Estate Planning News

Why Estate Planning is Important for Every Parent
June 22, 2017, by Attorney, Shelley Thompson, Burns Figa & Will PC, Colorado

Your will names the people you choose as guardian, or caretaker, over your minor children in the unlikely event of death of both parents.

Choosing a guardian is another decision that is very hard to make. This is normal – no one can imagine someone else raising their kids in the event of death of both parents. The thought alone is painful and frightening. But in the event such a disaster strikes, having done nothing, once again, is the worst option. A court would appoint guardian of your children, and it could be the most vocal person, including someone you would not have chosen. It could be someone who has a very different parenting philosophy than you. It could be somewhere where your kids aren’t happy. Your children would live with your guardian, and your guardian would receive some or all of your assets in order to care for your children. As reported in August 2016:

“For parents, making a will is the single most important thing you can do to make sure your child is cared for by the people you would choose if anything should happen to you. In your will you can designate a person (guardian) to care for your children if you die before they become legal adults. And you can designate a [trustee] to manage your money for your children until they reach adulthood.”

The roles of trustee and guardian can be filled by the same person, or different people. If you choose the same person, keep in mind your trustee would be writing checks to herself, as guardian, for groceries and other items to care for your kids.

It is very unlikely both parents will die and a guardian will be needed. But don’t put off naming a guardian, because the worst result would be the appointment of someone you would not have chosen. Name a guardian for your kids today by creating your online will today at It takes just 30 minutes, click “Begin” below now. in the Denver Business Journal!

The Challenge For Estate Attorneys is Getting People to Take Action

April 7, 2017, by Kathleen Lavine, Denver Business Journal

Despite the changes in technology that make the process easy, many citizens with ordinary incomes and typical net worth do not have a will.

The consequences of not having a document that specifies how assets should be distributed to heirs can be devastating for survivors. The state will often administer the remains without knowing the deceased’s wishes.

“Now more than ever it’s easy to get a will or basic estate planning documents done but statistics show traditionally 60-70 percent of Americans don’t have a will or document in place,” said Griffin Bridgers, an associate at the Denver law firm Spencer Fane specializing in tax and estate planning.

Bridgers knows from personal experience the trauma that stems from a premature death in a company and little planning ahead of time. It’s important for individuals and especially for businesses to make specific plans to deal with the changes that affect family members and employees.

Shelley Thompson, a shareholder and estates, trust and probate litigation attorney at Burns Figa and Will, said the widespread misunderstanding about estate planning prompted the firm to create a website to help clients with technology tools to aid in the planning process.

The firm’s new website,, is the first online will planning website that engages an attorney to answer clients’ questions and make recommendations on wills and trust issues.

Besides providing accessibility, Thompson says that, “services a market that wouldn’t otherwise engage in attorney…typically very small estates but that need a plan nonetheless.” services those who do not have a substantial trust or are too young to otherwise engage in an attorney.

Bruce Fowler, chair of Fairfield and Woods’ estate group, works with high net worth clients and faces a different set of issues in estate planning. One is the uncertainty of the federal estate tax, whether it’ll survive the current administration in the White House and Congress.

Fowler said if the estate tax is removed, ultimately much of the high net worth planning may become unnecessary, because most of the planning today is aimed at avoiding tax liability. While the estate tax currently remains in place, Fowler advises all clients that their current work may have to be redone if there’s a change in law.

Thompson said the adjustment in capital gains during the Obama administration has provided flexibility and has eliminated complications for mid-size clients. She doesn’t think that the Trump administration will remove the affordability provision for capital gains, but predicts inflation changes based on the increase in exemptions at the state level.

Bridgers and Fowler said the trend is toward more technology in estate and will planning. The new Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act in Colorado is an important consideration because many people have online accounts such as social media or digital assets and the act makes it clear that the designated fiduciary can access the accounts of the deceased.

Colorado is one of the first states to pass the RUFADAA act. Fowler said it’s a trend in law that provides clarity for digital asset control, preventing the loss of online information.

Bridgers said the psychology of planning for death thwarts efforts to plan for the distribution of assets following death.

“(It’s) the core issue that holds people back, not the availability that holds people back…the challenge for any practitioner is how do you create a sense of urgency for their clients driven by age, wealth, death of a loved one. What would happen if I suffered the same fate? Am I prepared?” Websites that don’t distinguish all the necessary components of planning, or don’t involve an actual attorney throughout the legal process can give users additional legal headaches.

