One Month to National Healthcare Decisions Day

It is one month until National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD).  This day is part of a national movement to help increase the number of U.S. citizens who have their healthcare preferences documented and have empowered someone of their choosing to act on their behalf to make decisions when they are unable to.

Some of the grim facts:

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in a 2003 article, “Advance Care Planning: Preferences for Care at the End of Life,” found the following:

  • Less than 50 percent of the severely or terminally ill patients studied had an advance directive in their medical record.
  • Only 12 percent of patients with an advance directive had received input from their physician in its development.
  • Between 65 and 76 percent of physicians whose patients had an advance directive were not aware that it existed.

In support of getting these critical documents in place for everyone, Holmes Shirley Law is offering 20% off on all healthcare directives during the entire month of April.  We are also working to help promote the day and knowledge about healthcare decisions in the Denver Metro area.

Please call us today to learn more – 720-248-7621.

The Importance of Business Succession Planning

All too often business owners are so focused on running their business that they fail to plan for its succession, or their own estate plan which inevitably has an impact on the succession of the business.  According to Bloomberg & PricewaterhouseCooper, 8 out of 10 business fail within the first 18 months and 70% of businesses never make it past the first generation. Interestingly, a commonality among the majority of the businesses that succeed – a written business plan that includes succession planning.

So what types of questions arise in the course of business succession planning? What can you start thinking about today?

First, you should consider who you would like to take over your business after you. This may be your children or it may be employees or managers within your business. You also might want to sale the business outright.

Common mistakes that are made when considering who should get the business is whether your children are even interested, or equally interested, in running the business and whether joint owner’s spouses or children will work well with the current or future owners. Life insurance policies often can be purchased to provide equality among children (one gets the business, the other the life insurance proceeds) or to buy out uninterested or undesirable heirs when one partner becomes incapacitated or dies.

Next, you should consider how you want to transfer the business.

You can sell the business outright. This can be done through selling the interest to children, employees or others. This may be a good option for those who need income from the business to use in retirement.

You can use a buy-sell agreement.   These agreements are ideal for entities with multiple owners or for those who have selected the person(s) they would like to transfer the business to. In a buy-sell agreement, a business owner can use triggering events, like retirement, incapacity and death, to begin a process for the designated successor to purchase his or her interest in the business.

You can transfer the ownership through a trust.   A revocable living trust is a great estate planning tool to assist with business succession. The business owner first transfer the business to the trust, then name’s the intended successor(s) within the trust. Prior to the business owner’s death, he or she serves as trustee and beneficiary and continues to run the business as normal.

Finally, your business succession plan needs to work in conjunction with your own personal estate plan. If the goals and objectives of these two plans do not align, your planning efforts in both areas may fail, or at least not work as intended.

The most important thing you can do for your business is to make a plan.  Delaying is the first and most common succession planning mistake.  To have a succession plan that works for your business, and family, it is important to create a plan early, then lay the groundwork to implement the plan, which often takes several years and consultations with a variety of professional advisors from business attorneys, insurance brokers and financial and tax advisors. For more information, contact us today at 720-248-7621 or  [email protected]

Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning – The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

America is a nation of do-it-yourselfers, but building a deck and creating a legally valid estate plan are two entirely different things – and a less-than-perfect deck won’t devastate your family’s financial future or the relationships among the people you care about most.

The prevalence of online legal services has led many people to believe that they can create legal documents cheaply and those documents will be just as effective as if they had visited an estate planning attorney.   The majority of the time this is wrong.

The Good

I am slightly tempted to leave this section blank.  But in all seriousness, DIY is very tempting to a lot of people so here  are a few of the perceived goods:

Inexpensive – a lot of individuals interested in doing estate planning think that all they need is a “simple will” and have sticker shock after speaking with an attorney or law firm over the cost of a complete estate plan.   While going it alone with a book or a form may save you money now, it likely will cost you and your loves ones more in the future.

Time Savings/Flexibility – Do-it-yourself estate planning can be done on your own time schedule.  That much is true.  But to do it right, you will need to spend your evenings, weekends or other free time educating yourself about the law and the available options so you can make the right choices or the documents you complete might not be doing what you think they do.  Remember attorneys spend 3 years after college studying the law and then, in Colorado, 45 hours (minimum) of continuing legal education every 3 years.  That doesn’t even include their own on the job training.

As demonstrated by a recent case in Florida highlighted by the ABA Journal, what you save today may cost your heirs or beneficiaries much, much more later.

