is the Estate Tax?
I Have to Pay Estate Taxes When I Die?
can I avoid paying Estate Taxes?
is Probate and Should I Avoid It?
I need a Will?
is a Testamentary Trust?
is a Revocable Trust and Do I need One?
is an Irrevocable Trust?
Can I Protect Myself in Case I Become Incapacitated?
I Write My Own Estate Planning documents?
is Medicaid Planning?
Happens in the Initial Consultation?
Do I Need to Bring to the Initial Consultation?
What is the Estate Tax?
The Estate Tax is a tax on the Decedent's assets being
transferred to others upon death.
An Estate is required to file an Estate Tax Return if its
taxable assets are greater than the Exempt Amount, even if it has
enough deductions to avoid paying tax.
Will I Have to Pay Estate Taxes When I Die?
I avoid paying Estate Taxes?
The Estate Tax Exemption increases each year for cost of
living. The Exemption amount for 2018 is $11,180,000.00 (almost
If a couple has combined assets valued at greater than the
Exempt Amount, and most of their assets are held in joint names,
they will most likely not be eligible to take advantage of the
full amount of Exemption allowed. This is because when the first
Spouse dies, all assets will pass automatically to the Surviving
Spouse, who will later die with assets valued greater than the
Exempt Amount (see above), thus resulting in an Estate Tax on the
Such clients should consult with an Attorney to determine how
to best structure their assets and Estate Planning documents in
order to take advantage of the Exempt Amount both when the first
Spouse dies, and again when the second Spouse dies, thus
giving them the maximum total allowable Exemption.
If a single person has assets greater than the Exempt Amount,
he/she should consult with an Attorney regarding how to shelter
some of his/her assets from Estate Taxes.
Estate Tax Planning can be accomplished either through the use
of Testamentary Trusts (trusts created under a Will) or
Inter-vivos Trusts (trusts created separately from a Will).
Do I Need a Will?
We recommend that everyone have a Will, no matter how much or
little they own, because it is a way in which the client can
specify who should get what, and who should be in charge of making
sure everything is handled properly. Even if the client has a
Revocable Trust (see below), a Will is necessary to handle any
assets that are not titled properly in the Trust at the time of
If you do not have a Will, the State of Colorado will create
one for you. You should at least investigate who would be entitled
to receive your assets and who would be entitled to be in charge
of handling your Estate under that state-created scheme, to be
sure that it is agreeable to you.
When a person dies with a valid Will, the probate proceedings
are much smoother and usually less expensive than when they die
without a Will.
Certainly, if you have children who are minors (under the age
of eighteen), you should have a Will, possibly with a Testamentary
Trust included, to make provisions for the care and custody of
What is a Testamentary Trust?
A Testamentary Trust is one that is provided for under a Will.
It will not be created until the person who wrote the Will has
Testamentary Trusts are used to provide for management of
assets for minor children, disabled relatives, or any other person
that the person writing the Will wants to make provisions for but
feels they cannot handle an inheritance properly by
Testamentary Trusts are also used in order to take advantage of
the Estate Tax Exemption when a person dies. This is called
"Estate Tax Planning".
What is a Revocable Trust and Do I Need
A "Revocable Trust" is also known as a "Revocable Living Trust"
or a "Living Trust".
This type of Trust is "living", which means that it is set up
during the lifetime of the person who creates it, as opposed to
being set up upon that person's death as is the Testamentary
Trust. It is "revocable", which means that the person who creates
it can change the terms of the Trust or end the Trust entirely, at
any time, for any reason, since the funds are theirs to do with
what they please during their lifetime.
The person setting up the Trust is called the Settlor. Usually
that person is also the Trustee (the person who handles or manages
the Trust's assets) and the Beneficiary (the person who receives
the benefit of the Trust - Trust funds are used for that person's
support or benefit).
Whether or not a client needs a Revocable Trust depends on
his/her specific assets and personal situation. Revocable Trusts
are recommended whenever the client owns real property located
outside of Colorado.
What is an Irrevocable Trust?
An Irrevocable Trust is one that cannot be changed after it is
set up. These Trusts are usually set up during the lifetime of the
Settlor, but for the benefit of someone else, such as his/her
Spouse and/or children.
