If you are making arrangements in Charlottesville about what to do with everything you own after your death, and your other affairs that should be wrapped up at that time, you are in the process of "estate planning."
Estate planning typically requires professional legal and financial advice, because of the complexity and importance of the issues involved. A poorly-executed estate plan can frequently end with survivors suing each other, and prevent your intentions from being effectuated.
In the process of estate planning, you'll probably also deal with issues that can affect you during life. These include issues like power of attorney (to ensure that your wishes are carried out even if you're unable to express them), as well as instructions to your doctors and family concerning medical care. A knowledgeable estate planner can also help you achieve your goals, while minimizing the effects of expenses like court fees and taxes.
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 Charlottesville attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is allowed, it is done.
Common Features of Charlottesville 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, normally because they involve an illegal act, or require a person to marry or refrain from marrying a particular 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: This is an arrangement in which you give someone else, typically a trusted family member, the power to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf, in case you become unable to make or express your own decisions.
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 normally not read for quite some time after a person dies, and the funeral is typically long over by then, so it will be too late to follow your instructions.
Do I Need a Charlottesville Estates Lawyer?
A flawed estate plan in Charlottesville can result in those affected by it being confused as to your intent, which can then lead to disputes between them. A knowledgeable attorney can frequently avoid this confusion by ensuring that there is as little ambiguity as possible in your will and other related documents.