Why DIY Estate Planning is a Bad Idea 

No legal advice – Online sites offering “estate plans” are little more than document mills that churn out the same generic forms over and over.  They are not attorneys and cannot advise or warn you if you make a mistake. Plus, who will be there for your family when something happens to you if you’ve used an online document drafting service?  Think your family doesn’t need an advisor to support them when you are gone?  Or incapacitated? Think again.

Consider this: Erica’s father was killed in a motorcycle accident. Dad didn’t leave much behind, but he did leave an estate plan prepared by a trusted family attorney.  Had the family attorney not been there for Erica and her brother, they would have taken what dad did leave and drowned their sorrows in a European backpacking trip.  Thanks to this family attorney, though, Erica and her brother now have a healthy trust fund set up for them for life with the proceeds of a successful wrongful death case.

Leaving it to your family to know what to do after you’re gone is a big mistake for the people you love.

One size doesn’t fit all – your family is different from everyone else’s family.  Just like every state has different inheritance laws, every family has different situations.  An online form will not help you protect child or relative with special needs, or protect a child’s inheritance from creditors or a nasty divorce.  An online form cannot tell you how to protect assets from taxes or help you achieve your financial or charitable goals.

And, an online form cannot keep your family out of conflict during a time of grief.  Even if you don’t have a lot of assets to leave, whatever you do have will be subject to distribution between the people you care most about.  Some of the biggest disagreements we’ve seen after death, aren’t about loads of money, but about the little things, like burial wishes, and who was promised grandma’s wedding ring, dad’s hunting knife or the heirloom teapot, and those little things aren’t going to be dealt with well with form documents.

Save now, pay later – you may think you are saving money by using an online service to create your will or trust, but it is impossible to make a fair comparison since the services provided are entirely different.

An estate planning attorney creates an entire plan tailored to your individual needs in legal documents that will stand up in court, and advises you on ways to cut taxes now as well as in the future, save for retirement and long-term care and truly protect your unique wishes.  No online service does that.

In addition, your trusted advisor is going to be there for your family when you cannot be. The people you love will need someone to turn to after you are gone.  Do you want them to be stuck with figuring out who that should be during their time of grief? Or do you want to leave behind the gift of having taken care of things well during your lifetime and a trusted advisor to hold their hand when you no longer can?

We invite you to take advantage of our specialized legal services for families with a Initial Estate Planning Session.  Call our office today at 720-248-7621 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about designing an estate plan that fits the needs of you and your family.

Vacations are the Perfect Time for Families To Talk About Estate Planning

Memorial Weekend is coming, and it traditionally has marked the start of the “summer” season.   I know we will be hosting and attending BBQs and neighborhood gatherings.   We are also busy finalizing summer plans.    These plans, like those of most Americans, include visiting with our extended families.  While there are few perfect times to talk with parents about their estate plan, the relaxed times you spend together on vacation can be one of them.

Here are some tips on how to conduct this critical conversation:

Find a good place to start.  One of the best ways to ease your parents into a financial discussion is to bring up your own.  Tell your parents that you were looking into your own estate plan and wondering if they had already executed their own.  Sometimes you can use scare tactics to good effect – there are usually a lots of stories about celebrities or others who have neglected to plan and paid the price with dire consequences.  If you missed these headlines,  read our March Newsletter for an article on the late Paul Walker’s estate.

Take it easy.  If you feel that parents may need some help with organizing their financial lives, be reassuring rather than applying pressure.  Let them know that you want to make sure their financial independence is kept intact for as long as possible.  Take things one step at a time, such as extending an offer to help them use online bill pay or assist them with organizing their information at tax time.

Respect boundaries.  Many parents feel uncomfortable discussing their finances with their children.  If you face this obstacle, let your parents know that you at least need to know where to find their important documents, or who does know where to find these documents besides them.   Reassure them that you aren’t attempting to control them in anyway but you simply want to help and make things as easy as possible for you and your siblings when something does happen.

Offer options.   Discuss the safety of important documents and suggest they either use a safety deposit box or fire-proof, water-proof safe for originals and have a third party, such as an attorney, financial planner, one of the family, or a trusted friend keep copies.   Learn and share information about services such as DocuBank, that provide online storage of medical directives and other important healthcare information and the importance of everyone’s primary care doctor having copies of these documents as well.

