In Wilmington, "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 procedure 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.
In addition to deciding what to do with your assets after your death, your estate plan should also contain things that might become relevant during life. Power of attorney is a big one. Power of attorney is an arrangement in which you provide another person the ability to make decisions for you, if you become incapacitated. Furthermore, effective estate planning can help reduce the effect of taxes and court fees on your final disposition to your chosen beneficiaries.
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 Wilmington attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is feasible, it is done.
Common Features of Wilmington Estates
Will: This is the centerpiece of most estate plans. A will is a document written by a person (the "testator"), normally with the help of a lawyer, which says what is to be done with their property after they die. Most provisions in a will are legally binding, to the extent that ownership of the property legally passes to the named beneficiary. Nonetheless, a will cannot compel a person to do anything against their wishes (though it can certainly state your preferences on the matter, phrasing them as requests).
Living Will: Living wills are also very essential for most people. Essentially, 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 usually 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: Power of attorney allows you to grant someone else (normally a trusted family member or friend) the power to make certain decisions in your place, with the same legal effect as if you had made them yourself, in the event that you become unable to do so (normally due to mental or physical incapacity). If you decide to give someone power of attorney, you should make your wishes known to them in advance, so they are more likely to make the same decisions that you would make, if you were able to. And, of course, you should exclusively give this authority to someone with whom you would trust your life because that is, in some cases, just what you're doing.
Funeral Arrangements: You should make it very clear to the individuals handling your funeral what type of funeral you want, and what you want done with your body. You should not put these instructions in your will, because wills are commonly not read until days or weeks after the testator dies, by which point it may be too late to give their wishes on this subject effect.
Do I Need a Wilmington Estates Lawyer?
A seasoned lawyer in Wilmington can make the process of estate planning as simple 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.