In Westminster, "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 common 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 exactly what power they have, what you want them to do, and when the power will vest (usually, if and when you become unable to make your own decisions).
A good Westminster 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 Westminster Estates
Will: A will is often the central component of an estate plan. It is a legal document which says what is to be done with a person's assets after they die. It usually involves giving money and property to the testator's close family members, friends, and sometimes charitable organizations.
Living Will: Unlike ordinary wills, a living will contains instructions concerning a person's medical care. Some recent high-profile controversies have illustrated the importance of making a living will, even for younger people. In a living will, you can give your family members and doctors instructions about your desired medical care, in case you become incapacitated (comatose or brain-dead, for example) and can't tell them yourself. Some people say that they would not want to be kept alive by artificial means if they are in a vegetative state, and there's no chance of recovery. If this is you, that's definitely something to include in a living will. Of course, if you would prefer the opposite, being kept alive as long as is medically possible, you can put that in your living will, as well.
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: You should make it very clear to the people handling your funeral what type of funeral you want, and what you want done with your body. You should not put these instructions in your will, because wills are often not read until days or weeks after the testator dies, by which point it may be too late to give their wishes on this subject effect.
Do I Need a Westminster Estates Lawyer?
A poorly drafted or executed Westminster estate plan can have major negative consequences. For example, it might be confusing to the people who are most directly affected by it. This confusion can often lead to costly litigation. For that reason, the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney can be invaluable.