Estate Planning & Probate

Estate Planning.  Skulborstad Legal Group, LLC represents clients throughout the Colorado Front Range in estate planning and probate administration.  We create comprehensive estate plans that accomplish the objectives of our clients, provide a plan for the possibility of future incapacity, and avoid the need for a lengthy and costly probate administration.

Every client’s situation and family dynamics is unique.  We tailor every client’s estate planning documents to fit their individual needs.  Our representation includes:

  • Last Will and Testament
  • Medical Powers of Attorney
  • General Durable Powers of Attorney
  • Disposition of Remains
  • Memorandum of Personal Property
  • Do Not Resuscitate Orders
  • Trust Construction
  • Advance Planning for Incompacitation

Probate Administration.  After a loved one passes away, our probate administration attorneys can assist in the effective management and distribution of the deceased individual’s assets and/or payment of debts.  We can assist in instances where there is a will or when your loved one passed without a will. 

 

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Estate Planning & Probate Services

Last Will and Testament

A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that sets forth your wishes as to who gets your property, who will be the guardian of your minor children, and who will manage your estate.  A will is limited to your “probate assets” and has no control over jointly held assets or those with a beneficiary designation. If you die without a will, those wishes may not be carried out. Further, your heirs may end up spending additional time, money, and emotional energy to settle your affairs after you're gone.

WHY should you have a will?

Some people think that only the very wealthy or those with complicated assets need wills. However, there are many good reasons to have a will.

  • You can be clear about who gets your assets. You can decide who gets what and how much.
  • You can keep your assets out of the hands of people you don't want to have them (like an estranged relative).
  • You can identify who should care for your children. Without a will, the courts will decide.
  • Your heirs will have a faster and easier time getting access to your assets.
  • You can plan to save your estate money on taxes. You can also give gifts and charitable donations, which can help offset the estate tax.

 

General Power of Attorney

Who will manage your financial matters if you become incapacitated, seriously ill, disabled, or injured and cannot handle them for yourself? Many people expect that a spouse or other family member automatically has the power to help; but this is not true. Under Colorado law, someone must be given special authority to act for another person. You accomplish this through a written document authorizing another person to act on your behalf. You must sign the document before you are incapacitated. Once you have lost the ability to understand and manage your own affairs, you can no longer authorize someone else to handle them for you.

power of attorney is the most commonly used document granting financial authority to another person. A power of attorney gives someone else, called an agent, the right to make financial decisions about the matters you specify in the document. Our office can help you go through different situations that may arise so you can best choose what powers to give your agent. You may sign a specific power of attorney at the bank to give an adult child the authority to make deposits and write checks on a specific bank account. You can use general power of attorney to authorize another person to handle a wide range of matters including banking, buying and selling property, and making investments on your behalf. The document itself states whether the powers it authorizes are specific or general. You can make the power of attorney temporary if, for example, you are going to be out of the country and want an agent to handle your affairs when you are gone.  You can also name temporary guardians for your children if you need to leave them with a third party that may need to make emergency decisions while you are away.

By giving your agent power of attorney, you are not giving up your right to make decisions for yourself.  In fact, for so long as you are of sound mind, you can end the agent’s authority by revoking the authority in writing. All powers of attorney end upon your death.

If you do not have a Financial Power of Attorney no one has default authority to handle financial matters on your behalf, including a spouse. Without a valid financial power of attorney in effect at time of need, a Court may need to appoint a Conservator over your assets. 

Living Will & Advance Medical Directives

Living wills and other advance directives are written, legal instructions regarding your preferences for medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Advance directives guide choices for doctors and caregivers if you're terminally ill, seriously injured, in a coma, in the late stages of dementia or near the end of life.  There are several types of advance directives:

  • Living Will
  • Medical power of attorney
  • POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment)
  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders
  • Organ and tissue donation

These documents are separate from the will that determines the inheritance of your assets.  These focus on your preferences concerning medical treatment and care.  It may also outline your religious or philosophical beliefs and how you would like your life to end. 

An advance directive is a vital part of your estate plan.  They are not just for older adults.  Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age, so it's important for all adults to prepare these documents.

By planning ahead, you can get the medical care you want, avoid unnecessary suffering and relieve caregivers of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis or grief. You also help reduce confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf.

