In Morton, "estate planning" refers to all of the decisions affecting how a person's property is going to be disposed of after their death, as well as the process of implementing those decisions when the time comes.
Estate planning normally requires professional legal and financial advice, because of the complexity and importance of the issues involved. A poorly-executed estate plan can commonly end with survivors suing each other, and prevent your intentions from being effectuated.
While planning your estate, there are a few frequent issues that most people should consider. One big one is the decision relating to power of attorney, which is an arrangement where you give one person the power to make legally-binding decisions on your behalf. You can set up an agreement telling your representative clearly what power they have, what you want them to do, and when the power will vest (normally, if and when you become unable to make your own decisions).
The last thing a person wants to think about is the possibility that, after their death, their survivors are fighting over some part of their estate plan that's ambiguous or otherwise contentious. If you want to prevent this, or at least make it far less likely, you should have the help of a Morton attorney every step of the way.
Common Features of Morton 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, usually because they involve an illegal act, or require a person to marry or refrain from marrying a certain person.
Living Will: A living will contains instructions about your medical care, typically for the purpose of informing your family and doctors of your preferences if you suddenly become incapacitated. A living will is extremely 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. Normally, 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: If you have any strong preferences regarding the disposition of your physical remains, you should make them known to your family early, and should not include funeral instructions in your will. Wills are commonly read weeks after the testator dies, so in most cases, it will be too late by then.
Do I Need a Morton Estates Lawyer?
A poorly drafted or executed Morton 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 commonly lead to costly litigation. For that reason, the help of an accomplished estate planning attorney can be invaluable.