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Spring Is In The Air

Spring is in the air and ’tis the time of year when one’s thoughts turn to love… and marriage.

There are probably more weddings planned in the spring than any other season. According to some statistics, the months of May and June have the most weddings.

And if you don’t think that marriage is a ‘big business’- it is estimated that $72 Billion per year is spent on weddings in the United States (the average cost of a wedding being $20,000).

So, before you plan the big date, there is something less romantic you may consider.

Having a frank discussion with your ‘beloved’ about finances might not be on the list of your wedding planner, but should be on yours.

The discussion about money is particularly important if this is your second (or third, or more) marriage.

I wrote an article about “To Do Before I Do” that covered some of the aspects of things to consider prior to marriage.  There is also the article “The good pre-nup” in my website archives. (

I will add a few more hints toward getting your marriage off to a good start.  Granted, talking about finances is a difficult topic, particularly with a potential spouse.  But it is important to your future life together.

  1. Have frank discussions with your spouse-to-be about lifestyle expectations, children, children from prior marriage(s), and finances.
  2. Update your will and your estate plan. One idea may be to have an appointment with an estate planning attorney and use that as a ‘platform’ for the questions you both have.
  3. Consider a pre-nup, particularly if this is a second marriage. Often, both partners bring to a marriage different financial issues and assets. For those close to retirement, the pre-nup might be useful.

There is also the possibility of post-nup agreements, but such post-nup agreements (similar to a pre-nup, but agreed upon after a marriage) may not be the best option.

Remember, it is advised that both partners have different legal advisors for the pre-nup.

4. Talk specifically about debt, including co-signatures either of you may have made on loans and other debt instruments, including college loans. Remember, debt includes credit card debt.

5. If there is a family business, the discussions about finances are critical prior to a marriage.

6. Talk taxes – things will change after marriage, your tax status may change. Make sure both partners do not carry over IRS debt issues in the marriage.  If there are liens against property, that should be disclosed.

  1. Clean up your credit rating and credit score. If one partner has an extremely low credit score, it could impact things like getting a good future mortgage rate or any loan application.

8. Review specifically your beneficiary forms and pension documents. Consider the laws of the state where you will be living with regard to inheritance.

None of the above is as much fun as planning your wedding venue, flowers, and honeymoon.

But planning ahead could be critical for your future life together.

Working to Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

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Summer Time…Moving Time

Summer is one of the busiest times for relocations – ask any real estate agent.

When you have found your next dream home, you probably are not thinking of your Estate Plan – you have enough to do just planning the move.

The reality is that there are two things to consider during and after the move.

First, Organize and keep those important legal documents with you. Don’t trust them to moving companies.  You might just have a critical need for a particular document and would not want to go through the hassle of floundering through cartons to find that important piece of paper.

One rather bizarre event was when a client’s associate, during their overseas move, lost most of their household items overboard. Their entire container left the dock and took a nosedive into the water, along with their legal documents, photo albums and irreplaceable collectibles. Their insurance documents were, of course, in the container.

Second, After the move /consult your estate plan documents (or have your legal advisor do the job) and think about if and how your situation may have been affected.  The most obvious change would be moving to/from a community property state or to a foreign country…there are differing laws for different states and countries that could affect your estate plan.

Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

 Please read my full Disclaimer and How I Can Help You

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Approaching the End of the Year

As unbelievable as it seems, this is the final eight weeks of 2016. The next few months will be a blur of holiday planning, shopping and events that will keep a family busy, busy, busy.

Remember to put on your calendar a note to locate, to organize and to review your important documents. Tax time will soon roll around and rather than waiting until the final days of December (which will be far too busy anyway) – NOW might be a good time to:

Review your financial documents and make any adjustments;

Meet with financial advisors and CPAs;

Begin to consider any asset allocation changes for tax planning purposes; and

Review all your estate planning documents.

If you do not have an estate plan, consider the pros and cons of developing one. ( See my Infographic about having a will vs having a trust)

Do any of the following describe a 2016 event in your life?

