If you are making choices in Chesterfield County 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 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.
In the process of estate planning, you'll likely 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 regarding medical care. A seasoned 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 Chesterfield County attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is permitted, it is done.
Common Features of Chesterfield County 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, usually because they involve an illegal act, or require a person to marry or refrain from marrying a certain person.
Living Will: Unlike ordinary wills, a living will contains instructions regarding a person's medical care. Some recent high-profile controversies have illustrated the importance of making a living will, even for younger individuals. 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 permitted, you can put that in your living will, as well.
Power of Attorney: Power of attorney is the permission 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: Some people, for religious and other reasons, have very particular wishes regarding the disposal of their remains after they die. Some want to be buried. Others, cremated. No matter what your preferences on this matter are, it's important that you inform your family of them far in advance. These instructions should be included in a document that is likely to be read before your death (such as a living will), or very shortly thereafter. This excludes a will, because it's commonly weeks after a person dies until their will is read.
Do I Need a Chesterfield County Estates Lawyer?
A flawed estate plan in Chesterfield County can result in those affected by it being confused as to your intent, which can then lead to disputes between them. A seasoned attorney can commonly avoid this confusion by ensuring that there is as little ambiguity as possible in your will and other related documents.