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Bequest FAQ's

Why do I need a will?

A will represents your instructions about who will receive your assets when you pass away. Without directions provided by a will, the state will make these decisions on your behalf. Every state has intestacy laws that distribute property in the absence of a will.

Aren’t state laws enough in most situations?

No, because they cannot possibly anticipate your priorities. They rely instead on formulas. Various family members receive assets according to a formula provided by the state. These formulas do not include either friends or non-profit organizations. Also, certain fees and expenses may apply (and reduce your estate) – costs that would not apply if you had a valid will.

Why don’t more people have wills?

There are many reasons, but one reason may be the confusion between the taxation of an estate and the distribution of its assets. Some people may conclude, “I don’t need a will, my estate is not that big.” But this confuses two separate issues. Without a will, the state will distribute your assets according to its intestacy laws – regardless of whether or not your estate is taxable. A will is your opportunity to decide how your assets will be distributed.

What is “probate?”

Probate is the process by which a state supervises the distribution of your estate. After a person dies, his or her Personal Representative or Executor will submit the decedent’s will to the Probate Court for review. If the will is deemed valid (accepted into probate), it will serve as the governing document for the distribution of your estate. In the absence of a valid will, the state will rely on its intestacy laws to distribute your assets.

What is the “Unlimited Marital Deduction?”

A person may leave all property to his or her surviving spouse without any federal estate taxation. This means that no federal estate tax is due when the first spouse dies. Any taxes are applied when the second spouse dies.

Do I need an attorney or can I write my own will?

A person may write his or her own will, but sometimes “homemade” wills are deemed invalid and intestacy laws take over. A will must be accepted by the Probate Court before it can serve as the governing document for the distribution of your estate.

How much does it cost to create a will?

It depends on the complexity of your estate. And yet for most people a simple will is sufficient, and these documents cost less than many people think. It is always wise to ask an attorney for an estimate before you agree to any work. Many attorneys will meet with you for the first time on a complimentary basis, and can provide an estimate for their services at that time.

How do I include Family Tree in my will?

You include your gift to Family Tree at the time you create your will. A charitable bequest to Family Tree can be for a stated dollar amount or for a percentage of your estate. Sometimes people will make specific bequests to friends and family first, and then leave all or part of what’s “left over” to charity. This “left over” portion is called the “residuary estate.”

What is the “residuary estate?”

It’s the portion of your estate that remains after all of your specific bequests have been made. It’s whatever is left.

What if I already have a valid will?

That’s terrific. You can still include Family Tree through something called a “codicil.” With a codicil you can amend an otherwise appropriate will to reflect any change in your plans. Plus, it’s typically much less expensive than redrafting your will.

What is “sample bequest language?”

Many non-profit organizations provide sample language to a donor interested in including the organization in his or her will. This language can be shown to the attorney drafting the will. Sample language for a specific bequest to Family Tree is:

“I give to Family Tree, Inc., whose administrative offices are located at 3805 Marshall Street, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033, a Colorado non-profit corporation, the sum of $_______ [or ______% of my estate; or the property described herein], for its general purposes.”

Sample language for a residuary bequest to Family Tree is:

“All the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate, both real and personal, I give to Family Tree, Inc., whose administrative offices are located at 3805 Marshall Street, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033, a Colorado non-profit corporation, for its general purposes.”

The residuary bequest can also specify a percentage of these assets that will go to Family Tree.

How should I proceed?

Once you have decided upon a bequest to Family Tree, you simply meet with an attorney and create your will (or amend it with a codicil). Once you have completed your plans, please let us know. This gives us the opportunity to thank you and celebrate this gift during your lifetime.

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