Usually, these Trusts are set up to avoid Estate Taxes or other
types of taxes. They can also be set up in order to take care of a
beneficiary who is incapacitated. There are several types of
Trusts available. Please consult with an Attorney for more
Can I Write My Own Estate Planning
We do not recommend that clients write their own Estate
Planning documents. Although they may be valid, there are often
problems with the interpretation of the language in the documents,
because the average person does not have a working knowledge of
the legal interpretation of otherwise normal words.
It is best to have your Estate Planning documents written by an
experienced Attorney who can state your wishes in a manner that
will not be disputed. In addition, an Attorney should keep notes
as to their conversations with clients, which can be used to
clarify any questions that may arise in the future.
What Happens in the Initial Consultation?
Bette Heller provides potential clients a FREE FIFTEEN MINUTE
PHONE CONSULTATION to review their basic situation and goals.
During that phone conversation, the potential client can determine
if they feel comfortable with Ms. Heller and wish to proceed with
a face to face appointment.
Ms. Heller prefers to meet with clients at one of her offices,
where her professional resources are accessible. However, if a
client is unable to come to her office, Ms. Heller is willing to
make house calls to the client.
During the initial consultation, Ms. Heller will review the
client's goals, assets and any family situation to be considered.
She will also explain how the laws pertain to the client's
situation and goals, analyze the client's needs as they relate to
the situation and goals, and make suggestions as to how to
accomplish those goals within the parameters of the relevant laws
and the client's comfort level regarding complexity or simplicity
of the plan.
Ms. Heller charges an hourly fee for the initial consultation
and analysis. As of January 2017, Ms. Heller' s hourly rate is
$300.00 per hour. This rate can change from time to time. Clients
can expect between 1-2 hours for Estate Planning and 2-3 hours for
Medicaid Planning. The length of time involved depends on how
organized client's information is, how complex the client's
situation is, and how many questions the client has with regard to
these matters. Payment for the initial consultation is expected at
the end of the consultation.
At the end of the initial consultation, Ms. Heller will
recommend actions to fulfill the client's needs and desires; and
she will provide firm quotes for document preparation.
The client is free to take time to think about these
recommendations, or decide to continue with Ms. Heller's services
For a full Estate Plan, if the client does decide to continue
with Ms. Heller within thirty (30) days of the initial conference,
she will credit the consultation fee against the quoted fee for
document preparation. Ms. Heller requests payment of one-half of
the document preparation fee before beginning to draft those
documents. The remaining fee is due upon completion of the
documents, and any deduction for the consultation fee will be made
at that time.
What To Bring To The Initial Consultation?
The following is information needed to advise clients as to
Estate or Medicaid Planning. The advice given will be based on
what information is provided. The more complete the information,
the better the advice. Bring the following information and
- Real Estate:
Legal description; how titled;
estimated market value; estimated balance of any mortgage;
actual value listed on real estate tax notice.
- Vacation Home
- Rental Property
- Vacant Land
Bring copy of
Warranty Deed or Quit Claim Deed showing purchase (not Deed of
Trust), and copy of most recent real estate tax
- Bank Accounts:
Name of bank; type of
account; account name and number; how titled; current (or
average) balance; POD or beneficiary designation, if any.
Bring copy of most
- Investments/Securities (NOT held in
For individual Securities List name of
security; number of shares; current value; how titled.
- Stocks and Bonds
- Mutual Funds
- Investment Accounts
Bring copy of
certificates or other documentation.If
securities are held in an investment account, list name of
investment company; account number; how titled; current value of
account; POD or beneficiary designation, if any.
Bring copy of most
- Retirement Accounts:
List name of company; account
number; type of account/plan; current value of account;
- 401(k), etc.
- Other Company Plans
Bring copy of most
- Life Insurance:
List name of company;
policy number; face value; cash surrender value; death benefit;
beneficiary designation (first and second); amount of annual
premiums, if any. Is policy whole life, term or group?
Bring copy of
policy, and any correspondence regarding value or beneficiary
- Interest in a Business:
List each owner
and their percentage ownership, the current value of the
business, the form of entity (partnership, corporation, limited
liability company, etc.), any buy-sell agreements, any life
insurance policies, etc.
Bring copies of
all such documents.
- Tangible Personal Property: value,
descriptions, evidence of ownership, title information, etc.
- Miscellaneous: Client should bring
information on any other assets that they own or may own in the
future, such as:
- Potential Inheritance - List estimated amount and from
- Interest in a Trust - List who set up the Trust; what is
your interest, current or future; current value of Trust and
copy of Trust.
- Other Assets