Even when we depart this earth, we may leave trouble behind for those we love. The best way to avoid the uncertainty and expense of going to probate court is to make certain your final wishes are known and directed to be carried out through a will or a different form or estate planning. You need an estate planning attorney.
If a person dies without a Will, known in the law as "intestate", that person's property will be divided according to the general priorities set by the legislature. Those priorities may not be the same as yours. In some states, if you die intestate and leave behind children with someone other than your present spouse, the decedent's children take two-thirds of the estate, the spouse one-third. Alaska's inheritance laws are unlikely to do things the way you would prefer.
For instance, if a parent does not make arrangements concerning the disposition of their home, the children will have to go through the Alaska probate process just for the transfer of title. A deed from the parent to the heirs reserving a life estate in the home is one way to avoid this yearlong, expensive difficulty.
Specific bequests of your property may never take place unless you write them out in a Will. The fishing pole you wanted to give to your youngest son and the family ring you wanted your daughter to have may end up with someone else. You may not even be laid to rest in the place or manner you wish if your will does not state your wishes.
Given the great advances of modern medicine, you may also want to consider protecting yourself and your loved ones from medical treatments you consider 'extreme'. A Living Will appoints one or two loved ones to inform your physicians that you do not wish to remain on life support if there is virtually no chance of meaningful recovery. In the absence of such a document, most hospitals and physicians are reluctant to allow a patient to die a natural death. You may also leave written 'Do Not Resuscitate' orders, directing physicians not to use extraordinary means to prolong life after a terminal illness results in cardiac or respiratory arrest.
If you are one of the remaining people who has significant wealth,
your need for a will and other financial planning is imperative. Without
estate planning, the assets you worked so hard to gain may end fattening
the coffers of the U.S. Treasury rather than going to your family or to
worthy charities. You especially need an estate planning attorney.
Through the use of trusts and gifts it is often necessary to execute
estate planning steps years before one's last day on Earth.
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|Stephen Merrill, Attorney
BOARDWALK OFFICE SUITES
201 Barrow Street, Suite 103
Anchorage, Alaska 99501