In Clayton, "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.
In addition to deciding what to do with your assets after your death, your estate plan should also include things that might become relevant during life. Power of attorney is a big one. Power of attorney is an arrangement in which you give another person the ability to make decisions for you, if you become incapacitated. Furthermore, effective estate planning can help reduce the effect of taxes and court fees on your final disposition to your chosen beneficiaries.
If you want to maximize the odds that your wishes will be followed after your death, you should do everything you can to make them legally binding. While this is not always possible, a Clayton attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is possible, it is done.
Common Features of Clayton Estates
Will: This is the centerpiece of most estate plans. A will is a document written by a person (the "testator"), normally with the help of a lawyer, which says what is to be done with their property after they die. Most provisions in a will are legally binding, to the extent that ownership of the property legally passes to the named beneficiary. However, a will cannot compel a person to do anything against their wishes (though it can certainly state your preferences on the matter, phrasing them as requests).
Living Will: Living wills are also very important for most people. Basically, a living will tells everyone concerned (your next of kin, and your doctor) what type of medical care you want if you become incapacitated. It usually includes the circumstances under which a person wishes to be kept on life support, when they want to be taken off of life support, and, sometimes, instructions on when medical staff should and should not attempt resuscitation.
Power of Attorney: This is an arrangement in which you give someone else, normally a trusted family member, the right to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf, in case you become unable to make or express your own decisions.
Funeral Arrangements: What do you want done with your body after you die? Do you want to be cremated? How about buried? Or maybe you want to be cremated, and have your remains shot into space? Whatever your preference, you won't exactly be able to tell anyone when the time comes. Thus, you should make your desires on this matter known well in advance. You also shouldn't make your will the only place where these instructions are contained, since it might not be read for weeks after your death, when it will probably be too late.
Do I Need a Clayton Estates Lawyer?
A poorly drafted or executed Clayton 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 assistance of an accomplished estate planning attorney can be invaluable.