In Richmond, "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 numerous 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 Richmond attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is feasible, it is done.
Common Features of Richmond 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: 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 typically 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: This is an arrangement in which you give someone else, usually a trusted family member, the authority to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf, in case you become unable to make or express your own decisions.
Funeral Arrangements: Some people, for religious and other reasons, have very particular wishes regarding the disposal of their remains after they die. Some want to be buried. Others, cremated. No matter what your preferences on this matter are, it's crucial that you inform your family of them far in advance. These instructions should be included in a document that is likely to be read before your death (such as a living will), or very shortly thereafter. This excludes a will, because it's often weeks after a person dies until their will is read.
Do I Need a Richmond Estates Lawyer?
A reputable estate planning professional in Richmond can be invaluable, and you will probably find their services to be well worth the price. They can make the whole process a great deal simpler, and they can also help to minimize the chances that your estate plan will be disputed, saving your survivors a great deal of time, money, and energy.