In St. Joseph County, "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 typically requires professional legal and financial advice, because of the complexity and importance of the issues involved. A poorly-executed estate plan can frequently 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 typically 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 specific 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. Joseph County attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is feasible, it is done.
Common Features of St. Joseph County Estates
Will: This is typically 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 typically 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 feasible, you can put that in your living will, as well.
Power of Attorney: This is an arrangement in which you give someone else, typically 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 frequently weeks after a person dies until their will is read.
Do I Need a St. Joseph County Estates Lawyer?
A reliable estate planning professional in St. Joseph County 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.