Fowler said so-called blended families can have complex estate documents, even in those with modest estates and can expect potential heirs to fight over ambiguities in a document, or items left out if there are complications or lack of clarity in the documents.

Another recent trend in high net worth client focuses on protecting children’s inheritances through trust arrangements.

Whether it’s through discussions with the children or other heirs to prepare them for a possibility for a large inheritance, giving them the training and skills prior to inheritance to know how to better manage their funds is crucial.

Estate Planning: Why a Durable Power of Attorney is Important
March 20, 2017, by Attorney Shelley Thompson, Burns Figa & Will PC, Colorado

If you’re single or if your spouse dies, who would you trust to pay your bills, and takeover your checkbook, in the event you were unable? If married, most would choose your spouse to sign for you as agent on your durable power of attorney. But few couples have a durable power of attorney with someone named in second place, and few single people have a power of attorney at all. If you’re single, it’s essential to have a durable power of attorney, and if you’re married and one spouse dies, having that second-place person named becomes very important.

No one is immune from losing mental clarity that enables you to effectively pay your bills, manage your financial decisions, or decide who should be trusted to help. The agent on your durable power of attorney is empowered to sign your name; therefore, it is a powerful position and should be someone you trust. But the person you name would become your fiduciary -- meaning if called to serve, that person would be obligated to act in your best financial interest at all times. So it is better to name someone, and in the case of married couples, agree on who should be named as your second-place fiduciary. Not having an executed power of attorney can lead to a court appointing someone other than the person you would choose to handle your affairs if you cannot. Therefore, doing nothing is the worst option!

Name your fiduciaries – those you trust – today in just 30 minutes by using Your package will include your attorney-customized durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, living will, will or trust, and other documents you need. Click “Begin” below now.

With No Will, Prince Estate Heads Into “Uncharted Waters”
November 30, 2016, by Attorney, Shelley Thompson, Burns Figa & Will PC, Colorado

NBC News reported on June 27, 2016 that the Minnesota judge in Prince’s estate case said the case was heading into “uncharted waters,” in part because Prince had no will or living trust. In November 2016, it was reported that to date the lawyers involved in administering Prince’s estate have incurred fees of $2.3 million in just the first few months of administration!! Attorneys’ fees are always more, even in small estates, where there is no estate planning in place.

Even worse than the attorneys’ fees, Prince was a very private person who kept great control over his unpublished music. Yet having no will or living trust means his music will be sold to the highest bidder and therefore controlled by someone he didn’t choose. This is too bad as it is exactly what Prince would NOT have wanted!

Some think Prince might have trusted Jay Z with publishing his music, given that he gave Jay Z’s Roc Nation the rights to stream at least one album on Tidal streaming service in 2015. Prince made that deal with Jay Z because he thought the streaming service was innovative and wanted to support it. But no one can say whether or not Prince would have entrusted all his music with Jay Z, or with anyone else, because he had no will or living trust. If Prince did want Jay Z to be able to stream his music, he would be saddened his estate is now suing Jay Z’s company for streaming more music than they say he had written permission from Prince to stream.

Prince, while very wealthy, had one thing in common with many Americans – he put off his estate planning. Like many of us, no doubt Prince felt frozen when he tried to think of someone he trusted to take possession of his beloved and private music, or to whom he would entrust those decisions, or who would inherit his millions, being unmarried with no children. Just like Prince, while everyone knows they need an estate plan, many people feel frozen when they think about to whom they would leave their assets, whom they trust to handle their estate, and whom they would trust with their power of attorney. Being frozen means doing nothing.

But just like Prince’s case, doing no estate planning can produce the worst possible result in anyone’s case. Prince’s music will likely end up with someone he would have NOT wanted to have it; and his estate is being administered by someone he did not choose. Various people are stepping up to say they are entitled to inherit his fortune; whereas, there were no doubt certain people or charities he would have liked to give money to.

Learn from Prince’s case, affordably create your wills or living trusts today, using an attorney but in just 30 minutes, using the only site of its kind, Click “Begin” below now!

Legal Battles over Parental Guardianship
NPR, August 23, 2006

In Colorado, having a durable power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney can help avoid a court-appointed guardian or conservator you have not chosen.

Use today to create your durable power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney. For an interesting interview about a case that demonstrates why estate planning is important in avoiding a court-appointed guardian or conservator, check out this NPR article:

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