If you are making decisions in Woodland 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 usually requires professional legal and financial advice, because of the complexity and importance of the issues involved. A poorly-executed estate plan can often 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 include things that might become relevant during life. Power of attorney is a big one. Power of attorney is an arrangement in which you give another person the ability to make decisions for you, if you become incapacitated. Also, effective estate planning can help reduce the effect of taxes and court fees on your final disposition to your chosen beneficiaries.
A good Woodland professional experienced in estate planning can make this process a great deal easier. They can also help ensure that your estate plan does not end up in court.
Common Features of Woodland Estates
Will: This is the centerpiece of most estate plans. A will is a document written by a person (the "testator"), usually with the help of a lawyer, which says what is to be done with their property after they die. Most provisions in a will are legally binding, to the extent that ownership of the property legally passes to the named beneficiary. However, a will cannot compel a person to do anything against their wishes (though it can certainly state your preferences on the matter, phrasing them as requests).
Living Will: A living will contains instructions about your medical care, generally for the purpose of informing your family and doctors of your preferences if you suddenly become incapacitated. A living will is very crucial if you have any strong preferences in this area. It should be written with the advice of a doctor, so you know the specific medical consequences of your decisions, and a lawyer, so it is virtually guaranteed to be legally binding.
Power of Attorney: This is an arrangement in which you give someone else, usually a trusted family member, the power to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf, in case you become unable to make or express your own decisions.
Funeral Arrangements: Some people, for religious and other reasons, have very specific wishes concerning 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 critical 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 often weeks after a person dies until their will is read.
Do I Need a Woodland Estates Lawyer?
A good lawyer in Woodland can make the process of estate planning as easy as it possibly can be. He or she can help ensure that your wishes are given effect, and minimize the chances of disputes between your survivors.