In San Mateo County, estate planning refers to the process of deciding what should be done with one's assets after their death.
Estate planning typically requires the advice of a legal and/or financial expert, because the issues involved can be perplexing, and are considered by most to be quite important. A flawed estate plan might create conflict between your survivors, resulting in your intentions not being given effect.
In addition to deciding what to do with your assets after your death, your estate plan should also include things that might become relevant during life. Power of attorney is a big one. Power of attorney is an arrangement in which you give another person the ability to make decisions for you, if you become incapacitated. Additionally, effective estate planning can help reduce the effect of taxes and court fees on your final disposition to your chosen beneficiaries.
A skilled estate planner in San Mateo County can make the process of planning your estate go much more smoothly, and maximize the chances of your wishes directly being carried out with legal force.
Common Features of San Mateo 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, normally because they involve an illegal act, or require a person to marry or refrain from marrying a particular person.
Living Will: A living will contains instructions about your medical care, usually for the purpose of informing your family and doctors of your preferences if you suddenly become incapacitated. A living will is quite crucial if you have any strong preferences in this area. It should be written with the advice of a doctor, so you know the specific 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. Typically, 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 people 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 frequently 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 San Mateo County Estates Lawyer?
A flawed estate plan in San Mateo County can result in those affected by it being confused as to your intent, which can then lead to disputes between them. A knowledgeable attorney can frequently avoid this confusion by ensuring that there is as little ambiguity as possible in your will and other related documents.