Decatur Estate Planning

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In Decatur, estate planning refers to the procedure of deciding what should be done with one's assets after their death.

You will usually need to seek the help of a professional with legal and/or financial expertise when in the process of estate planning. Simple mistakes in an estate plan can cause significant problems, including legal and personal conflicts between your survivors.

While planning your estate, there are a few common issues that most people should consider. One big one is the decision relating to power of attorney, which is an arrangement where you give one person the power to make legally-binding decisions on your behalf. You can set up an agreement telling your representative exactly what power they have, what you want them to do, and when the power will vest (usually, if and when you become unable to make your own decisions).

The last thing a person wants to think about is the possibility that, after their death, their survivors are fighting over some part of their estate plan that's ambiguous or otherwise contentious. If you want to keep this, or at least make it far less possible, you should have the help of a Decatur attorney every step of the way.

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Common Features of Decatur Estates

Will: This is a legal document which transfers ownership of the testator's (the person making the will) property to named beneficiaries after the testator's death. The beneficiaries can be just about anyone the testator chooses, but smaller estates, usually only include family members, and maybe very close friends. If you want, you can place conditions on gifts (say, leaving a certain amount of money to your son, but only if he graduates college before he turns 25 - this is just an example). However, a will can't actually compel anyone to do anything, and some conditional gifts won't be enforced, typically because they involve an illegal act, or require a person to marry or refrain from marrying a specific person.

Living Will: A living will contains instructions about your medical care, generally for the purpose of informing your family and doctors of your preferences if you suddenly become incapacitated. A living will is very critical if you have any strong preferences in this area. It should be written with the advice of a doctor, so you know the particular medical consequences of your decisions, and a lawyer, so it is virtually guaranteed to be legally binding.

Power of Attorney: Power of attorney, while important, is not to be used lightly. This is because it involves granting someone else the power to make legally-binding decisions on your behalf. Usually, your spouse will automatically have power of attorney if you become incapacitated. If you are not married, however, you need to make a document explicitly granting that authority to someone you trust (a life partner or close family member, for instance).

Funeral Arrangements: If you have any strong preferences concerning the disposition of your physical remains, you should make them known to your family early, and should not include funeral instructions in your will. Wills are often read weeks after the testator dies, so in most cases, it will be too late by then.

Do I Need a Decatur Estates Lawyer?

A poorly drafted or executed Decatur estate plan can have major negative consequences. For instance, it might be confusing to the people who are most directly affected by it. This confusion can often lead to costly litigation. For that reason, the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney can be invaluable.

21 Wills, Trusts and Estates cases posted to LegalMatch lawyers in Decatur

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