March 18, 2013
Any trust and estates lawyer in Fair Oaks can tell you that they have to ask their clients a lot of very uncomfortable questions. Who really wants to think about their own mortality and contemplate what life will be like for their families after their own death or if they were to be incapacitated? But, by facing these thoughts and questions, you are actually able to have a greater say in what will happen than you would by avoiding the topic altogether.
So, what kinds of issues need to be addressed with your trust and estates lawyer? Whether you live in Fair Oaks or New York City, there are some basic questions that absolutely must be answered.
You and Your Spouse
One of the most difficult issues to contemplate is what should happen if you and your spouse were both killed together. While the chance of passing away at the same time is relatively low, it happens. Laws are typically set up so that one spouse’s estate passes to the surviving spouse, but when both are gone at the same time, things get a little more complicated.
For example, those with minor children need to put serious thought into who will become their children’s guardian. If you don’t make these decisions in advance, the courts will make them for you; and their choices may not reflect your own. It’s not uncommon for grandparents to receive custody of the children in these cases if they are still living, but that still leaves open the question of which spouse’s parents would be chosen. If you have a preference (or want someone else chosen), then you need a trust and estates lawyer in Fair Oaks to help you make those wishes legally binding.
Children are not the only concern, of course. Should you and your spouse be killed or incapacitated, who will take care of your finances, inherit your home, or even take care of your pets? These are all issues that need to be considered in advance.
You and Someone Else
Your estate planning lawyer isn’t just being nosey if he or she asks if there is someone in your life besides your spouse who may have a claim to your property. This definitely falls into the category of “uncomfortable questions,” but if you had a relationship with someone other than your spouse, he or she may come forward after your death with the expectation of receiving an inheritance.
This can also be the case with family members who are estranged. If you have a child you are no longer in contact with, he or she may still have a claim to your property. Long-lost siblings or parents to whom you are no longer speaking can also still have a claim. By setting out your plan with a trust and estates lawyer in Fair Oaks, you can help to ensure that only those you want to inherit will.
As a final note in this area of “uncomfortable topics,” if you and a spouse, previous spouse, or other person have chosen to store genetic material such as eggs, sperm, or embryos, you need to have plans for what is to become of this material. Not only do you need to consider the material itself, but you also need to consider who might end up with children that have been conceived after you die.
Each of these issues is complicated in and of itself, but in order to come up with a workable estate plan, they must all be considered. If your trust and estates lawyer in Fair Oaks doesn’t bring up some of these questions but they apply to you, it is in your best interest to bring it up now to avoid problems with your estate later.