In Jefferson 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 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 confusing, 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 deciding what to do with your assets after your death, your estate plan should also include things that might become relevant during life. Power of attorney is a big one. Power of attorney is an arrangement in which you give another person the ability to make decisions for you, if you become incapacitated. Also, effective estate planning can help reduce the effect of taxes and court fees on your final disposition to your chosen beneficiaries.
A competent estate planner in Jefferson County can make the process of planning your estate go much more smoothly, and maximize the chances of your wishes actually being carried out with legal force.
Common Features of Jefferson County Estates
Will: Wills are a very important part of almost all estate plans. In simplest terms, it answers the question "who gets what after I die?" Generally, you can leave your property to anyone you wish. If you die without a will, your property will usually be given to your closest living relative (usually a spouse or child).
Living Will: This is a document which lays out instructions for your medical care, should you become so sick or badly injured that you are unable to express your wishes. It should state under what circumstances you want to remain on life support. A well-drafted living will can prevent you from being kept alive in a permanent vegetative state (if that is not what you want), while ensuring that you receive medical care as long as you have a chance at recovery.
Power of Attorney: What if you become incapacitated, and can't make your own decisions? It would be nice if somebody knew what you would want in a given situation, and, on top of that, had the legal authority to make that decision for you. Power of attorney lets you do exactly that, granting a person of your choice the ability to make certain decisions for you, in case you, for whatever reason, can't (you can, of course, control the scope of power that you grant).
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 critical 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 Jefferson County Estates Lawyer?
A good estate planning professional in Jefferson 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 easier, 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.