assets. My kids can figure it out.”

“I’m only 60. I feel great. That power of attorney decision can wait a few more years at least.”

“I found a form for a will on the internet. That will work, won’t it?”

Perhaps one of the aforementioned thoughts resonates with you. Perhaps you’ve even said it out loud. And if that’s the case, you aren’t alone.

Attorney Andrew Smith, of the law office Kain & Burke, said it’s common to hear prospective clients unsure or hesitant about their true need for estate planning. He reiterated that no matter family dynamics, personal assets or health status, an estate plan is a necessary and beneficial part of life planning. 

Estate planning prepares the way to legally manage a client’s assets in the event of incapacitation or death, which is why it’s never too soon to form one because designating power of attorney, setting a will and living will, and establishing trusts or guardianships cannot be done retroactively.

Getting started

The firm’s lawyers—Smith, Michael P. Burke, Stephanie R. Holguin, Jill Cenamo—and experienced paralegals meet with clients to personally assess what is needed and the information necessary to include in a comprehensive estate plan. Kain & Burke offers a variety of legal services, from complex tax issues to civil disputes, but Smith said estate planning is an area of expertise.  

Creating an estate plan may only take two meetings with a recommendation to revisit every five to seven years—or sooner, if something notable happens that needs attention. Those who put together an estate plan before moving to Colorado may want to meet with an attorney to ensure that plan works with state law.

“When a lot of people hear ‘estate planning,’ they think they need to have a lot of money,” Smith said. “But that’s not the case.”

An estate plan is designed to help people from a variety of financial standpoints while they’re alive and after death. An estate plan may include:

1. Power of attorney: A legally binding document that allows the client to predetermine who makes decisions on medical and financial decisions in the event the client is unable to do so.

2. Will: A document that specifies how a person’s property and assets are to be distributed. (It’s worth noting that a person who has moved to Colorado will want to check about the validity of an out-of-state will.)

3. Living will and other advance directives: Legal instructions for medical care if unable to make decisions oneself.

4. Trusts: An effective way to secure property and assets and have beneficiaries avoid potentially expensive and time-consuming probate processes after a client’s death. (There are different kinds of trusts.)

Kain & Burke attorneys will customize an estate plan for each client and will advise and take into account marriages, divorces, subsequent marriages, prenuptial agreements, etc.

Assets can be such things as bank accounts, real estate, retirement accounts, pensions and life insurance. Additionally, some people may have small businesses, or even oil and gas royalties that need to be discussed and handled.

Avoid the mess 

If all of this is too overwhelming to think about, imagine what happens if an estate ends up in court with an unknown and undetermined outcome. 

“[People] need to know what would happen if they died today, and if it’s not what they want, how they can change it,” Smith said. “A lot of times they think kids can deal with it, but they can’t always deal with paying bills while you are alive and making personal decisions on your health care. Do you want to leave a mess for your heirs or a streamlined format that really isn’t that costly to do?”

For help with your estate plan (and/or your parents’), call Kain & Burke at 970-241-2969, or visit them at 225 N. Fifth St., Suite 611, in Grand Junction (located inside Alpine Bank).