In Princeton, "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 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.
Estate planning can have various positive effects on the planner during life, as well. These benefits are usually somewhat intangible, revolving around the peace of mind that comes with knowing that, after your death, you family will be taken care of and that they'll know what your last wishes are. Nonetheless, most people find this very valuable. To that end, you should come up with a power-of-attorney agreement. When you grant someone power of attorney, you have given them the power to make certain decisions on your behalf. You can grant them as much or as little authority as you want. Most individuals, however, give family members or life partners power of attorney with respect to medical care, so if they become incapacitated, their wishes will still be carried out.
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 Princeton attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is permitted, it is done.
Common Features of Princeton Estates
Will: This is the centerpiece of most estate plans. A will is a document written by a person (the "testator"), usually 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: This is a document which lays out instructions for your medical care, should you become so sick or badly injured that you are unable to express your wishes. It should state under what circumstances you want to remain on life support. A well-drafted living will can prevent you from being kept alive in a permanent vegetative state (if that is not what you want), while guaranteeing that you receive medical care as long as you have a chance at recovery.
Power of Attorney: Power of attorney allows you to grant someone else (usually 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 (usually 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: 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 particular wishes regarding 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 typically not read for quite some time after a person dies, and the funeral is usually long over by then, so it will be too late to follow your instructions.
Do I Need a Princeton Estates Lawyer?
A flawed estate plan in Princeton can result in those affected by it being confused as to your intent, which can then lead to disputes between them. A reputable attorney can often avoid this confusion by ensuring that there is as little ambiguity as possible in your will and other related documents.