 

Probate Administration

Probate administration is the process by which a decedent's assets are passed to their beneficiaries. When there is a valid will, it must be admitted to probate in order to trigger transfer of ownership. The probate process is also used to pass ownership when a decedent has no will. Through probate, the decedent's financial affairs, such as the repayment of debts to creditors, are wound up.  Whether or not an estate is required to go through probate proceedings depends on the assets that the decedent owned at the time of his or her death. Our firm generally assists in the following areas:

  • Opening the estate and having an Executor or Administrator appointed
  • Identifying the assets of the Estate
  • Providing advice as to the distribution of the assets pursuant to the decedent’s wishes
  • Working with the estate’s accountant to be certain debts and taxes are properly paid
  • Closing out the estate and seeing that the executor or administrator is discharged

Frequently Asked Questions

We understand the importance of choosing the right lawyer. We invite you to explore the breadth and depth of our capabilities.

Unlike some firms, we provide valuable service during our consultations.  Not only do we listen to your legal issue, we describe the legal process to you, evaluate your case and offer you an honest, upfront opinion of the likely outcome, and answer any questions you may have.  After walking out of your consultation, you should know what your next step will be.

We heavily discount our attorneys’ hourly rates so that we can provide affordable consultations for $100.  This is more than a time to “interview” us.  We will provide you with substantive, helpful information so you can make your next move with confidence.

The length of a case, from the initial consultation and filing the initial documents through to the resolution of the case by settlement, court order, or jury verdict, depends on several variables.  For this reason, it is not possible to say exactly how long a case may take.  Most courts can move pretty quickly if matters are settled and not contested, for example, the case may be resolved in 90 days.  If matters are unresolved, and experts are required, cases can exceed a year.  

Skulborstad Legal Group takes a team approach at handling your case.  You, as the client, will be a part of that team, as we work towards an award and satisfying outcome for you.  The firm is fortunate to have a hard-working, competent staff of individuals to assist you in achieving the best results. At the same time, if there is ever a time where you wish to speak with your lead attorney and not support staff, just say the words and you got it.

At the onset of our representative, you will be provided with the name and contact information of your lead attorney and paralegal.  We will routinely keep you informed of significant developments in your case, we will explain your options and what to expect at every step, and we will take any action necessary to ensure that your legal rights are fully assessed and protected – researching the law, interviewing witnesses, collecting records, conferring with experts, planning legal strategy, preparing and filing necessary paperwork, and negotiating – all with an eye towards ensuring your best possible outcome.  We also encourage you to contact us by telephone or e-mail at any time with any questions.

Yes. Colorado has time limits to formally file a lawsuit or claim.  The law that limits the time frame you have to file your lawsuit or claim is called the “statute of limitations.”  The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of case you wish to bring.  Therefore, it is important that you contact us, or any lawyer, as soon as possible after you have been harmed so you do not miss this deadline.  In the event you miss the statute of limitations deadline, there is a good chance you will be prohibited from any recovery.

Colorado has a 90 day "cooling off" or waiting period from the date the petition for dissolution of marriage is filed until the day a court can grant you your divorce.  However, the process can and will take longer if there are unresolved, contested issues.  DIvorces can be complex and there are a lot of variables that affecting how the process transpires.  As a general rule, though, most judges do not allow cases to exceed one-year, particularly when children are involved.

In Colorado, only one party needs to initiate divorce proceedings.  It is not necessary for the other side to agree to sign or file.  So long as the court finds that the marriage is "irretreiveably broken," the court can grant the divorce over the objection of the other.  The court usually makes this determination on the testimony of one or both parties simply stating their marriage is "irretreiveably broken." 

Dividing assets and debts in a divorce can be a complex process.  The court is required to determine what property is marital property and thus divisible and what the value of the property is.  After doing this, the court may then divide the property "equitably."  Equitably is not the same as equally.  Equitably means, "fairly."  The court considers a number of factors when dividing property fairly such as whether one party hears substantially more than the other, the age of the parties and years to retirement, the purpose of the debt, etc.

Each case varies, and our Colorado divorce lawyers will be able to give you an idea of how much of the debts you and your spouse have would be your responsibility and what a likely division of assets looks like.

During a real estate closing, the deed of title is delivered to the buyer, the title is transferred, the purchase if funded by way of cash or loan, title insurance policies are exchanged, and the agreed-on costs are paid.

