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wheaton estate planning lawyerIf you have already created estate planning documents, but it has been years since you looked at or thought about them, it might be time to speak to an estate planning attorney about updating them. You may find that your circumstances or wishes have changed substantially since the last time you looked at your will, trust, or healthcare planning documents. Even if you are confident that your estate planning documents still accurately reflect your wishes, laws change over time that may affect your estate. It is always a good idea to periodically review your estate plan with an attorney’s help to ensure everything is in order. 

When is it Time to Review my Estate Plan With a Lawyer? 

A variety of life changes may trigger you to want to update your will or trust, or other documents like your Healthcare Power of Attorney and Advance Directives. It may be time to see an attorney about your estate plan when any of the following changes occur: 

  • Family Structure - If you have recently gotten married or divorced, had a child, had a grandchild, or even reconciled with a formerly estranged relative, you may want to update your estate plan to reflect these changes. 

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chicago estate planning lawyerWhile estate planning is important for everyone, it is especially so for high-net-worth individuals. If you own high-value or complex assets, a number of estate planning tools are available to ensure that your wealth is distributed according to your wishes while minimizing your Illinois Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax liability. The greater the value of your estate, the greater the potential liabilities. An experienced attorney can craft an estate plan designed to preserve your wealth. 

Minimizing Taxes During Estate Distribution

Generally, trusts are favored over wills. Trusts serve one very important purpose-- avoiding probate. Probate can be costly and complicated, and it significantly diminishes your estate’s value. There are two types of trusts: revocable and irrevocable. Often, both are used to hold different assets and to serve different purposes. 

A revocable trust allows you to continue making modifications to it throughout your life. You can move assets in and out of a revocable trust. Any wealth contained in a revocable trust will not be subject to probate. 

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lombard power of attorney lawyerA power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person, called the “agent,” the power to make decisions on your behalf. Powers of attorney can be as limited in scope as allowing your agent to handle one specific transaction for you, or as broad as giving your agent general and permanent power to manage all of your finances and medical decision-making. It is very important to consult with a qualified attorney before you execute any power of attorney. These legal documents can be quite complicated, and an experienced attorney will be able to guide you through the process and ensure that your wishes will be carried out correctly. 

What is the Difference Between Durable and Springing Powers of Attorney? 

The main difference between a durable power of attorney and a springing power of attorney is that a durable power of attorney takes effect immediately and gives your agent the ability to start making decisions for you, managing your finances, or any other included powers right away. It is effective for the rest of your life unless you revoke it. A durable power of attorney is not affected if you become incapacitated. One advantage of a durable power of attorney is that since it is already in effect, the transition after you become incapacitated can be seamless. 

A springing power of attorney does not give your agent any powers unless you become incapacitated. In Illinois, you are considered incapacitated when two doctors agree that you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. 

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lombard estate planning lawyerOne of the most important parts of creating a successful estate plan is deciding who will be responsible for carrying out the wishes of your will. This person is known as an “executor.” Even if you think your estate is small, choosing a trustworthy executor is important for ensuring your last wishes are in good hands. 

What Does an Executor Do? 

Even for a smaller estate, an executor has many responsibilities. It takes about a year to completely settle an average estate, and sometimes it can take much longer. Your executor will file your will with a court to pay off any debt you may have, close all your accounts, hire any necessary experts, and ensure your assets are distributed appropriately. 

What Makes Someone a Good Executor?

Because an executor is entrusted with sensitive personal and financial information, not just anyone should be named as an executor. Ideally, an executor should be:

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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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