If you are making choices in Mercer Island 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.
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 Mercer Island attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is permitted, it is done.
Common Features of Mercer Island Estates
Will: A will is often the central component of an estate plan. It is a legal document which says what is to be done with a person's assets after they die. It normally involves giving money and property to the testator's close family members, friends, and sometimes charitable organizations.
Living Will: This is a document which articulates your wishes regarding your medical care, to give instructions to your family and doctors in the event that you become incapacitated. While really consulting it will hopefully never be necessary, one never knows - unexpected illnesses and injuries can happen to anyone, at any time. While making a living will might require a person to acknowledge the existence of some unpleasant possibilities, it can end up saving their loved ones a great deal of grief and uncertainty.
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: 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 particular wishes regarding 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 usually not read for quite some time after a person dies, and the funeral is normally long over by then, so it will be too late to follow your instructions.
Do I Need a Mercer Island Estates Lawyer?
A seasoned estates lawyer in Mercer Island 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.