"Estate planning" in Durham refers to the decisions a person makes regarding what is to be done with their assets after their death, and the process of implementing those wishes.
Estate planning normally requires professional legal and financial advice, because of the complexity and importance of the issues involved. A poorly-executed estate plan can commonly end with survivors suing each other, and prevent your intentions from being effectuated.
Estate planning can have many positive effects on the planner during life, as well. These benefits are normally somewhat intangible, revolving around the peace of mind that comes with knowing that, after your death, you family will be taken care of and that they'll know what your last wishes are. Nonetheless, most people find this very valuable. To that end, you should come up with a power-of-attorney agreement. When you grant someone power of attorney, you have given them the power to make particular decisions on your behalf. You can grant them as much or as little authority as you want. Most people, however, give family members or life partners power of attorney with respect to medical care, so if they become incapacitated, their wishes will still be carried out.
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 Durham attorney every step of the way.
Common Features of Durham 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: This is a document which articulates your wishes concerning your medical care, to give instructions to your family and doctors in the event that you become incapacitated. While really consulting it will hopefully never be necessary, one never knows - unexpected illnesses and injuries can happen to anyone, at any time. While making a living will might require a person to acknowledge the existence of some unpleasant possibilities, it can end up saving their loved ones a great deal of grief and uncertainty.
Power of Attorney: Power of attorney is the authority 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: 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 Durham Estates Lawyer?
A poorly drafted or executed Durham 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.