A real estate attorney will prepare and review documents relating to purchase agreements, mortgage documents, title documents and transfer documents and inform the client about the documents and their responsibilities and obligations.  The real estate attorney will also draft any agreements or counteroffers pertaining to the sale or purchase.  A real estate attorney will guide the client through the process and deadlines and often attends closing with the buyer.

It is no secret that real estate agents earn high sales commissions.  Although their commission is often paid by the seller, the cost may be indirectly shared with the buyer.  Typically, in a standard real estate transaction, it is rare for attorney's fees to exceed or even come close to the commission of a real estate broker.  

It is not uncommon for legal issues or problems to arise that a real estate agent cannot answer.  Although good agents may know a lot about negotiating and contracting, they cannot make judgments on legal questions nor can they initiate and draft additional contractual provisions.

Most of us spend a considerable amount of time and energy in our lives accumulating wealth.  With this, we want to preserve what we have and share it with future generations.  A solid, effective estate plan ensures that your hard-earned wealth will remain intact as it passes to your beneficiaries.

The short answer is no. However, there are many legal documents and restrictions that go into the process. Without a knowledgeable attorney, you may miss important parts of the process and your wishes may not come to light.  An attorney can help you through the entire process.

You can always update your estate plan. As you get older, your family may change in size, opinions might change, and the property you have may differ.  It is important to regularly review your estate plan.  Once you pass away, the most recent version of your plan will be upheld.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, the following remedies may be available to you if you prevail in your action:

  1. Compensatory Damages – Money damages to reimburse you for financial losses incurred as a direct result of the breach or tort.
  2. Consequential and Incidental Damages – Money damages to reimburse you for financial losses you incurred as foreseeable, but indirect result of the breach.
  3. Liquidated Damages – Money damages agreed-to and written into a contract that would be payable in the event of breach.
  4. Punitive Damages – Money damages awarded with the intention of punishing the party who acted in an offensive manner in an effort to deter others from engaging in the same wrongdoing.
  5. Attorney fees and costs – These fees are generally only recoverable if the terms of the agreement specifically provided for them.
  6. Rescission  – A contract is canceled and both parties are excused from further performance.
  7. Reformation – The terms of a contract are modified to reflect the original intention of the parties.
  8. Specific Performance  – A court order requiring a party to perform as set forth in the contract.

Most people think of the trial process as arguing a case in front of a judge and jury in a courtroom, but it is actually far more detailed than that. It includes several steps, such as:

  • Pleading: complaint, answer, and motions
  • Pretrial: discovery, including written questions and depositions.
  • Trial: jury seating, testimony from plaintiff and defendant
  • Conclusion of trial: closing arguments, judge’s charge to the jury, deliberations, announcement of verdict
  • Post trial, motions for a new trial or appeal

If the claims are the result of a contract, the terms of the contract may establish the parties’ right to recover attorney’s fees. Otherwise, fees may be assessed if there is evidence of bad faith in the underlying matter, if claims were frivolously asserted or defended, or if the claims are the result of willful misconduct.  Additionally, fees or costs may be awarded against a party that willfully dismisses a case without the agreement of the other.  However, in most cases, each of the parties will have to bear their own fees and expenses.

If you have been arrested, you may be able to “post bail” in order to be released from holding until your next hearing. If you cannot afford to post bail, then you will have to remain in holding. Some individuals are not even granted bail do to reasonable fear that the defendant poses a threat to the public. Bail is granted and denied on a case-by-case basis.

Also called a plea deal or a plea agreement, a plea bargain is a two-way agreement between you and the prosecutor. You agree to plead “guilty” or “no contest​” to a particular charge, and you receive an agreed upon sentence.  That agreement could be reduced sentences or pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

Accepting a plea bargain could be a favorable option, but it is not for everyone.

  • Plea bargain pros: When you accept a plea bargain you know exactly what sentence you’ll get. You have the peace of mind of being done with the process and avoiding the expense of trial.
  • Plea bargain cons: A plea bargain means you now have a DUI—or some other charge—on your criminal record. You have to serve the sentence, and your insurance rates will likely go up.

A plea bargain should only be entered into under close attorney advisement and after thorough legal counsel.

 

After you are arrested, you have an absolute right to not speak to the police.  In fact, it is advised that you do not speak with the police without first consulting an attorney.  