Sometimes initiating a conversation with parents about estate planning can be easier with the help of a Personal Family Lawyer®.   At Holmes Shirley Law, we can help.  Call our office today at 720-241-7621 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about designing an estate plan that fits the needs of you and your family.

How Advance Medical Directives Became a Way of Life in One American Town

This is a heart warming story about a town has done what National Healthcare Directives Day hopes to achieve for all of America…

With just over 50,000 residents, La Crosse is a lot like other small American towns – but there is one thing that makes La Crosse stand out:  96% of La Crosse residents who have died have had an advance medical directive in place.  Nationally, the percentage of Americans with an advance directive stands at about 30%.

Actually, there are two things that make La Crosse stand out:  the town also has lower healthcare costs than any other place in the U.S.  And these two things – a high incidence of residents with advance directives and low healthcare costs — are inextricably linked.

According to a recent NPR story, all this came about because of one man:  Dr. Bud Hammes, Medical Humanities Director at Gundersen Hospital in La Crosse.  Dr.Hammes often found himself sitting with families of terminally ill patients, trying to figure out what to do next.  He said the conversations were excruciating: “Did mom ever say anything to you?” “Do you know what dad wants?”  He said that the moral distress of the families was tangible.

Dr. Hammes knew that this could be avoided, since most patients were usually sick for years.  So he started training nurses to ask patients if they wanted to sign an advance directive and over the years planning for death has become a way of life in La Crosse.

And the lower healthcare costs?  Dr. Hammes said that the reduction in spending was an accident, a byproduct of letting people make their own choices.  He said that when you let patients choose and direct their care, they often make a much less expensive choice.

You can listen to the entire NPR story here:

NPR: Living Wills are the Talk of The Town in La Crosse, Wis.

Making end of life plans is one of the most comforting things you can do for your loved ones.  We strongly believe in the importance of this for every adult, and encourage families to have conversations about each others wishes.  To put the proper protections in place for your family, contact our office at 720-248-7621 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.  We normally charge $500 for an Initial Estate Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.

National Healthcare Decisions Day – April 16th


Holmes Shirley Law, along with other national, state and community organizations, will be involved with National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD).  This is a national effort to highlight the importance of advance healthcare decision-making.

Having swift and immediate access to well-drafted healthcare directives in a medical emergency can reduce stress on patients, hospital staff, and most importantly, loved ones.   Additionally, making healthcare decisions before an actual medical emergency is critical.  

The comprehensive estate plans provided by Holmes Shirley Law include the personalized healthcare directives that clients need in a medical emergency.  These documents can include a healthcare power of attorney, living will, HIPAA release, among others.   Our firm also emphasizes to clients the importance of talking to their family about their wishes.  These conversations can make difficult situations later on much easier.  

Holmes Shirley Law also takes its commitment to healthcare decisions one step further by making sure that clients’ healthcare directives are immediately available to family members and to the hospital in an emergency.  With a membership in DocuBank provided as part of all estate planning done with Holmes Shirley Law, clients know that a hospital can get their legal directives and other critical medical information around the clock, just by carrying a wallet card.

In honor of NHDD, Holmes Shirley Law is providing information and tools for the public to talk about their wishes with family, friends and healthcare providers.  The firm can also assist with the execution of written advance directives (healthcare power of attorney and living will) in accordance with Colorado state laws.

Specifically, on April 16, Holmes Shirley Law will be hosting an informational session on healthcare directives at 9:30 am at their office in downtown Castle Rock as well as offering ½ off preparation of simple healthcare documents (a $125.00 savings) from 10:30 am until 2:30 pm.  Space is limited so please contact us at 720-248-7621 to reserve your spot or visit their website at: for more information.

Other good information about National Healthcare Decisions Day is available at and

What’s Changed in Your Life?

Estate planning is not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. Your life changes, your assets change, the laws change — and if your plan doesn’t change, your family gets caught holding the bag. The people you love most end up bearing the brunt of your failure to act.

Conducting a proper review of your estate plan will help identify the potential need to update your plan because of:

Life transitions:  Have any babies been born, loved ones died, people gotten divorced or married?   If so, you need to revisit your plan.

Changes in the law:  Changes in federal and state tax laws may require updates to your healthcare and financial powers of attorney. State regulations can also be revised to open up new wealth planning strategies that should be a part of your estate plan.

