In Morris, "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.
While planning your estate, there are a few frequent 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 clearly what power they have, what you want them to do, and when the power will vest (normally, if and when you become unable to make your own decisions).
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 Morris attorney every step of the way.
Common Features of Morris 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: Power of attorney is the right to make binding decisions for another person, when that person becomes unable to make or express their own decisions. You can grant power of attorney to anyone you want, but, for obvious reasons, you should only grant it to somebody you trust, and discuss your exact wishes with them, in case they actually have to make a decision for you.
Funeral Arrangements: If you have any strong preferences concerning 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 commonly read weeks after the testator dies, so in most cases, it will be too late by then.
Do I Need a Morris Estates Lawyer?
A seasoned estates lawyer in Morris can make the estate planning process much easier. He or she can maximize the chances of your wishes being given effect. Additionally, 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.