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DuPage County estate planning attorneysThere are almost countless ways that drafting a last will and testament can benefit you and your loved ones. With that in mind, it may surprise you to learn that only about 40 percent of Americans currently have a will or other estate planning document in place.

There are many reasons that people choose not to create a will. Some may not understand exactly what the purpose of a will is. Others may inaccurately assume that only wealthy people need a will. Perhaps the biggest reason that people procrastinate estate planning is because it deals with what happens if they become incapacitated or pass away. Although it can be an uncomfortable subject to consider, it is very important for everyone to have a will – regardless of wealth or age. When someone dies without a will, it is often their surviving loved ones who are most negatively affected.

You Relinquish Control Over Significant Financial and Personal Decisions

Even if you are not wealthy, you still own property and items which have value to you. Drafting a will allows you to decide how property, including sentimental items or family heirlooms, is divided among heirs. Without a will, your property is assigned to heirs according to Illinois state laws regarding intestate succession. It is very unlikely that the items most important to you will end up with the individuals you wanted them to unless you specify this in a will, trust, or other estate planning document. If you pass away without a will, your surviving loved ones will be forced to guess how you wanted your property to be distributed. This can be especially burdensome for people who are grieving a loss.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneyAn unexpected illness or injury can happen to anybody. If you have been diagnosed with a serious health concern, you may worry about how medical decisions will be made if you cannot make them yourself. For example, if you fell into a coma, how would doctors know what type of medical treatment you do and do not consent to? In situations like these, a power of attorney for health care, or medical power of attorney, can allow you to choose a trusted representative who will make medical decisions on your behalf.

Responsibilities of a Medical Power of Attorney

Most people want to have a say in the types of medical treatment they do and do not wish to undergo. If you are worried that your health issues may worsen and you will not be able to speak for yourself in the future, consider choosing a representative through a healthcare power of attorney. This representative, called an agent or health care proxy, should be a person who you trust to follow your directions regarding medical treatment and care.

Your agent has the responsibility of working with doctors, surgeons, and other medical staff to ensure that you are only receiving the treatment that you have agreed to. Generally, a durable power of attorney for healthcare gives an agent the authority to make decisions on your behalf regarding medication, diagnostic tests, nutrition and hydration, surgery, and life-prolonging procedures like artificial ventilation and tube feeding. You will be able to more specifically define your agent’s decision-making authority when you fill out the healthcare power of attorney form.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneyThe world of estate planning can become quite overwhelming for many people. Not only does estate planning force you to confront your own mortality, there is also a vast array of estate planning instruments for you to choose from. It can be difficult to know for sure what types of estate planning tools and documents will best allow you to reach your personal and financial goals. Two of the most common types of estate planning instruments are a last will and testament and a trust. While these tools can achieve similar goals, there are several importance differences between a will and a trust.

The Benefits of Drafting a Will

You may be surprised to know that only about 40 percent of Americans have a will, trust, or other estate planning document in place. When drafting a will, you must consider how your assets will be distributed to beneficiaries upon your death. Understandably, it can be very difficult for people to make plans for after they pass away. However, creating a will allows you to be in control of how your property is disseminated. You worked hard to earn the property that you have, so it is only fair that you should get to choose how it is distributed and who will receive it. Perhaps even more importantly, creating a will saves your surviving loved ones from the burden of having to guess how you would have wanted your property to be passed down.

Differences Between a Trust and a Will

A trust is similar to a will in that it allows you to dictate how your property is distributed to beneficiaries. However, a trust differs from a will in that it gives another party, called a trustee, the authority to manage your assets for the benefit of your beneficiaries. There are many different types of trusts which could benefit you and your family depending on your unique circumstances. These include a revocable trust, irrevocable trust, special needs trust, testamentary trust, charitable trust, and many more. Unlike wills, trusts are not required to go through probate, the court process which confirms the validity of the will and supervises the distribution of property. Probate is a state court proceeding which means that anyone can access information regarding the deceased person’s property, liabilities, beneficiaries, and more. Families who wish to keep this information private often use a trust in order to avoid probate.

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Arlington Heights estate planning attorneysWhile many people assume estate planning only involves drafting a will or other estate planning document which dictates how assets are distributed upon an individual’s death, this is only one of many types of estate planning instruments which can benefit you. An advance directive, also referred to as a living will, medical directive, or advance decision, is a type of legal document which specifies how decisions should be made on behalf of an individual who is incapacitated by illness or injury. Read on to learn about how incapacity is defined for the purposes of these types of decisions in Illinois.

An Incapacitating Accident or Illness Can Happen to Anybody

If you are like most people, you have probably not given a lot of thought as to what would happen if you became unable to speak for yourself. Although we often think of incapacitation as something that happens to elderly people or those with Alzheimer’s Disease, the truth is that people of all ages can become incapacitated. For example, if you are in a serious car accident, you could suffer a head injury which leaves you in a coma. Who would make medical decisions on your behalf if this happened? Would you wish to be kept alive via artificial life support if there was little chance of recovery? These are the types of questions which can be addressed through an advance directive.

When Do Advanced Directives Take Effect?

There is not a specific set of criteria which is always used to determine when a person is incapacitated in Illinois. The situation will vary significantly based on the unique circumstances of the sick or injured person and his or her loved ones. If you are unable to speak for yourself and a loved one has petitioned the court to become your legal guardian, a judge will decide whether or not you are disabled to the point that you require a guardian. The Illinois Probate Act states that a disabled person is one who:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysWhen you hear the phrase “estate planning,” you might think of extremely wealthy people meeting with their lawyers and accountants to create wills and trusts that will facilitate the transfer of assets from one generation to the next. However, there is much more to estate planning than just wills and trusts. More importantly, estate planning is not just for those with extensive assets or complicated investments. Every adult should have an estate plan of some sort in place as a measure of protection in the event of a tragedy.

One estate planning tool that is often overlooked or misunderstood is the power of attorney. A power of attorney can be extremely useful in protecting your best interests should the unexpected occur.

Power of Attorney Basics

Using a power of attorney document, a person—called the principal—can appoint another individual to serve as his or her agent in financial matters. Illinois law also recognizes powers of attorney for health care which give agents the authority to make medical-relate decisions for the principals.

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