In St. Tammany Parish, "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 quite important. A flawed estate plan might create conflict between your survivors, resulting in your intentions not being given effect.
Estate planning can have several 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 people, 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.
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 St. Tammany Parish attorney every step of the way.
Common Features of St. Tammany Parish 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?" Usually, 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 hurt that you are unable to express your wishes. It should state under what cases 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 precisely 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 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 frequently weeks after a person dies until their will is read.
Do I Need a St. Tammany Parish Estates Lawyer?
A knowledgeable lawyer in St. Tammany Parish can make the process of estate planning as straightforward as it possibly can be. He or she can help ensure that your wishes are given effect, and minimize the chances of disputes between your survivors.