Some people go their whole lives without any involvement in the legal system. Unfortunately, this isn’t meant to last. When every last one of us comes to the end of our life, the legal system will make its way into our business even if we don’t want it to. Fortunately, it’s possible to maintain control even in these situations if you take proactive steps. This brief guide to estate planning will give you the basic understanding necessary to get started.

Do I Need to Write a Will?

Some people wonder whether they even need a will. This is particularly the case if they feel they don’t have a lot to leave behind. Unfortunately, this false belief can be very costly. If you don’t have a will when you pass, the government will decide what happens to everything you own. This includes real estate, personal property, bank funds, and much more. You deserve to make the choice of how your affairs are handled when you’re gone.

How Do I Create an Estate Plan?

This is a fairly complicated question, and truthfully, an online blog can’t accurately answer it for you. That’s because what your estate plan requires may be completely different than another person’s plan. Depending on the properties you own, debts owed, surviving relatives, and various other issues, you may need legal forms that others don’t have to worry about. While a will is always important, not everyone will need guardianship designations, durable power of attorney, trusts, and other optional elements.

What Is a Trust?

A trust is a legally-binding fiduciary arrangement that specifies a third party (i.e., trustee) to hold onto assets on behalf of a beneficiary. The settlor is the person who creates the trust. While the trustee has possession of the assets and properties in the trust, they can only use them for the benefit of the beneficiary. The settlor can set specifications (e.g., “once my son graduates college”) for the release of properties contained in the trust. A Delaware trust attorney can help create a valid agreement.

What Is a Living Will?

Also known as an advanced healthcare directive, a living will allows a person to dictate medical decisions in situations where they may no longer be able to provide informed consent. For instance, you may specify that — if you suffer catastrophic injuries in a car accident — you do not want to be kept alive with breathing machines or feeding tubes. Instructions in living wills are as varied as the individuals who create them.

What Are Codicils?

When someone wants to update their will — such as by adding a beneficiary or removing assets that have been sold — they often fall into the trap of thinking they need to write an entirely new will. This usually isn’t the case! A codicils attorney can help you make specified amendments that update your will without having to recreate the entire thing.

Do You Need an Attorney for Estate Planning?

Regardless of the issues you’re facing — even with something as serious as estate planning — you’re not required to seek legal assistance. Unfortunately, failure to do so can lead to significant problems. For instance, do you know how many witnesses are required to sign your will? Is a notary necessary for the process? Do handwritten documents hold legal validity? Lacking knowledge in any of these areas — and many others — can create a risk for mistakes.

Unfortunately, even the simplest errors can prove costly when dealing with estate and probate issues. Because of this, you should at least consider speaking with an attorney. Even if you end up not hiring a legal professional, a one-time consultation will give you a good idea of whether you’re heading in the right direction. Contact our law firm today to get more information.