In Vermont, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone decides what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you truly want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for truly implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these intentions.
In addition to decisions concerning the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For example, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your preference on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such arrangements for you, if you are unable.
A knowledgeable estate planner in Vermont may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Moreover, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in Vermont
Estate plans in Vermont almost always have these features:
Will: A will is a written instrument stating what you want to be done with your assets after you die. There are many problems that can come up in the drafting of a will. However, because the will doesn't have any legal or practical effect until after the person who made it died, they can't exactly correct these problems when they become apparent. Therefore, quality drafting, usually with the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney, is essential.
Power of Attorney: This is an arrangement that gives another person the power to make certain decisions, typically related to finances and medical care, on your behalf, if you become incapacitated or disabled, and consequently unable to make or express your own decisions. You can choose who you give this power to. For obvious reasons, it should be somebody you trust.
Funeral Arrangements: This is a very personal judgment, and you should discuss it, in detail, with your friends or family members who are in a position to implement your wishes. Your funeral instructions should not be included only in your will, since wills are sometimes not read until days or weeks after the testator's death. By that time, it may be too late to implement the decedent's wishes with respect to funeral arrangements.
Do I Need a Vermont Estate Planning Attorney?
Given the importance of decisions related to estate planning in Vermont, you will probably find that having an efficient attorney to assist you will be well worth the cost, and might pay for itself in future savings.
Interesting Facts About Vermont
The state of Vermont is known as one of the more historic places in the U.S. As the 14th state to join the Union, Vermont was the first state apart from the 13 original colonies. Vermont rich in natural resources and its economy is supported by industries like manufactured goods and tourism.
One of Vermont's most important laws is the Land Use and Development Law of 1970 ("Act 250"). Act 250 creates nine separate environmental commissions whose task is to review any land development projects that might impact the natural environment. This law was the first of its kind in the U.S. and has helped to preserve much of Vermont's natural scenery.
In addition to its environmental laws, Vermont also has some very unique laws in the areas of alcohol control, trespass, gun control, and other fields. For example, in Vermont, a person has the right to walk, fish, or hunt on any unposted/unfenced land (trespass is not automatically assumed). Also, concealed and open carry of firearms is allowed for persons without a license, so long as they are over 16 years old. Vermont was also the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through the passage of legislation rather than through the courts.
Lawyers in Vermont have much experience in dealing with the state's distinct body of laws. A Vermont lawyer can provide valuable assistance when it comes to drafting documents, providing legal advice, and other tasks. Attorneys in Vermont also represent clients through the state's multi-tiered court system.