In Wood River, "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.
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. 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 Wood River attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is possible, it is done.
Common Features of Wood River 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. However, 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: This is a document which articulates your wishes concerning your medical care, to give instructions to your family and doctors in the event that you become incapacitated. While really consulting it will hopefully never be necessary, one never knows - unexpected illnesses and injuries can happen to anyone, at any time. While making a living will might require a person to acknowledge the existence of some unpleasant possibilities, it can end up saving their loved ones a great deal of grief and uncertainty.
Power of Attorney: This is an arrangement in which you give someone else, normally 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: Whatever your preference on this matter (if you have a preference) you should make it known to your family both verbally and in writing. If you have very specific wishes concerning the final disposition of your mortal remains, you should not put those instructions in your will. Or, if you do, you should also put them somewhere else. Wills are usually not read for quite some time after a person dies, and the funeral is normally long over by then, so it will be too late to follow your instructions.
Do I Need a Wood River Estates Lawyer?
A poorly drafted or executed Wood River 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 assistance of an accomplished estate planning attorney can be invaluable.