In Traverse City, "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 procedure 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, particularly 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 extremely helpful in the long run, preventing a lot of problems in the future.
In addition to post-death decisions, estate planning also concerns issues 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. Additionally, 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 keep this, or at least make it far less possible, you should have the help of a Traverse City attorney every step of the way.
Common Features of Traverse City 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, usually because they involve an illegal act, or require a person to marry or refrain from marrying a certain person.
Living Will: Unlike ordinary wills, a living will contains instructions regarding a person's medical care. Some recent high-profile controversies have illustrated the importance of making a living will, even for younger individuals. 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 feasible, you can put that in your living will, as well.
Power of Attorney: This is an arrangement in which you give someone else, normally a trusted family member, the authority to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf, in case you become unable to make or express your own decisions.
Funeral Arrangements: Whatever your preference on this matter (if you have a preference) you should make it known to your family both verbally and in writing. If you have very particular wishes regarding the final disposition of your mortal remains, you should not put those instructions in your will. Or, if you do, you should also put them somewhere else. Wills are usually not read for quite some time after a person dies, and the funeral is normally long over by then, so it will be too late to follow your instructions.
Do I Need a Traverse City Estates Lawyer?
A flawed estate plan in Traverse City can result in those affected by it being confused as to your intent, which can then lead to disputes between them. A seasoned attorney can commonly avoid this confusion by ensuring that there is as little ambiguity as possible in your will and other related documents.