  •  Acquired significant assets;
  • Began to plan for retirement;
  • Planning to adopt a child;
  • Made a change of lifestyle;
  • Moving/moved to another state;
  • Are in the process of a divorce, marriage or remarriage;
  • Going into business;
  • Planning to exit a business;
  • Starting a family;
  • Experiencing a significant change of health;
  • Had a death in the family;
  • Changed jobs/lost a job

Then… now is the time to meet with an attorney who can advise on how to start the estate planning process; alter your estate plan; review your legal documents/contracts and discuss your future alternatives.

Keep in mind that without a Will – if anything happens to you – your assets, your family and your future might fall into the “default” position of having the state decide for you.


“Working to Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World”

Please read by Full Disclaimer and “How I Can Help Your”

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To Do, Before I Do

When planning a marriage there are more romantic thoughts than those of estate planning.

An even less romantic thought it that of the pre-nuptial. However, as more marriages occur later in life or after a first divorce – there are considerations of Yours, Mine, Ours, and blended families.

I have written previously about pre-nuptial agreements (go to my website and click on the sidebar – ‘prenuptial agreements’) and emphasize that such an agreement should not be entered into lightly. A prenuptial agreement is binding in courts of law and one would be wise to have an attorney review the pre-nuptial document before signing.

In addition to the presence or absence of a pre-nuptial agreement, there are other considerations for couples, whether it is a first marriage or not.

Five important elements to consider – before that walk down the aisle:

1) Talk about finances with your spouse- to- be. Do you both agree on how to handle the day -to-day expenses of a life together? What are your lifetime financial goals? Will there be budgets in place? Is one of the couple bringing large outstanding debt to the relationship? Have all taxes been filed? Are there substantial assets that one partner might choose to retain e.g. a vacation property, a boat, an antique car collection? Are there business obligations- e.g. being a ‘silent’ partner in a failing business venture? Are there outstanding family loans or obligations?

An open and frank discussion before marriage is better than ‘surprises’ at the beginning of your life together.

2) Set up wills and Powers of Attorney. If you have an old will, review it as well as all former power of attorney documents. Upon marriage you will probably want changes to some of the information.

3) Review all beneficiary forms and pensions and IRA’s. Also review documents of all your financial institutions – including the access to safe deposit boxes.

4) Now might be a good time to decide who will be responsible for the day- to- day payment of bills. Take stock of all credit cards and see if there is ‘overlap’ ; for example do both partners require the same credit card account or should it be a joint account? Remember to discuss outstanding credit card debt and how that will be handled going forward. Are there auto lease agreements? College tuition for children? Are there financial obligations for aging parents? Have you made a loan to a family member that is outstanding?

5) Take stock of all valuable collections, for example art. Will it ‘fit’ your life together? Should the collection be sold off prior to marriage?

You will probably agree that all of the above is not very ‘romantic’ conversation.

But in planning your “To Do” list together, the opportunity to reach agreement is better than difficult discussions or disclosures after you say “I do”.

Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

Please read my full disclaimer and How I Can Help You

Visit my website: for more articles and interesting infographics

Pets and Estate Planning

I have written previous articles about how pets should be included in your Estate Plan. There are often very specific issues surrounding larger (or long- lived animals like parrots and tortoises) ‘pets’- in this case horses.

I was pleased to get a very good article dropped into my email inbox.  It deals specifically with horses.  The title of the article is Estate Planning Tips for Horse Owners by Erica Larson (July 12, 2016) and the title says it all.

You can read the entire article at

No matter what furry or feathered friend you have, you want to take care of their future well-being. Have I ever included pets in my clients’ estate planning? The short answer is YES!

Also, …Consider what would happen if you were incapacitated for a long period of time.

Take action to include your pets in your estate planning.

