In Clearwater, estate planning refers to the process of deciding what should be done with one's assets after their death.
The problems that estate planning raises are sometimes very complicated. Without competent legal and financial advice, many problems can pop up, which can easily throw your entire plan into disarray, and cost your survivors a great deal of time, energy, and money.
In the process of estate planning, you'll probably 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 concerning medical care. A knowledgeable estate planner can also help you achieve your goals, while minimizing the effects of expenses like court fees and taxes.
If you want to maximize the odds that your wishes will be followed after your death, you should do everything you can to make them legally binding. While this is not always possible, a Clearwater attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is possible, it is done.
Common Features of Clearwater 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: Unlike ordinary wills, a living will contains instructions concerning a person's medical care. Some recent high-profile controversies have illustrated the importance of making a living will, even for younger people. In a living will, you can give your family members and doctors instructions about your desired medical care, in case you become incapacitated (comatose or brain-dead, for example) and can't tell them yourself. Some people say that they would not want to be kept alive by artificial means if they are in a vegetative state, and there's no chance of recovery. If this is you, that's definitely something to include in a living will. Of course, if you would prefer the opposite, being kept alive as long as is medically possible, you can put that in your living will, as well.
Power of Attorney: This is an arrangement in which you give someone else, typically 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: 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 important 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 Clearwater Estates Lawyer?
A knowledgeable lawyer in Clearwater can make the process of estate planning as straightforward as it possibly can be. He or she can help ensure that your wishes are given effect, and minimize the chances of disputes between your survivors.