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Probate and estate administration is an area of law most people are unfamiliar with until a family member is deceased or reaches a stage in their life when that family member is unable to handle his/her financial affairs or medical decision no longer able to physically attend to health, welfare, grooming habits or household chores. Usually, these are matters you should confer with an attorney before such an event takes place to have a written legal plan in place to avoid probate court proceedings or make such proceeds less hostile. For those reasons, you, a love one or family member should seek out an attorney.

There exists many areas an attorney can help put in place in anticipation of tragic life circumstances:

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a document to allow someone else to act on behalf of you, a spouse or other family member. A person signing such a document must be able to understand the document being signed and its consequences. This is one way of avoiding filing a petition in probate court to appoint an conservator for someone who eventually develops dementia, Alzheimer's or other conditions affecting someone's mental function.

Guardianship and/or Conservator

These are proceedings in probate court usually involving minors or adults who do not have a parent or spouse and who is unable or unwilling to be responsible for daily decisions of the care, welfare and health of the minor (this requires appointment of a guardian). A conservator is a person who handles the financial affairs of a minor or legally incapacitated adult. In these cases, you need legal advice as to who has priority, legally, to be appointed in such a position; in what circumstances or what factors are considered to determine whether a conservator/guardian is necessary and what are the obligations and duties of a conservator/guardian.

Wills and Trusts

Wills and trusts are an area most people know of but few understand how complex they can be. You will need an attorney to review your assets and family to help you decide whether you need to consider tax consequences; whether you should consider a trust for a special needs child or to limit any tax consequences; whether there is a way to avoid probate court based upon your assets; preparing a "living will"/medical power of attorney to appoint someone to make medical decisions for you if you are mentally incapable of making those decisions; if you have remarried and now have a more extended family and how an estate plan should be drafted to consider stepchildren, your children and children born from our new marriage; how often a Will should be revised and what is the validity of any previous Will; when should you challenge/contest a Will and who can challenge/contests a Will; can you disinherit individuals; who should be the person to handle your estate upon your death (personal representative/executor/administrator). These are just come of what to consider.

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