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Lombard estate planning lawyersIf you are like many pet owners, your pets are not simply animals, they are loyal companions. Because you love your pet and want to ensure he or she will be cared for if you pass away, you may be interested in including your pet in your estate plans. A pet is not a human so you cannot leave an inheritance directly to a pet. However, there are certain estate planning tools that allow you to designate funds and property for the care of your pet.

Planning for Pets After Your Death

If you are considering providing for your pet in your estate plan, you have already considered the fact that your pet may outlive you. Many people assume that when they pass away that family members or friends will care for their pet, but this is not always what ends up happening. Sometimes the person you hoped would look after your companion simply cannot fulfil the responsibility. He or she may have health issues or allergies that prevent him or her from owning pets, live in a residence that does not allow pets, or he or she may be unable to afford your pet’s care. One option that allows you to ensure that your pet receives the care he or she needs is a pet trust.

Consider a Pet Trust

The Illinois Trusts and Trustees Act allows people to create trusts for the purpose of providing for their pet after they are gone. If you have a pet who needs expensive medical care or has other needs, you may worry about who will provide for these needs after you have passed away. One option is to place funds in a trust that may only be used for the pet’s medical care, food, shelter, exercise, and other needs. You will then designate someone who you trust to carry out these responsibilities. This person is called the trustee. When you pass away, the trustee gains access to the funds in the trust. Once the pet has passed away, the remaining funds will be distributed according to the directions you have described in the trust document.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneyOnly about four out of ten adults have any type of estate plan in place. Misunderstandings about the purpose of estate planning and fears about confronting one’s own mortality are two of the main reasons that people neglect this important responsibility. People also put off estate planning because they are overwhelmed and do not know where to begin.

If you are ready to get started on your estate plans, consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer. A lawyer will help you determine what types of estate planning tools will best accomplish your goals. He or she can also ensure that your estate plans do not contain mistakes that could invalidate the decisions you have made.

Planning for Future Disability or Incapacitation

Of the people who do create estate plans, many draft a will and little else. A will is a crucial estate planning tool that allows you to direct how your assets are passed down to heirs upon your death, but it is not the only estate planning tool worth utilizing. You must also consider what will happen if you become seriously ill or injured and are unable to speak for yourself. A medical power of attorney allows you to choose a representative to speak on your behalf about medical decisions if you are incapacitated and cannot express these medical wishes. A financial power of attorney allows you to appoint a representative to manage your finances if you cannot do so yourself. A living will allows you to choose in advance what types of end-of-life care you would and would not want if you could not express it. You can choose whether or not doctors should use mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, CPR, and other medical procedures to delay your death.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysDeciding how your property should be distributed upon your death is not the most pleasant topic to consider. However, proper estate planning is a crucial step that every individual should take regardless of age or wealth. If you have decided to create a last will and testament, you may be concerned about your will being challenged or contested. When a person contests a will, they challenge the validity of the will in court. If the will contest is successful, the directions contained in the will may be set aside and instead the deceased person’s property is distributed according to intestate laws. There is no way to guarantee that your estate plans will not be contested, but there are actions you can take that will significantly reduce the chances of a will contest.

Do Not Put Off Estate Planning Until Old Age or Poor Health

Many people are under the false assumption that they do not need to worry about their will or other estate planning tool until they are much older or have a major health concern. However, waiting too long to start estate planning could result in your will being contested due to lack of testamentary capacity. The best way to avoid this is to create your will before you have any type of major mental or physical health issues. Once you have drafted your will, talk to your family about what to expect when you pass away. When beneficiaries know the contents of your will in advance, they may be less likely to contest the will out of shock.

Consider a No-Contest Clause

Although you cannot stop a beneficiary from contesting your will, you can include a clause that makes contesting the will a much less attractive option. A no-contest provision is a clause that places certain penalties on anyone who contests the will. For example, you may include a clause that states that if a beneficiary contests the validity of the will and loses, that he or she loses part or all of his or her inheritance. If the will contest is successful, however, the no-contest clause may be nullified and your assets are distributed according to state law.

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Lombard power of attorney lawyerCoronavirus concerns has many people putting estate plans at a much higher priority than normally. Although the chances of becoming seriously ill or dying from the virus are low for most Americans, it may still be a good idea to start implementing an estate plan. One important aspect of a comprehensive estate plan is a medical power of attorney or power of attorney for healthcare. By appointing a medical power of attorney for healthcare, you ensure that your medical decisions will be made by someone you trust if you cannot make these decisions on your own.  

Power of Attorney for Healthcare Basics

Many people assume that estate planning is only necessary if they are sick or elderly, however, it is best to create an estate plan while you are healthy and able to make clear decisions. An unexpected accident or illness can happen to anyone at any time. If you were seriously hurt or sick and could not tell doctors what your medical wishes were, you would probably want a trusted loved one who knows your preferences to make these decisions on your behalf. A healthcare power of attorney allows you to choose an agent who will be responsible for making your healthcare decisions if you cannot do so yourself. The term “power of attorney for healthcare” is often used to refer to the legal document as well as the person acting as your agent.

Who Should Be My Agent?

Being someone’s healthcare power of attorney is a serious responsibility. It is important to choose an agent who is capable of adequately handling this responsibility. Your agent should also be someone you trust implicitly and are comfortable sharing personal information with. Many people choose a spouse, family member, or close friend to be their agent. If you choose an agent and then circumstances change and you no longer want this person to be your agent, you have the ability to choose a new agent by drafting a new healthcare power of attorney document. You may want your healthcare power of attorney to also be your financial power of attorney or you may want to assign these roles to two different individuals.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyThe World Health Organization estimates that about 50 million people throughout the world currently suffer from dementia. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for about 60-70 percent of all dementia cases. Watching a loved one with dementia suffer from memory loss and cognitive impairment can be heartbreaking, especially if that loved one is your spouse. If your husband or wife has dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or another health issue that affects cognitive function, you may worry about his or her ability to make important decisions. One way you may obtain the ability to make decisions on behalf of your spouse is through legal guardianship.  

Types of Guardianships in Illinois

When a person cannot communicate his or her needs or make rational decisions, a loved one may choose to establish guardianship so that he or she can make decisions on the person’s behalf. The Illinois Probate Act describes several types of guardianship including limited guardianship, plenary guardianship, guardianship of a person, guardianship of the estate, and more. If your spouse has dementia but is still able to make some decisions on his or her own, a limited guardianship may be appropriate. If you become a “limited guardian,” you will be permitted to make any decisions about your spouse’s finances, medical treatment, and personal care that he or she cannot make on his or her own, but the scope of those decisions will generally be limited by the court that grants the guardianship.

If your spouse has significant impairment, a plenary guardianship will allow you to make all of the decisions about his or her finances and care. Guardianship of the estate is used to ensure that a disabled person’s financial affairs are properly managed. If you are unsure as to what guardianship is appropriate for your particular situation, speak with an estate planning attorney to receive personalized guidance.

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