In Summit, "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 usually requires professional legal and financial advice, because of the complexity and importance of the issues involved. A poorly-executed estate plan can often end with survivors suing each other, and prevent your intentions from being effectuated.
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 Summit 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 Summit 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: A living will contains instructions about your medical care, generally for the purpose of informing your family and doctors of your preferences if you suddenly become incapacitated. A living will is very important if you have any strong preferences in this area. It should be written with the advice of a doctor, so you know the exact medical consequences of your decisions, and a lawyer, so it is virtually guaranteed to be legally binding.
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: 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 often read weeks after the testator dies, so in most cases, it will be too late by then.
Do I Need a Summit Estates Lawyer?
A good lawyer in Summit can make the process of estate planning as easy 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.