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DuPage County estate planning attorneyMore than half of Americans do not have any estate planning documents in place at all. Those that do most often have a will and nothing more. However, there are many estate planning instruments above and beyond a last will which can be greatly beneficial. One of these instruments is a trust.

Some people shy away from trusts because they do know exactly how trusts work or how a trust can benefit them and their family. Others assume that only the wealthy require trusts to handle the distribution of assets after their death. Neither of these estate planning myths is true. Read on to learn about the basics of trusts and how a trust may be able to work for you. 

How a Trust Works

In a last will and testament, an individual writes directions for how his or her property should be distributed to heirs upon his or her death. A trust can also address how property is passed down to beneficiaries, but in a different way. A trust establishes an agreement between a testator and a trustee. The testator is the person creating the trust and may also be referred to as a settlor or grantor. The trustee is tasked with managing the settlor’s assets and distributing those assets according to instructions contained in the trust. The trustee is a fiduciary with a legal obligation to follow the terms of the trust and avoid any self-dealing or conflicts of interest in managing assets contained in a trust.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyAlthough we generally consider marriage to be primarily a romantic relationship, when two people join their lives together, it is also a financial union. Many studies show that disagreements about finances are the top predictor of divorce. One of the best ways that engaged couples can avoid this pitfall is to be upfront, honest, and proactive about financial plans and concerns from the very beginning. If you are a newlywed or plan to “take the plunge” this summer, it is important to consider the estate planning steps you should take to safeguard your family’s financial future.

Create Your Last Will and Testament or Update Your Existing Will

In past blog posts, we have discussed some of the most ubiquitous misunderstandings about wills. Perhaps the greatest myth regarding wills is that they are only needed after a certain age. The reality is that an adult of any age will benefit from creating a will.

Although it is unpleasant to think about, unexpected tragedies happen every day. By creating a will now, you are safeguarding your ability to make decisions about what happens to your debt and property after you pass away. Furthermore, creating a will helps you identify and explore your current financial situation. This can help you and your soon-to-be-spouse better discuss financial concerns and plans for the future. If you already have a will, you will need to update it after getting married. An experienced estate planning attorney can be a valuable resource when drafting or updating a will.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysEven though there are numerous benefits to creating a will, studies show that only about 60 percent of Americans have established a will, trust, power of attorney, or other estate plans. Many people use misinformed excuses to justify not having estate plans. They may incorrectly think “I am not rich, so I do not need a will” or “I can wait until I am older or in poor health to create estate planning documents.”

Estate planning does require a person to face some uncomfortable inevitabilities and can be tedious, so it is understandable that many procrastinate on this important undertaking. However, waiting too long to think about estate planning may mean that very personal decisions regarding your property, heirs, and even your medical care could be left up to others. 

Why You Need an Estate Plan Even If You Are Young and in Good Health

Anyone who drives a car on public roads must have auto insurance according to Illinois law. However, it is safe to assume that many people would have auto insurance even if it was not required by law. They know that car accidents happen across the country every day and that it is better to be safe than sorry. Generally, people understand how insurance protects them much better than how estate planning protects them. However, the two concepts are not entirely different.

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Lombard guardianship attorneyWe generally think about guardianship with regard to guardianship of children, however, this is not the only type of legal guardianship that exists. When a person cannot care for themselves due to a disability, old age, or a debilitating illness, a family member may take on the responsibility of caring for him or her. Sometimes, visiting the person several times a week and helping with certain errands and tasks is enough while other people need much more extensive assistance. For situations in which a person needs significant help, you may consider guardianship. Seeking guardianship of an adult may be the best way to ensure a disabled adult is receiving the care he or she needs, but the process is not always simple.

When Do Courts Grant Guardianship of Adults?

In Illinois, guardianship of a person over age 18 only takes place through the court system. Before a court will assign someone to be another person’s guardian, it must first confirm that the disabled or sick individual needs this level of assistance. The court will evaluate to what degree the disabled person is incapacitated by mental illness, cognitive decline, physical ailment, developmental disability, or another issue. In some situations, a drug or alcohol addiction may also be considered disabling enough to qualify a person for guardianship. The court will determine the level of incapacitation the disabled person experiences and the particular responsibilities that he or she cannot accomplish for himself or herself. Next, the court will determine what type of guardian should be selected.

Guardian of the Estate Versus Guardian of the Person

While there are many types of guardianship in Illinois, they fall into two main categories: guardian of the estate and guardian of the person. When the disabled person only needs help with making financial decisions, the court will likely assign someone to be their guardian of the estate. If the disabled person cannot make healthcare and medical decisions on his or her own, the court may appoint a guardian of the person. In the event that a disabled person needs both types of guardians, one person can fulfill both of these roles or a separate person can be assigned to each role. An individual in need of a guardian may nominate the person(s) he or she wants to act as guardian, but the court must approve this decision.

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DuPage County estate planning lawyersHaving a will, trust, and other estate planning documents in place can give you the peace of mind that if something happens to you, your final wishes will be fulfilled. Furthermore, comprehensive estate planning allows you to make decisions about your property and healthcare so that your family will not be burdened with making these decisions on your behalf. There are so many benefits to creating an estate plan, that it may surprise that only about 40 percent of Americans have created a will or trust. There are many myths and misunderstandings about estate planning which contribute to this.

Misunderstanding 1: You Need to Be Wealthy to Have a Will

One of the greatest misunderstandings about estate planning is that people assume it is only for the wealthy. On the contrary, anyone over age 18 can benefit from estate planning. Even if you do not have high-value assets, you probably own sentimental items which you would like given to a certain family member or friend upon your death.

Even if you do not personally care what happens to your property and debt upon your death, there are other benefits to having a will or trust. When people die without a will, it often leaves a great deal of work for surviving loved ones. An estate plan saves your friends and family the burdensome task of guessing what you would have wanted regarding your property, debt, funeral arrangements, and more.

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