In St. John, "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 St. John attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is permitted, it is done.
Common Features of St. John Estates
Will: This is usually a major component in any estate plan. A will is a document in which a person lays out what they want done with their property after their death. These gifts usually have the effect of transferring legal ownership of the property to the named beneficiary.
Living Will: Unlike ordinary wills, a living will contains instructions regarding a person's medical care. Some recent high-profile controversies have illustrated the importance of making a living will, even for younger individuals. In a living will, you can give your family members and doctors instructions about your desired medical care, in case you become incapacitated (comatose or brain-dead, for example) and can't tell them yourself. Some people say that they would not want to be kept alive by artificial means if they are in a vegetative state, and there's no chance of recovery. If this is you, that's definitely something to include in a living will. Of course, if you would prefer the opposite, being kept alive as long as is medically permitted, you can put that in your living will, as well.
Power of Attorney: This is an arrangement in which you give someone else, usually a trusted family member, the permission 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 essential 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 St. John Estates Lawyer?
A reputable lawyer in St. John 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.