Surprisingly, most people in West Virginia and nationwide do not have a will. A Gallup survey in 2016 indicates that most people also do not know how they would like to have their assets distributed after death. This fact makes it even more important that people consult with an estate planning attorney to set up at least the basic beginnings of a workable plan.
The process of estate planning can be complex for those with greater assets or with a complicated mix of heirs that must be included in the plan. When meeting with the estate planning attorney, the testator (i.e., the one who makes a will) will be advised generally to create some of the basic estate planning tools in addition to the will. The most important of these is the power of attorney, which in the case of the testator's incompetence during life can result in the saving of considerable funds for the estate.
Without the power of attorney, a court will be asked to appoint a guardian or conservator, which can take a substantial financial toll on the testator's assets. It is an important decision for the testator to decide who shall be the representative in the power of attorney. That person will be able to sign checks, pay rent, purchase food, buy personal items and even sell property on behalf of the incompetent person. Without a power of attorney, the testator may be put at the mercy of someone who does not think the same way or is not the person who he or she would have preferred.
In West Virginia and elsewhere, there are numerous other subjects that the person or married couple can take up with the estate planning attorney. In appropriate cases, a financial planning expert may also join in the process as part of the estate planning team. There are additional subjects like charitable gifts, tax strategies and creating lifetime funds or trusts, that can be crucial money-saving devices for some persons. The documents will be drawn up in accordance with the testator's personal and financial needs.
Source: finance.yahoo.com, "Estate Planning Is Important for People Without Children", Debbie Carlson, Feb. 16, 2017