In Laurel, "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.
The problems that estate planning raises are sometimes very complicated. Without competent legal and financial advice, many problems can pop up, which can easily throw your entire plan into disarray, and cost your survivors a great deal of time, energy, and money.
While planning your estate, there are a few prevalent issues that most people should consider. One big one is the decision relating to power of attorney, which is an arrangement where you give one person the power to make legally-binding decisions on your behalf. You can set up an agreement telling your representative precisely what power they have, what you want them to do, and when the power will vest (typically, if and when you become unable to make your own decisions).
A knowledgeable estate planner in Laurel, can make this process much easier, minimizing the chances that your estate plan will end up in court, saving your survivors a huge amount of time and money.
Common Features of Laurel 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, normally because they involve an illegal act, or require a person to marry or refrain from marrying a particular person.
Living Will: Living wills are also very important for most people. Basically, a living will tells everyone concerned (your next of kin, and your doctor) what type of medical care you want if you become incapacitated. It normally includes the circumstances under which a person wishes to be kept on life support, when they want to be taken off of life support, and, sometimes, instructions on when medical staff should and should not attempt resuscitation.
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. Typically, 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 important 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 Laurel Estates Lawyer?
A flawed estate plan in Laurel can result in those affected by it being confused as to your intent, which can then lead to disputes between them. A knowledgeable attorney can frequently avoid this confusion by ensuring that there is as little ambiguity as possible in your will and other related documents.