There are certain things that the police are allowed to ask you and that you do have to answer. But that’s more things like routine booking questions. You know, like after they decide to arrest you: name, date of birth, address, things like that. The type of information that they have to have in order to book you into custody.

But, anything regarding the case or anything that might incriminate you, absolutely have a right not to answer it and we would strongly advise you to use that right and not talk to the police.

Most legal situations require the assistance of an experienced lawyers, but it does all depend on the circumstances of each case.  Prudent practice generally dictates that individuals should not engage in self-representation except in relatively minor matters.  The best thing you can do is to consult with an attorney who will inform you at the outset whether it is worth your while to obtain legal assistance and/or pursue legal action.  If you are unlikely to prevail, or the benefits of obtaining a lawyer do not clearly outweigh the costs, you should probably not incur the unnecessary expense.   However, if the issue is serious or you have a fair chance at prevailing, you would seriously consider having an experienced attorney advocate for you.  Lastly, before making the decision to represent yourself, you should know that

self-represented individuals are usually held to the same legal standards as attorneys.  This means that if they fail to follow court rules and regulations, they are subject to litigation sanctions (consequences), and the excuse that they are not legally trained may fall on deaf ears.  The legal process can be complex and intimidating.  Let one of our attorneys help you balance the cost and benefit of representation.

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding contract often between two intimate, unmarried individuals, who reside or intend on residing together.  These agreements function similarly to a prenuptial agreement and a lease in many ways.  They set forth how money, property and debt are handled during and potentially after a relationship. They also can outline the expectations and responsibilities of each party during relationship.

 

There are several reasons to have a cohabitation agreement.  Some of the primary purposes are

  • To confirm two individuals have no intent to become common law married;
  • To identify and outline the expectations and obligations of each household member to prevent misunderstanding and confirm responsibilities
  • To identify rights that often are associated with marriage (such as the rights to property acquired during the relationship or the disposition of property in the event of a break-up)

There are several things to consider before pursuing someone for money or services you believe you are owed.  First, it is essential to determine if your rights to the funds or services you are seeking.  Is there a clear agreement, is it in writing, is there a document trail showing refusal to pay?  To show your case in the best possible light, it is typically best to try other methods of debt collection before pursuing the matter in court.  For example, be sure to ask for the money - preferably in writing - so there is a record of your attempts.  Ask them multiple times for an exact dollar amount.  You can also consider a professional collection agency.  If these methods do not work, it would be time to consult an attorney to help you navigate the legal system.

Non-compete clauses may first rub you wrong.  They can be offensive and can potentially negatively impact your future liklihood.  However, if drafted fairly, both you and your potential employer can benefit.  For example, the employer may wish for an agreement that the employee not solicit former or existing customers or that the employee not establish a similar business within a specified geographical location.  Certainly, as long as these terms are fair and defined appropriately, it is reasonable for the employee to agree. 

There are instances where a non-compete agreement may be overreaching and voidable.  If an agreement is determined void for such things as being too restrictive, the employer can be harmed.  On the other hand, if a non-compete agreement is very restrictive, but still within reason, the employee may be forced out of working in their area of expertise where they live. 

An employer cannot require you to sign a non-compete agreement, but they may choose to terminate your employment or refuse to hire you.  But, often times, these non-compete agreements are negotiable and you can keep your employment while the company protects its interest.

Prenuptial agreements (often shortened to "prenup") are not only for the weathly.  Prenups are generally useful for most couples.  A prenup is a written contract created by a couple who intend on marrying and wish to deviate from law with regard to dissolution of marriage proceedings and probate matters. 

Typically, most think of prenups as being for the weathy.  This is not always the case.  They can be used to assist couples to protect their future and to know and control how property is going to be managed.

The agreement may outline the rights and obligations of each person during their relationship and in the event of death or divorce.  It can really contain whatever a couple so wishes.  For example, a prenup may impact an award of spousal maintenance or alimony (depending on some factors), it may dictate how assets or debts accumulated during the marriage or distributed upon divorce, it may be used to award a business or pet to one or the parties or it may be used to remove rights married couples have under the probate code.  

There are many things that can go into a prenup and there are many pitfalls if not drafted properly.  Let one of our experienced attorneys assist you in planning your future.

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