In Santa Clara, 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 confusing, 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 Santa Clara 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 Santa Clara 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: What if you become incapacitated, and can't make your own decisions? It would be nice if somebody knew what you would want in a given situation, and, on top of that, had the legal authority to make that decision for you. Power of attorney lets you do precisely that, granting a person of your choice the ability to make certain decisions for you, in case you, for whatever reason, can't (you can, of course, control the scope of power that you grant).
Funeral Arrangements: Some people, for religious and other reasons, have very specific wishes concerning the disposal of their remains after they die. Some want to be buried. Others, cremated. No matter what your preferences on this matter are, it's critical that you inform your family of them far in advance. These instructions should be included in a document that is likely to be read before your death (such as a living will), or very shortly thereafter. This excludes a will, because it's frequently weeks after a person dies until their will is read.
Do I Need a Santa Clara Estates Lawyer?
A knowledgeable estates lawyer in Santa Clara can make the estate planning process much easier. He or she can maximize the chances of your wishes being given effect. Moreover, a good and clear estate plan is far less likely to result in litigation in the future, since disputes of this nature are almost always the result of ambiguity.