If you are making choices in Island 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 addition to deciding what to do with your assets after your death, your estate plan should also contain things that might become relevant during life. Power of attorney is a big one. Power of attorney is an arrangement in which you provide another person the ability to make decisions for you, if you become incapacitated. Furthermore, effective estate planning can help reduce the effect of taxes and court fees on your final disposition to your chosen beneficiaries.
A qualified estate planner in Island County can make the procedure of planning your estate go much more smoothly, and maximize the chances of your wishes really being carried out with legal force.
Common Features of Island 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: A living will contains instructions about your medical care, typically for the purpose of informing your family and doctors of your preferences if you suddenly become incapacitated. A living will is extremely critical if you have any strong preferences in this area. It should be written with the advice of a doctor, so you know the particular medical consequences of your decisions, and a lawyer, so it is virtually guaranteed to be legally binding.
Power of Attorney: Power of attorney, while important, is not to be used lightly. This is because it involves granting someone else the power to make legally-binding decisions on your behalf. Normally, your spouse will automatically have power of attorney if you become incapacitated. If you are not married, however, you need to make a document explicitly granting that authority to someone you trust (a life partner or close family member, for instance).
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 essential 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 Island County Estates Lawyer?
A seasoned estates lawyer in Island County can make the estate planning process much easier. He or she can maximize the chances of your wishes being given effect. Additionally, 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.