In Columbia, "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 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. Additionally, 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 Columbia attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is possible, it is done.
Common Features of Columbia Estates
Will: This is the centerpiece of most estate plans. A will is a document written by a person (the "testator"), typically 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 normally 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: Power of attorney allows you to grant someone else (typically a trusted family member or friend) the power to make certain decisions in your place, with the same legal effect as if you had made them yourself, in the event that you become unable to do so (typically due to mental or physical incapacity). If you decide to give someone power of attorney, you should make your wishes known to them in advance, so they are more likely to make the same decisions that you would make, if you were able to. And, of course, you should only give this authority to someone with whom you would trust your life because that is, in some cases, just what you're doing.
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 Columbia Estates Lawyer?
A knowledgeable estate planning professional in Columbia can be invaluable, and you will probably find their services to be well worth the price. They can make the whole process a great deal easier, and they can also help to minimize the chances that your estate plan will be disputed, saving your survivors a great deal of time, money, and energy.