In Contra Costa County, estate planning refers to the procedure of deciding what should be done with one's assets after their death.
Estate planning usually requires the advice of a legal and/or financial expert, because the issues involved can be perplexing, and are regarded by most to be extremely important. A flawed estate plan might create conflict between your survivors, resulting in your intentions not being given effect.
In the process of estate planning, you'll likely also deal with issues that can affect you during life. These include issues like power of attorney (to ensure that your wishes are carried out even if you're unable to express them), as well as instructions to your doctors and family regarding medical care. A seasoned estate planner can also help you achieve your goals, while minimizing the effects of expenses like court fees and taxes.
A seasoned estate planner in Contra Costa County, can make this process much easier, minimizing the chances that your estate plan will end up in court, saving your survivors a huge amount of time and money.
Common Features of Contra Costa County 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, usually because they involve an illegal act, or require a person to marry or refrain from marrying a certain person.
Living Will: Living wills are also very critical for most people. Essentially, a living will tells everyone concerned (your next of kin, and your doctor) what type of medical care you want if you become incapacitated. It usually includes the circumstances under which a person wishes to be kept on life support, when they want to be taken off of life support, and, sometimes, instructions on when medical staff should and should not attempt resuscitation.
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. Normally, 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: You should make it very clear to the individuals handling your funeral what type of funeral you want, and what you want done with your body. You should not put these instructions in your will, because wills are commonly not read until days or weeks after the testator dies, by which point it may be too late to give their wishes on this subject effect.
Do I Need a Contra Costa County Estates Lawyer?
A flawed estate plan in Contra Costa County can result in those affected by it being confused as to your intent, which can then lead to disputes between them. A seasoned attorney can commonly avoid this confusion by ensuring that there is as little ambiguity as possible in your will and other related documents.