Changes in assets:  Has your net worth gone up or down?  Have you invested in any new assets, such as businesses,  opened new bank accounts, retirement accounts, insurance policies, real estate or anything similar?  If so, your plan needs to be revisited.  And the spreadsheet of assets you have for your family (you DO have one, right?) needs updating.

Funding of assets and beneficiary designations:  One of the most common mistakes people make is not properly completing the transfer of assets into a trust within their estate plan.  Another common error is having beneficiary designations that are inconsistent with the distribution language in the estate plan.  We recommend a review of those matters annually.

If you do not review your plan and update it regularly, your family will have to deal with the consequences. If you would like more information about creating or updating your estate plan, call our office today at 720-248-7621 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for an Estate Plan Review but if you are an existing client, we’ll waive that fee and if you are coming to us for the first time and book an appointment in April or May, we will waive all but $250 of the fee.  Call 720-248-7621 today and mention this article.

Upcoming Kids Protection Planning Presentation

Please join us on Wednesday, March 12th at 9:30am at Cookies and Crema in Castle Rock for a free one hour presentation on Kids Protection Planning.

In this educational, informative, empowering class —for parents with children at home —local mom and attorney Karen H. Shirley will cover what you need to know about making sure your kids are taken care of by the people you want, in the way you want, no matter want.  Karen will guide you to take charge and ensure you have done the right thing by your family.

During this no-charge class, you will discover:

  • The 6 most common mistakes parents make when naming guardians, even when working with a lawyer — and how to fix them.
  • How to choose the right guardians for your children and make sure your children are never taken from your home or placed with strangers if something happens to you.
  • How to make sure your assets are immediately and privately available to the people you’ve named to care for your children.
  • Why a Will alone is simply not enough to make sure your kids are taken care of the way you want, by the people you want, no matter what.

Those attending will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of the book “Wear Clean Underwear! A Fast, Fun, Friendly – and Essential – Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents” by Alexis Martin Neely.  Space is limited, so reserve your spot by calling 720-248-7621 or registering online.

5 Steps to Preserve Liability Protection

Business owners of any size should make sure that they have protected their personal assets from business liabilities. This matters whether you run a multi-million dollar corporation with hundreds of employees or simply own a couple rental properties.  

Business owners often choose to operate their companies as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or Corporation (usually as an S-Corporation), since these business structures provide what is known as a “liability shield”. However, a court can dissolve this liability shield (pierce the corporate veil) if the proper steps are not taken by the business owner to keep this shield in place.

If you operate an LLC or S-Corporation, be sure you have taken these five important steps to preserve your liability protection:

1.  Don’t use it to commit misconduct. If you use your business entity to commit serious misconduct or fraud, a court could likely “pierce the veil” and hold you personally liable for business claims.

2.  Always use the name of the entity on contracts and business communication.  Business owners should not sign contracts or any important business communication with their personal names.  Use the name of your LLC or Corporation in all business dealings so it is clear to third parties that they are dealing with an entity and not you personally.

3.  Keep business and personal finances separate.  There should be no overlap of business and personal finances.  Maintain separate bank accounts and records for your personal accounts and business accounts. This includes credit cards and other debt or loans associated with the business or personal property.

4.  Follow the rules.  While the rules for an LLC are less stringent than those for a corporation, a limited liability company still requires an operating agreement and needs to track and document its business decisions.  For a Corporation, you require bylaws, annual meeting minutes, and corporate resolutions.  Make sure that you file your annual report and keep your registered agent information up-to-date with the Colorado Secretary of State.  An easy way to do this is to sign up for email notifications. If you need support with compliance, let us know. We can help.

5.  Be sure the business is adequately capitalized.  If a business entity lacks adequate capitalization and something goes wrong, that may cause a court to pierce the veil of the business.

If you have questions about taking the right steps to protect your existing business or have not yet set-up a  business entity to protect your personal assets from business liabilities, call us today at 720-248-7621 to schedule an appointment to see how our firm can help you.

We have moved!!! Please visit us at our new office in Castle Rock!

CR Professional Blding Photo

It’s official! We have opened our own office in the Plum Creek Professional Building in Castle Rock, CO.

Our new address is: 201 S. Wilcox Street, Suite 102, Castle Rock, CO 80104. We share the downstairs garden level with Dr. Blaher, a chiropractor. His office is straight down the stairs to the left and ours is to the right.

All the rest of our contact information will be unchanged. We will also still be offering meeting locations around the Metro area to clients that are not in the South Metro area.

Please let us know if you have any questions.