Working to Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

Please read my full Disclaimer and How I Can Help You

Visit my website: for more articles and informative infographics

The Language of Your Estate Plan

I have often written about the importance of updating your Estate Plan.  Life happens and with it many changes in your personal and economic situation.  The questions to ask yourself are:  has my life changed significantly in any way over the past twelve months by life events like marriage, divorce, births, deaths, moving, retirement, job loss/significant salary reduction – these could trigger a change in your future plans. See previous articles on my website under the Categories:  Update Documents; Advanced Directives; Asset Titling and Beneficiary Designations.

But one factor that must be considered is also the LANGUAGE of your Estate Plan. I am not talking about English vs Spanish vs German – but rather the legal language of the individual documents of the plan.  To take a simple example, if your Estate Planning documents include trust documents, changes in the law can affect how the legal language would best describe those trust documents. Or to put it another way, with changes in the law there might be a better way to describe your wishes via a trust.

Laws, like life, change and evolve.

A review of your Estate Plan documents is ‘value for money’ – you do not want estate planning documents that use ‘outdated’ legal language or that do not effectively describe your wishes into the future.

Working to Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

Please read my Full Disclaimer and “How I Can Help You”

Visit my website: for more articles and helpful infographics



DNA and Your Estate Plan

I have previously written about the impact of assisted reproductive technology (ART) on a person’s estate plan. The article is titled:  The Ticking Clock & The Ticking Time Bomb (2/9/15) on my website:

That article dealt with frozen genetic material, assisted reproductive technology and the Estate Planning process.

There are cases where a child is born after someone’s death and again some cases where that child is the product of assisted reproductive technology. (The eggs had been frozen and then implanted in a surrogate.

There is a slippery slope created in terms of ART, frozen genetic material and issues of Estate Planning. Another factor in Estate Planning is evolving and that is the proof of biological connection, via DNA analysis.  The most notable current situation – following the recent death of Prince, people came forward who claimed to be biologically related to the music legend and wanting to claim part of his substantial estate.  Interestingly, a judge (prior to the cremation) had ordered DNA collection from the music legend.  This test could determine whether the future claims of heredity were valid.  Those people who claimed to be the biological relations of Prince would have to prove that connection with their own genetic testing results.

Thus, genetic testing for heredity is moving into the realm of estate planning. DNA test results could prove or disprove biological relationship in an inheritance dispute – even post mortem.

Should everyone have their DNA tested and kept on file. That depends on the likelihood of a dispute, the size of the estate and other factors.  But it certainly offers another aspect of Estate Planning strategy.

Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

 Please read my full Disclaimer and “How I Can Help You”

Visit my website: for more articles and interesting infographics



Catching Your Student On The Fly

With the summer holidays here, you no doubt will be busy with events planning. One family event might include the visit from your college student (back from college – complete with their laundry and a new friend).

During that visit home, you just might be able to ‘catch them on the fly’ to have them sign some important legal documents. Your child may have done this before they left for college.  If so,  you are probably one of the few families who considered preparing legal documents amidst the flurry of activity surrounding the college- bound.

Now that your college student is settled into their new life, the timing is good to have a brief discussion with them about certain legal documents.

Which legal documents are important for your child to have while attending college? Two “must-haves” are the durable Power of Attorney and a health care proxy.

This is particularly urgent if your student is residing out of state, away from your home.

If they are in a foreign country or plan to do foreign exchange credits there are other issues for you to consider.

The time taken to consult with an experienced attorney could prevent difficulties in the future and offer you and your child certain legal protections should the need arise.

Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

Please read my Full Disclaimer and “How I Can Help You”

Visit my website: for more articles and interesting infographics


7 Mental Exercises for Estate Planning

I have previously written that the estate planning process is very much a joint effort between client and lawyer. Together we STRUCTURE your estate plan to fit your specific needs, now and into the foreseeable future;  we REVIEW the estate plan based on current law; and we ALTER/ADJUST the estate plan based on any changes in “external” conditions (for example, changes in state, federal, tax laws) or “internal” changes (for example, a marriage, birth, death, or divorce.)

Here are some thought-provoking mental exercises for the first part of structuring your estate plan. I have used a similar (but more detailed) model to begin the estate planning process with my clients.  Within the subject areas, consider how you would “rate” the item – how important is it to you, now or in the future; for example is “appointing an agent to make health care decisions” either:  very significant to you?  of average importance? not likely to be of any concern?

