If you are making choices in Shoreline 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 Shoreline attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is feasible, it is done.
Common Features of Shoreline 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 feasible, you can put that in your living will, as well.
Power of Attorney: What if you become incapacitated, and can't make your own decisions? It would be nice if somebody knew what you would want in a given situation, and, on top of that, had the legal authority to make that decision for you. Power of attorney lets you do clearly that, granting a person of your choice the ability to make certain decisions for you, in case you, for whatever reason, can't (you can, of course, control the scope of power that you grant).
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 Shoreline Estates Lawyer?
A seasoned estates lawyer in Shoreline 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.