In St. Joseph, "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.
If you want to start the process of planning your estate, you've made a good choice, especially if you care about what happens to your survivors after you're gone. You should be careful, however, and make sure you have the help of a legal and financial expert every step of the way. This will likely prove very helpful in the long run, avoiding a lot of problems in the future.
In addition to post-death decisions, estate planning also concerns matters that might affect you during your life, such as granting power of attorney to a family member or trusted friend in case you become unable to make your own decisions regarding your finances or medical care. Furthermore, effective estate planning can minimize the impact that estate taxes and court fees will have on your final disposition to your loved ones.
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. Joseph attorney every step of the way.
Common Features of St. Joseph 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 articulates your wishes concerning your medical care, to give instructions to your family and doctors in the event that you become incapacitated. While actually consulting it will hopefully never be necessary, one never knows - unexpected illnesses and injuries can happen to anyone, at any time. While making a living will might require a person to acknowledge the existence of some unpleasant possibilities, it can end up saving their loved ones a great deal of grief and uncertainty.
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. Usually, 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: 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 often read weeks after the testator dies, so in most cases, it will be too late by then.
Do I Need a St. Joseph Estates Lawyer?
A good estates lawyer in St. Joseph can make the estate planning process much easier. He or she can maximize the chances of your wishes being given effect. Furthermore, 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.