So…let’s begin,

Subject Area No. 1: In The Event of Permanent or Temporary Incapacity (how would you rate the importance to you of the following items?)

Appointing an agent to manage your financial affairs

Appointing an agent to make health care decisions

Providing use of personal assets to support partner/family

Continuing or starting lifetime gift program

Subject Area No.2: Specific and Cash Gifts (how would you rate the importance to you of the following items?)

Providing gifts of personal property to specific family members

Providing cash gifts (to family, friends, charities)

Providing gifts of real estate or other property; preserving family property rights

Providing for care of pet(s)

Developing a charitable gift plan e.g. supporting a university, a “cause”, an institution

Subject Area No. 3: Spouse/Partner (how would you rate the importance to you of the following items?)

Providing for spouse/partner

Providing a trust for spouse to manage assets/address remarriage/protect assets

Giving spouse the right to redirect trust assets as they determine at their death e.g. after your death, your spouse dies.              he/she had been given “right” to allocate/redirect remainder of trust assets to anyone they wish (in other words – they had not been prevented from “re-allocating” assets)

Subject Area No. 4: Children/Descendants (how would you rate the importance to you of the following items?)

Providing for children/grandchildren

Treating all children/grandchildren of your marriage equally

Planning for special needs of a family member

Providing for step-children as your own children

Providing for a trust for children in order to manage/protect assets

Giving children the right to redirect trust assets upon their death e.g. after your death, one of your children dies; they may allocate/redirect any remainder of trust assets to anyone they wish

Providing for transfer of assets (at your death) outright to grandchildren

Providing for a trust for grandchildren

Preventing transfer of assets to spouses of children/grandchildren (e.g. your son Joe is married to Mary. If Joe were to pre decease Mary, you do not wish Mary to inherit certain assets/property)

Providing for payout of benefits over life expectancy of beneficiary

Paying retirement plan benefits into a trust for a beneficiary

Subject Area No. 5:  Tax Planning   (how would you rate the following items?)

Minimizing federal/state taxes

Reducing federal/state income taxes

Subject Area No. 6: Medical (These are general questions that probably require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response).

Would you want food/water (nutrition/hydration) if death was imminent?

Do you wish to become an organ donor?

Do you have a medical power of attorney?

Do you have a current life-limiting medical condition?

Does spouse/child have special need?

Do you have temporary guardianship arrangements in place for minor children?

Subject Area No.7: General (Questions that require only a “yes or no” response)

Do you own your own business? Do you have a succession plan in place?

Do you have any beneficiaries other than spouse/partner/children/grandchildren?

Are you a citizen of the United States? Is your spouse a citizen of the United States?

Do any of your possible beneficiaries live outside the United States?

Do any family members/friends/business associations owe you money?

Do you have any deceased children? Was the child married?  Did they have children?

Have you/your spouse/partner previously completed any other estate planning documents?

Are you inquiring about a prenuptial agreement/post-nuptial agreement or an amendment to an existing marital agreement?

Do you plan to live/retire/work outside the United States?

 Final: The above are not the only considerations of an estate plan.  Having read through the major subject areas, you can begin to understand the process of estate planning.  It begins with the here and now and develops into a plan for the foreseeable future.  It develops from answers to very specific questions/answers and the legal consequences (interpretation) of those answers.  The individualized plan evolves into a legal document and a specific process to both allocate your assets as you wish and to preserve your assets into the future.

Please visit my website:  for more information and printable infographics.

Go to bottom of this page for my disclaimer and also for my column “How I Can Help You”

Let’s Talk Conservation Easements…

This article about conservation easements in Colorado was the result of reading in the Aspen Daily News (on line) “Conservation easement approved by Pitkin County for McBride Ranch by Collin Szewczyk, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer, (Thursday, October 23, 2014)…”Deal lands long-time family millions in development rights …Pitkin County commissioners approved an application for the 635-acre McBride Ranch property to be designated as a conservation easement, potentially earning the family millions of dollars in transferable development rights”

Conservation easements are not new and the topic has long been a “hot button issue” in Colorado (and other states.) The websites noted here are only a few of the many sites dedicated to the topic of conservation easements in general (federal and state statutes) and in Colorado specifically.

