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Lombard estate planning attorneySome people are just born rich. They are fortunate to be part of a family with wealth going back several generations. Others manage the impossible and win the Powerball jackpot, becoming enormously wealthy virtually overnight. Most people, however, work very hard throughout their lives to accumulate the assets and property that make up their estate. You have probably made sound financial decisions and put in the hours to earn what you have, so when it comes time to decide what will happen to your assets upon your death, you have the right to do so.

Keep in mind, however, that while the right to make decisions about your estate is yours and yours alone, such decisions are not made in a vacuum. The choices you make are likely to have an effect on your family members and loved ones. Whether that effect is positive, negative, or neutral depends on your circumstances and how you handle them.

Eliminating Assumptions

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Posted on in Estate Planning

DuPage County estate planning attorneyIn the comedy show Parks and Recreation, there is a scene where Ron Swanson is being lectured about how his impressive estate is not covered by a will. He replies that he does have a will and that he wrote it when he was eight years old. To the horror of his financially-savvy colleague, Ron pulls out a small folded note with a few scribbles on it. If you have thought about creating your last will and testament, you may have wondered if you can simply write the instructions down in a notebook or on a piece of paper. The answer varies depending on where you live, but it is important to note that Illinois wills must meet certain criteria to be legally binding.

States Vary on Rules Regarding Handwritten Wills

The enforceability of a handwritten will depends on state law. Many states do accept handwritten wills that meet other criteria, but each state’s laws vary with regard to witness requirements. The purpose of having witnesses sign off on people’s wills is to ensure to the court that the will’s creator, called a testator, signed the will of his or her own volition. Testators must have the mental capacity to understand what they are signing and cannot be coerced into signing a will. Having witnesses also helps guarantee that the signature on the will is that of the testator and is not forged. Nevertheless, in some jurisdictions, witnesses are not required to be present for a handwritten will to be legal. This is known as a holographic will. Two witnesses must be present when the will is signed in other jurisdictions.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersIf you have started the process of planning for your family’s future through a comprehensive estate plan, you have probably considered where many of your possessions will go. Perhaps your car will be gifted to a grandchild, while your home will be sold and the proceeds split between your children.

When deciding what will happen to physical property, many otherwise-dutiful estate planners forget about their digital assets. Have you considered what should happen to your personal documents and data stored online after you pass away? What about your social media accounts? The world is becoming more and more digitized with each passing day, and it is important we account for this in estate plans.

What Exactly Is Considered a Digital Asset?

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Lombard estate planning lawyersOne of the most important steps of creating a last will and testament is choosing the personal representative—or executor—who will oversee and manage your estate after you pass away. This individual will have several important responsibilities, so it is important that you choose someone who is competent and able to handle the job. There is no perfect way to choose the right executor, but there are some guidelines you should keep in mind as you create your estate plan.  

Responsibilities of the Executor

The legal representative named as the executor of a will has several duties. Firstly, he or she must estimate the value of the deceased person’s (testator’s) estate. A list of property and assets including bank accounts, retirement accounts, real estate property, fine art or expensive jewelry, stocks and bonds, and other items must be drafted and assessed during probate. Additionally, the executor must pay the deceased person’s taxes and debt as well as file a personal income tax return on their behalf. He or she will also have to pay estate taxes and distribute the testator’s remaining property to beneficiaries as per the directions stated in the will.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneysWhen one thinks of estate planning, the main legal tool that most often comes to mind is the last will and testament. Of course, having a will in place is tremendously important. Not only does a will give you the peace of mind that your possessions and property will end up in the right hands after your death, it also helps your loved ones wrap up your estate much more quickly and efficiently than would otherwise be possible. Even though wills are vital, they are not the only estate planning documents we should be concerned about. As you plan for your future, make sure not to overlook these other important legal and financial implements. 

Advance Health Care Directive

An advance health care directive is a plan that is made ahead of time in regard to a person’s health care. Illinois law allows citizens to create four different types of advance directives: a medical power of attorney; a living will; mental health treatment preference declaration; and a Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR)/Practitioner Orders For Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). Depending on your circumstances, you may wish to use more than one of these types of documents to plan for your future.

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