In Richmond, "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 difficult, 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 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. Furthermore, effective estate planning can help reduce the effect of taxes and court fees on your final disposition to your chosen beneficiaries.
A brilliant Richmond professional experienced in estate planning can make this process a great deal easier. They can also help ensure that your estate plan does not end up in court.
Common Features of Richmond 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: A living will contains instructions about your medical care, typically for the purpose of informing your family and doctors of your preferences if you suddenly become incapacitated. A living will is extremely 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 allows you to grant someone else (normally a trusted family member or friend) the power to make certain decisions in your place, with the same legal effect as if you had made them yourself, in the event that you become unable to do so (normally due to mental or physical incapacity). If you decide to give someone power of attorney, you should make your wishes known to them in advance, so they are more likely to make the same decisions that you would make, if you were able to. And, of course, you should only give this authority to someone with whom you would trust your life because that is, in some cases, just what you're doing.
Funeral Arrangements: If you have any strong preferences regarding the disposition of your physical remains, you should make them known to your family early, and should not include funeral instructions in your will. Wills are commonly read weeks after the testator dies, so in most cases, it will be too late by then.
Do I Need a Richmond Estates Lawyer?
A brilliant estates lawyer in Richmond can make the estate planning process much easier. He or she can maximize the chances of your wishes being given effect. Additionally, 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.