No doubt I have omitted (unintentionally) many websites that are worthwhile and fully expect to hear from both the “pro” and “anti” groups about Colorado’s conservation easements initiatives. The information offered in this site supports neither a “pro” nor an “anti” view, but attempts to give a balanced view of the topic and suggestions as to where to gain more information.

Taken from an estate planning perspective – Conservation easements is and has been a complex issue and the best advice is… if you are thinking about using this as part of your estate plan, consider the services of both a qualified legal advisor and a financial/tax planning advisor.

As with any legal document or contract, one should have the most up to date information (legislative and financial) and legal advisement relevant to the topic. Consider also the long term perspective of using conservation easement as part of your estate plan.

Although several of the websites noted here are from earlier years (for example 2008) they offer an “historical perspective” about conservation easements and the changing public viewpoints and policies.

Conservation Easements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Dana Joel Gattuso  (2008)  The title basically tells it all.  “Donating a Conservation Easement” A helpful “how to guide” of the process.  In their article… Step 3 of the process is “advise your attorney and accountant of your plans…”  My opinion is that this should be Step 1.  Gather information and then begin a discussion of the advisability, risk/reward, accountability, of a conservation easement with the landowner and other interested parties (for example family members) and legal and financial counsel.

Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) Division of Real Estate- Colorado  According to the definition on the website:

“A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally-binding and perpetual restriction that limits certain uses and prevents future development of a property. (Take specific note of the wording of legally- binding) It is a recorded deed restriction enforced by a non-profit organization or a governmental entity. Important conservation values, such as habitat, open space, scenic views, agriculture, outdoor recreation, or education, are protected forever….Landowners who donate all or a portion of a conservation easement to a non-profit organization or a governmental entity (“conservation easement holder”) may qualify for a transferable state income tax credit if certain requirements are met. Landowners may earn a tax credit at the amount of 50% of the donation value with a maximum credit of $375,000. For a landowner to be eligible for a tax credit, the conservation easement holder must be certified by the Division of Real Estate.”

A further point is that conservation easement law, or the legal/political issues surrounding conservation easements in Colorado are not static.

As an example: For 2014…(citing from the website) “Beginning in 2014, Senate Bill 13-221 established a pre-approval process prior to the tax credit claim for conservation easement donations made on or after January 1, 2014. SB13-221 authorizes the Director of the Division of Real Estate (“Director”) to determine the credibility of appraisal and the nine-member Conservation Easement Oversight Commission (“Commission”) to determine whether the donation is a qualified conservation contribution. The Department of Revenue no longer has jurisdiction to disallow a tax credit for issues relating to the appraisal or conservation purposes…”

UPDATE ON CONSERVATION EASEMENT GUIDELINES: WHAT EVERY COLORADO LANDOWNER SHOULD KNOW by Catherine Keske, Stephanie Gripne, and Lynne Sherrod  published 2008. An older article but a thoughtful analysis of the topic with some historical data. “Save Money on Taxes and Protect Open Space: Conservation Easement Income Tax Credits”    I have included this as a very general explanation about Colorado’s unique tax credit initiative.

According to the site:  “You can save thousands of dollars on your state income tax bill by participating in the state of Colorado’s unique conservation easement income tax credit program and help preserve Colorado’s natural treasures. ”  The Article explains and gives example of 2014 use of conservation income tax credit (in Colorado)

Other websites for more information:  Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts

Doubtless there are many other sites that can provide helpful background about the topic. Deciding what is right for you will depend on your unique circumstances as a landowner and your individual estate situation.

Please read my disclaimer at the bottom of this page.  Also, there is a column about “How I Can Help You” below.

visit my website: for more articles and some printable infographics.