In West Virginia, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone determines 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 regarding the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For instance, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your assessment 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 West Virginia 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 West Virginia
Estate plans in West Virginia should almost assuredly have, at a very minimum, these 3 things:
Will: A will is a document which dictates how one's property should be disposed of after its owner dies. If there is a large amount of valuable property at stake, any obscurity or uncertainty in a will can lead to major disputes between potential beneficiaries. Anything which makes the intent of the testator unclear might cause it to end up in a probate court. Good drafting (with the help of a reliable estate planning attorney) can reduce the chances of this happening.
Power of Attorney: This is a legal document in which you give some other person (typically a family member) the ability to make decisions (often related to money or healthcare) on your behalf if you become incapable of doing so.
Funeral Arrangements: This is a very personal determination, 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 exclusively 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 West Virginia Estate Planning Attorney?
Estate planning is very important (if you care about what happens to your family after your death), and can involve some pretty challenging decisions. It should be clear, then, that a reliable West Virginia estate planning attorney will likely be worth the cost, because they can give your wishes the best possible chance of taking effect.
Interesting Facts About West Virginia
West Virginia is situated in the Appalachian region of the U.S., which is famous for its grand mountain ranges. However, because of its geographic position, the state is often listed under many different regions, including the Southeast, and the Mid-Atlantic U.S. regions. The state's economy is driven mainly by natural resources such as coal and oil.
West Virginia is one of the 11 states that operate only one court of appeals. Most states have an intermediate appellate court, with the state Supreme Court also hearing appeals. Instead, appeals in West Virginia are heard exclusively at the highest level, the Supreme Court of Appeals. This makes the Supreme Court one of the busiest appeals courts in the U.S. Other courts in West Virginia include the Circuit Courts, Magistrate Courts, and Municipal Courts.
An important West Virginia case is West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943). This case held that students are protected from being forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and salute the American flag in school. The ruling was largely based on the Free Speech Clause of the 1st Amendment. The Barnette decision continues to be a landmark decision in the area of Constitutional rights.
Lawyers in West Virginia assist their clients mostly through the Circuit Court system. West Virginia lawyers provide representation during key lawsuits, and can provide advice on obtaining the most favorable legal remedy. A West Virginia attorney can also perform tasks like reviewing legal documents and providing intervention during conflicts.