In Alaska, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone decides what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you truly want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for truly implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these intentions.
In addition to decisions concerning the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For example, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your preference on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such arrangements for you, if you are unable.
A knowledgeable estate planner in Alaska may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Moreover, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in Alaska
Estate plans in Alaska almost always have these features:
Will: A will allows you to control what is done with your property after your death. You can usually give your property to whoever you want, and make these gifts conditional. However, a will can only control another person's behavior insofar as placing conditions on gifts ("you don't get this money unless you spend the night in a haunted house"). The beneficiary doesn't HAVE to do anything if they don't want to, and are willing to surrender the money or property you left them.
Power of Attorney: This is a legal document in which you give some other person (typically a family member) the ability to make decisions (often related to money or healthcare) on your behalf if you become incapable of doing so.
Funeral Arrangements: The judgment of what should be done with your body after you die is a very personal one. If you have a preference on this, for religious, or other, reasons, you should discuss this with a family member in advance. You should additionally put your wishes in writing, but you should not put it ONLY in a will; wills aren't always read immediately after the person who wrote it died. Sometimes, weeks, or even months, go by before the will is read. Obviously, by then it will almost certainly be too late to implement your wishes.
Do I Need an Alaska Estate Planning Attorney?
Estate planning is very important (if you care about what happens to your family after your death), and can involve some pretty challenging decisions. It should be clear, then, that a knowledgeable Alaska estate planning attorney will likely be worth the cost, because they can give your wishes the best possible chance of taking effect.
Interesting Facts About Alaska
Alaska is the 49th state to join the Union, having joined the union on January 3, 1959. Alaska's state nickname is "the Last Frontier". The region was obtained by the U.S. from Russia in the year 1867, in what is known as the "Alaska Purchase".
Today, Alaska retains much of its original character of "the great outdoors". Many of the state's laws and court cases deal with legal issues that aren't found anywhere else in the United States. For example, in Frank v. Alaska (1979), the Alaska Supreme Court protected the interests of groups that were hunting for religious reasons. Another case, Alaska v. Arctic Maid (1961), dealt with the commercial transport of salmon. Thus, a large portion of Alaskan laws involve the protection of the abundant natural resources in the area.
Unlike most other states, the Alaska Supreme Court does not meet in only one location. Most state Supreme Court cases are heard every month in Anchorage. However, on occasion the Supreme Court meets in other places like Juneau, Fairbanks, and other Alaskan communities. This unique feature of the Alaska Supreme Court allows legal issues to be tried in various places. This can be very helpful, since Alaska has the largest geographic area of all the 50 states.
Lawyers in Alaska provide assistance in all kinds of legal fields. Most Alaska lawyers file claims in the state's trial courts, advancing through the appeal system as needed. Attorneys are available in Alaska to help the community with their legal needs.