In Santa Monica, estate planning refers to the process of deciding what should be done with one's assets after their death.
Estate planning often requires the advice of a legal and/or financial expert, because the issues involved can be complex, and are considered by most to be very 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. Also, effective estate planning can help reduce the effect of taxes and court fees on your final disposition to your chosen beneficiaries.
A competent estate planner in Santa Monica can make the process of planning your estate go much more smoothly, and maximize the chances of your wishes actually being carried out with legal force.
Common Features of Santa Monica 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: Living wills are also very important for most people. Basically, 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 typically 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: This is an arrangement in which you give someone else, usually a trusted family member, the right to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf, in case you become unable to make or express your own decisions.
Funeral Arrangements: Whatever your preference on this matter (if you have a preference) you should make it known to your family both verbally and in writing. If you have very specific wishes concerning the final disposition of your mortal remains, you should not put those instructions in your will. Or, if you do, you should also put them somewhere else. Wills are typically not read for quite some time after a person dies, and the funeral is usually long over by then, so it will be too late to follow your instructions.
Do I Need a Santa Monica Estates Lawyer?
A poorly drafted or executed Santa Monica estate plan can have major negative consequences. For example, 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 assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney can be invaluable.