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Frequently Asked Questions

Clients often have questions about legal documents and public benefits. As a beginning point of discussion, here are several basic answers to these questions.
What is a last will?

A last will is a document setting forth your wishes regarding the disposition of your estate at your death. Your last will chooses a personal representative to collect your assets, pay your creditors, and distribute your property to your beneficiaries. You can also choose a charity, church or favorite cause to receive your estate. An amendment to a last will is called a codicil.

What is a trust?

A trust is a legal entity holding title to property, one party for the benefit of another. The grantor/settlor is the person who sets up the trust, the beneficiary is the person who will benefit from the assets held in trust, and the trustee is the person or entity who administers the trust. The trustee can be a family member or a professional fiduciary. Certain trusts will allow your estate to avoid probate. The Medicaid program allows for certain trusts to shelter income or resources.

What is a living will?

A living will is a document that sets forth your end-of-life care decisions if you are in a terminal condition or a persistent vegetative state, including directions about your treatments and procedures, and your artificial nourishment and hydration. Your living will also can list the people you want to have access to your medical information, including your agents and other loved ones.

What is a financial durable power of attorney?

A financial durable power of attorney is a document that chooses agents to make financial decisions for you including your real property, personal property, financial accounts, military benefits, support and maintenance, and taxes. Your power of attorney can be effective immediately or when you become incapacitated. This document also includes a HIPAA release to allow your agent to see your medical records for payment.

What is a medical durable power of attorney?

A medical durable power of attorney is a document that chooses agents to make medical decisions for you when your doctor determines you lack medical decisional capacity. Your agent can make all kinds of decisions for you, including scope of treatment, organ donation, placement, transportation, and behavioral health care. This document also includes a HIPAA release to allow your agent to see your medical records for participation in medical decision making.

What is guardianship?

Guardianship is a court proceeding to determine if an individual is an “incapacitated person” who needs the protection of the court. An incapacitated person means an individual who “lacks the ability to satisfy essential requirements for physical health, safety, or self-care.”

What is a conservatorship?

A conservatorship is a court proceeding to determine if an individual is a “protected person” who needs the protection of the court. A protected person is a person who is unable to “manage his property or affairs” effectively.

What is probate?

Probate is a court process to determine if a last will is valid and to appoint a personal representative who will collect assets, pay creditors and distribute assets according to the decedent’s last will. Types of probate include: small estate proceeding, intestate probate, informal probate, and formal probate. In Colorado, you have to probate an estate if the decedent owned real property or had assets in his own name of more than the prevailing probate limit at time of death. With advance planning, your estate can avoid probate.

What is Long-Term Care Medicaid?

Medicaid is a federal/state public benefits program to help elderly, blind and disabled persons with costs of care. Long-Term Care Medicaid provides health insurance and also helps pay for long term care in the home, assisted living facility, or nursing home. Eligibility for Medicaid is complicated and is determined based on the applicant’s medical level of need, monthly income, and resources.

What is Supplemental Security Income?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal public benefits program that provides cash payments to low-income people who are either aged 65 or older, blind, or disabled. SSI is administered by the Social Security Administration. Often, there are ongoing eligibility issues after SSI benefits have been awarded.