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Writing a Will in Colorado: The Basics

will imagesWhen people hear about wills or planning for a will it immediately brings them to the thought of death. No one wants to think about death or dying but not having a will can create difficulties for loved ones. A will permits a person to make decisions on how their estate will be managed after death. It allows the person to decide how their personal property and and other assets will be handled instead of the state managing their estate.

If a person dies without a will they are said to have died “intestate” and essentially the law will make decisions about dissemination of the deceased person’s estate and assets based on tenants of Colorado law. Many people find this prospect as scary as thinking about death itself.

In Colorado in order to make a will the person must be 18, be of sound mind, know their assets and immediate family members, and know who they want to give their assets to. A will may be handwritten or typed but must be signed by the maker and dated. A properly executed will should also be witnessed by two uninterested parties and, ideally, notarized. A person can also appoint someone else to sign a will on his/her behalf.  Colorado courts will generally accept a holographic (handwritten) or typed will but these wills are frequently found defective which may cause delay. People are normally surprised to hear that a will can be handwritten but there are many cases trial courts have heard that involved wills written on scraps of paper or napkins.  And some of those will have been held to be legally valid.

It is best to speak with an attorney when writing a will as writing a will does require special skills.  Most attorneys who handle wills will be able to write a will for you which will include all relevant language that will prevent unnecessary complications when it comes time to execute the will.  In most cases, it is good advice to avoid pre-printed will forms you could otherwise purchase from a big box office supply store.

A will can be updated or changed at any time provided the person is still mentally competent. Upon a divorce, Colorado law states once a divorce is final the ex-spouse no longer has a claim. Upon a marriage, the new spouse will be entitled to the same shares they would receive if there was no will set up. Colorado law also provides protection for children born after the will was executed as long as there were no provisions in the will to specifically exclude them. Worried about someone claiming your estate against your wishes? A clause can be added to the will to disinherit a person who contests the will but it will only be valid if the heir does not have a good faith reason to contest the will.

 

by Brittney Jones

Dying with Dignity

thColorado recently rejected a proposal to let terminally ill patients choose to end their lives. Dying patients would have been required to have two physicians sign off on written and verbal requests to end their lives. The patients would need to be able to administer the medication themselves and be found mentally competent.

Only five states have passed a similar legislation- Washington, Montana, Vermont, New Mexico and Oregon. Colorado’s bill would have been based on Oregon’s right-to-die law where 29 year old Brittany Maynard chose that option. More states have started to consider a death with dignity law after hearing Maynard’s story. Maynard was diagnosed with brain cancer in January 2014. In April, 2014 her diagnosis elevated to glioblastoma with six months to live. After months of research, Maynard came to conclusion she would end her life in Oregon with the help of the death with dignity law. Maynard and her family uprooted from California to Oregon where Maynard passed away November 1, 2014. Since Maynard’s death four other states have had pending proposals for the right-to-die law; Colorado (which was recently rejected), Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and California (where Maynard is originally from).

There were mixed feelings about the bill as some people thought the bill would facilitate suicide and take away the patient’s hope for a possible recovery. Others were supporters of the bill saying it is a very personal choice for the patients and terminally patients should be able to choose when and how they die.

Lawmakers had concerns about whether abuse can be prevented by approving a right-to-die law. Family members of the terminally ill patient may try to speak with physicians on behalf of the dying relative even if it’s not what the terminally ill patient wants. If a terminally ill person acquires the medications through proper channels but decided not to take the medication, are there ways to discard the medication so another family member can’t take the prescribed medication?

by Brittney Jones, Paralegal