In Washtenaw County, "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 quite 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. Moreover, 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 Washtenaw County attorney every step of the way.
Common Features of Washtenaw County 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: A living will contains instructions about your medical care, usually for the purpose of informing your family and doctors of your preferences if you suddenly become incapacitated. A living will is quite crucial if you have any strong preferences in this area. It should be written with the advice of a doctor, so you know the specific medical consequences of your decisions, and a lawyer, so it is virtually guaranteed to be legally binding.
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: 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 frequently 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 Washtenaw County Estates Lawyer?
A poorly drafted or executed Washtenaw County 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 frequently lead to costly litigation. For that reason, the help of an efficient estate planning attorney can be invaluable.