In Manhattan, "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 often requires the advice of a legal and/or financial expert, because the issues involved can be confusing, and are considered by most to be extremely important. A flawed estate plan might create conflict between your survivors, resulting in your intentions not being given effect.
In addition to post-death decisions, estate planning also concerns matters that might affect you during your life, such as granting power of attorney to a family member or trusted friend in case you become unable to make your own decisions regarding your finances or medical care. Additionally, effective estate planning can minimize the impact that estate taxes and court fees will have on your final disposition to your loved ones.
The last thing a person wants to think about is the possibility that, after their death, their survivors are fighting over some part of their estate plan that's ambiguous or otherwise contentious. If you want to prevent this, or at least make it far less likely, you should have the help of a Manhattan attorney every step of the way.
Common Features of Manhattan 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: What do you want done with your body after you die? Do you want to be cremated? How about buried? Or maybe you want to be cremated, and have your remains shot into space? Whatever your preference, you won't exactly be able to tell anyone when the time comes. Thus, you should make your desires on this matter known well in advance. You also shouldn't make your will the only place where these instructions are contained, since it might not be read for weeks after your death, when it will probably be too late.
Do I Need a Manhattan Estates Lawyer?
A flawed estate plan in Manhattan can result in those affected by it being confused as to your intent, which can then lead to disputes between them. A brilliant attorney can commonly avoid this confusion by ensuring that there is as little ambiguity as possible in your will and other related documents.