Despite dealing largely with one of life's must unchanging truths -- that everyone ages and eventually must die -- estate planning is a surprisingly ever-changing area of law.
Not only do the laws governing estate planning change over time, but so to the techniques used by estate planning attorneys to address their clients' needs. With the popularity of cremation on the rise, questions regarding the legality and logistics of scattering ashes have become more common. The use of trusts has also become popular in estate plans, with different types of trusts to address specific needs and situations.
What were some of the most important issues in estate planning in 2014? Here are our Top 7 estate-planning posts from the past year:
Do You Need to Notarize a Will? -- Unlike some other legal documents, wills generally do not need to be notarized. In some instances, however, having a notarized, self-proving affidavit signed by a witness to the will can help ensure that a will moves through probate quickly.
5 Questions to Ask Your Estate Planning Lawyer -- An estate planning lawyer will have plenty of questions for you regarding what you would like included in your overall estate plan. But it may be helpful to have a few questions prepared for your lawyer as well.
5 Things an Estate Planning Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't) -- Although wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents can often be drafted without the assistance of an attorney, there are several distinct advantages to working with an estate planning lawyer.
What If a Beneficiary Dies Before the Will Maker? -- An individual making a will most likely expects that he or she will die before any of the people named as beneficiaries in the will. But it doesn't always occur that way. Individual state probate laws generally include statutes known as lapse and anti-lapse statutes that control what happens to a gift made to a beneficiary who has predeceased the testator of a will.
Robin Williams Set Up a Trust for His Kids. Should You? -- The death of comedian and actor Robin Williams cast a spotlight on the practice of parents setting up trusts to distribute property to their children. These trusts take effect after the death of either or both parents, or under other conditions specified in the trust (such as a child turning a certain age).
Legal How-To: Scattering Ashes After Cremation -- By 2016, nearly half of all Americans will likely be cremated following death. Although there are restrictions, the scattering of cremated remains is generally allowed on both private and public property, including over the open ocean.
Learn more about living wills, trusts, advanced directives, and more at FindLaw's section on Estate Planning.