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lombard estate planning lawyerThere are several options for people in Illinois who want to ensure their assets are protected and their wishes are fulfilled after their death. Among these is something called a “living trust,” and it is one of the most valuable asset protection instruments someone can have. Living trusts are versatile estate planning tools that offer flexibility when transferring assets to loved ones. Better yet, they save your estate from having to go through a time-consuming and expensive probate process

What is the Purpose of a Living Trust? 

A trust is a legal arrangement in which one person - the trustee - holds assets on behalf of another person, known as the beneficiary. A living trust has the advantage of remaining under the control of the trustee for as long as they live, giving the trustee great flexibility over how the assets in the trust are handled. A trustee of a living trust can sell, mortgage, or give away assets held in the trust at any time. Once the trustee passes away, a successor trustee appointed by the original trustee distributes the assets to the trust’s beneficiaries. 

The primary benefit of a living trust is that the grantor - the person who gives the assets to the trust - can also be the trustee. A grantor who sets up a living trust and serves as its trustee retains control over the ability to modify the terms of the trust and control the use of their property however they see fit.

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IL estate lawyerThe circumstances necessitating estate planning can be unpleasant to think about and people often avoid putting off writing their will. However, writing your will and establishing your priorities after your death is one of the best ways you can show love to the people you care about most. You may think you are too young to write a will, but the truth is that the sooner you write a will, the safer your loved ones will be.

If you have never written a will before, you may wonder what you should include. In this post, we will discuss some of the things you should consider when you are writing your will.

What Is a Will?

If you are writing your first will, you may be unsure about what a will is or what it does. Essentially, a will is a binding legal document that details what will happen to your property after you die. If relevant, a will can also address who will be appointed as a guardian for your minor children. A will also appoints someone who ensures the will is implemented correctly. This person is called an executor.

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IL probate lawyerIn our last post, we introduced and discussed the concept of undue influence in creating a will. It can be difficult to prove undue influence – even the Supreme Court of the United States has said that what constitutes undue influence depends on the individual circumstances of each case.

When someone believes their loved one may have been under undue influence when creating a will, one way to show the will is invalid is to prove that there was a formal legal relationship between the testator and the other party, called a fiduciary duty.

This can be a little confusing, so we will explore further.

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IL probate lawyerUndue influence is the most common justification in Illinois when someone wants to contest the validity of a will. But what is undue influence? And if you suspect someone is trying to wield undue influence over your loved one during the creation of their will, what can you do about it? We will explore the concept of undue influence in a short series of blog posts, explaining what undue influence is and how it is treated under Illinois law.

Undue influence is when the person for whom the will is written (the testator) has their wishes wrongfully manipulated and overpowered by someone else. This obscures the true wishes of the testator and can cause tension and conflict in executing the will after the testator is deceased.

Family members who are concerned their loved one is being subject to undue influence may have worries triggered by unusual behavior, such as sudden estrangement or confusion on the part of the testator. They may witness a decline in the mental capacity of the testator, or notice they are accompanied by a companion who seems overly zealous in “helping” the testator or seems to be influencing their decision making.

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IL estate lawyerFor people of any age, estate planning allows them to make decisions about what will happen in the future. In many cases, the focus of an estate plan will be on what happens after a person’s death, and this will be covered in part by their last will and testament, which is commonly referred to as a will. However, multiple types of estate planning documents, including a living will, can also be used to address how issues such as medical care will be handled throughout the remainder of a person’s life. By understanding the differences between wills and living wills, a person and their loved ones can ensure that their wishes will be followed correctly.

Wills vs. Living Wills

A last will and testament is used to make decisions about how a person’s final affairs will be handled after their death, including who will inherit their property and assets. It will name a person known as an executor who will complete the probate process and ensure that the deceased person’s instructions will be followed when distributing their assets to their family members or other beneficiaries. A will can also be used to nominate a person as the guardian of the deceased person’s minor children, and it can specify the deceased person’s wishes for their funeral and burial or cremation.

The term “living will” would seem to indicate that it is a document that covers similar issues as a last will and testament prior to a person’s death. However, a living will can only address certain types of specific issues, and it will only apply in certain situations. Basically, a living will can make decisions about the medical care a person receives prior to their death, ensuring that their wishes will be followed if they cannot make these wishes known. To make decisions about medical treatment in other situations, other estate planning tools such as powers of attorney may be used.

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