In Delaware, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone determines what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you truly want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for truly implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these intentions.
In addition to decisions regarding the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For instance, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your opinion on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such arrangements for you, if you are unable.
A knowledgeable estate planner in Delaware may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Moreover, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in Delaware
Estate plans in Delaware almost always have these elements:
Will: A will permits you to control what is done with your property after your death. You can usually give your property to whoever you want, and make these gifts conditional. However, a will can only control another person's behavior insofar as placing conditions on gifts ("you don't get this money unless you spend the night in a haunted house"). The beneficiary doesn't HAVE to do anything if they don't want to, and are willing to surrender the money or property you left them.
Power of Attorney: Sometimes, people fear that they may become incapacitated (because of injury, illness, or mental deterioration), and that they won't be able to make their own decisions. Fortunately, if you want, you can grant a family member or close friend (or someone else you absolutely trust) legal authority to make critical decisions for you, if you are ever incapacitated. This is known as "power of attorney."
Funeral Arrangements: If you have any opinion whatsoever on how your mortal remains should be handled, you should make it clear to your family, in writing. You should additionally make the necessary arrangements with a funeral home, in advance. If possible, you should try to pay in advance for your funeral expenses, to save your survivors the further burden of planning and paying for a funeral. These arrangements should be laid out somewhere other than in your will, because a will typically isn't read for days or weeks after the testator's death, by which point it is usually too late.
Do I Need a Delaware Estate Planning Attorney?
To most people, these issues are necessary to their peace of mind during life. Therefore, it's very important to make them with the help of a reliable Delaware attorney, to make sure that they have the best possible chance of being implemented.