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What happens if you don’t have an estate plan in Colorado?

If you don’t make a plan for your death or disability, the State of Colorado has made a plan for you. It will be implemented on your behalf, at your expense and possibly against your wishes. In this age of divorce, multiple marriages, increased life expectancy and so many elders ending up alone, it is vitally important that we plan ahead. If you don’t think you need a plan, consider the following:


  • Who will take care of your children if you die or become incapacitated?

Without a comprehensive estate plan: The court will decide. If your relatives don’t come forward or cannot agree, this could end up in a lengthy, expensive and ugly battle or your children could end up Wards of the State.

With a comprehensive estate plan: You decide.

  • What happens to your estate if your spouse remarries?

Without a comprehensive estate plan: All or a substantial amount of your assets could end up with your spouse’s new spouse or the new spouse’s children. (Remember the story of Cinderella?)

With a comprehensive estate plan: You can protect your children and your spouse from future spouses and their relatives.

  • What if you are divorced, and have children by your former spouse?

Without a comprehensive estate plan: Your ex-spouse could end up in control of your assets.

With a comprehensive estate plan: You decide who you want to be in charge of the assets you leave your child(ren).


  • What happens if your child is in the middle of a bad marriage or divorce at the time of your death?

Without a comprehensive estate plan: Your child’s spouse could get a portion or all of your assets.

With a comprehensive estate plan: You can protect your child’s inheritance from future ex-spouses.

  • What if your child or spouse has a drug or alcohol problem or is immature, gullible, or a spendthrift?

Without a comprehensive estate plan: They will get their inheritance to do with as they will.

With a comprehensive estate plan: You can protect them and their inheritance from creditors and predators and provide incentives for them to protect themselves.


  • INCAPACITY: Who will pay your bills and take care of you, your assets and pets, if you become sick, have an accident, or otherwise physically or mentally incapacitated?

Without a comprehensive estate plan: Someone, usually a parent or child (maybe even a stranger), will have to go to court to obtain a guardianship to take care of you and to obtain a conservatorship to take control of your finances and assets. We call this “living probate.” It requires considerable time and money and you may end up under the control of a total stranger or someone you do not like or trust.

With a comprehensive estate plan: You decide who will make decisions about your personal care and how you want to be treated. You decide and direct how your bills, assets (even your pets) will be handled and by whom.

  • DISABILITY: What if your child, spouse or other heir is disabled or becomes disabled?

Without a comprehensive estate plan: If your disabled heir is on or applying for government assistance, their inheritance will likely cause them to lose eligibility for these important programs.

With a comprehensive estate plan: You can arrange for your disabled loved one to receive their inheritance without losing eligibility for important government programs.

  • NURSING HOME CARE: What if you become disabled? Will you be able to afford nursing home care without impoverishing your spouse?

Nursing home care in Colorado averages over $7,000 per month and in many facilities in the Denver Metro Area the cost is significantly higher. This cost can eat through a family’s retirement assets very quickly, especially in cases of dementia and Alzheimers, which can go on for several years.

Most families will require some form of government aid to afford a prolonged stay in a nursing home. However, in order to receive government assistance, an individual must be sick and poor (i.e. as of 2013, an individual must have less than $2,000 in assets, (or less than $3000 for a couple entering a nursing home).

At Tirey O’Neil, LLC we work with you to develop a comprehensive estate plan to ensure that you do not leave your loved ones without the means and authority to deal with your incapacity and to plan for you if you cannot.

  • SAME-SEX COUPLES: While considerable changes in the State and Federal laws within the last years have sought to afford same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples, these laws are still untested, incomplete, and often very confusing. Whether you are involved in a domestic partnership, civil union or were married in another state, it is vitally important you have a up-to-date comprehensive estate plan in place to ensure that you and your loved ones are protected.

We know that no one wants to think about incapacity and, dare we say it – death, so it is easy to put off getting an estate plan in place.  But a comprehensive estate plan is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family.  Above are just a few of the things that you should consider before deciding not to make an estate plan. So, don’t delay.  Contact Tirey O’Neil today to help you set up a well-coordinated and comprehensive estate plan.

Whether you need to create or update your estate plan, at Tirey O’Neil, we can help you identify your goals, make the appropriate plans and ensure that you and your family have peace of mind with regard to your estate plan. Contact our estate planning lawyer online or call (720) 932-4400 to schedule a free initial consultation.

Estate Planning Design Worksheet.

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