In Russell, "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 typically requires the advice of a legal and/or financial expert, because the issues involved can be complicated, and are considered by most to be very 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. Furthermore, 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 Russell attorney every step of the way.
Common Features of Russell Estates
Will: This is a legal document which transfers ownership of the testator's (the person making the will) property to named beneficiaries after the testator's death. The beneficiaries can be just about anyone the testator chooses, but smaller estates, usually only include family members, and maybe very close friends. If you want, you can place conditions on gifts (say, leaving a certain amount of money to your son, but only if he graduates college before he turns 25 - this is just an example). However, a will can't actually compel anyone to do anything, and some conditional gifts won't be enforced, typically because they involve an illegal act, or require a person to marry or refrain from marrying a specific person.
Living Will: A living will contains instructions about your medical care, generally for the purpose of informing your family and doctors of your preferences if you suddenly become incapacitated. A living will is very crucial if you have any strong preferences in this area. It should be written with the advice of a doctor, so you know the specific medical consequences of your decisions, and a lawyer, so it is virtually guaranteed to be legally binding.
Power of Attorney: Power of attorney, while important, is not to be used lightly. This is because it involves granting someone else the power to make legally-binding decisions on your behalf. Usually, your spouse will automatically have power of attorney if you become incapacitated. If you are not married, however, you need to make a document explicitly granting that authority to someone you trust (a life partner or close family member, for instance).
Funeral Arrangements: Some people, for religious and other reasons, have very specific wishes concerning 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 necessary 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 Russell Estates Lawyer?
A good estates lawyer in Russell can make the estate planning process much easier. He or she can maximize the chances of your wishes being given effect. Furthermore, a good and clear estate plan is far less likely to result in litigation in the future, since disputes of this nature are almost always the result of ambiguity.