In Mound, "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 extremely helpful in the long run, avoiding 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 prevent this, or at least make it far less likely, you should have the help of a Mound attorney every step of the way.
Common Features of Mound 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 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 allowed, 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 clearly 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 commonly 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 Mound Estates Lawyer?
A poorly drafted or executed Mound 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 commonly lead to costly litigation. For that reason, the help of an accomplished estate planning attorney can be invaluable.