"Estate planning" in Niagara County 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.
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 very helpful in the long run, avoiding a lot of problems in the future.
In addition to post-death decisions, estate planning also concerns matters that might affect you during your life, such as granting power of attorney to a family member or trusted friend in case you become unable to make your own decisions regarding your finances or medical care. Furthermore, effective estate planning can minimize the impact that estate taxes and court fees will have on your final disposition to your loved ones.
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 Niagara County attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is allowed, it is done.
Common Features of Niagara County Estates
Will: This is the centerpiece of most estate plans. A will is a document written by a person (the "testator"), usually 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 crucial 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 typically 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 (usually 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 (usually 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: Whatever your preference on this matter (if you have a preference) you should make it known to your family both verbally and in writing. If you have very specific wishes concerning the final disposition of your mortal remains, you should not put those instructions in your will. Or, if you do, you should also put them somewhere else. Wills are typically not read for quite some time after a person dies, and the funeral is usually long over by then, so it will be too late to follow your instructions.
Do I Need a Niagara County Estates Lawyer?
A good estates lawyer in Niagara County can make the estate planning process much easier. He or she can maximize the chances of your wishes being given effect. Furthermore, 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.