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estate planning, family future, Lombard estate planning attorneysAlthough it is a subject that many Americans would rather not think about, eventually our individual lives will end and our loved ones will inevitably be left with burdens, be it emotional, financial, or both. Decades ago, when someone passed away, there were no credit cards, families did not travel as much, and divorce was taboo. Everything that was left behind generally either went to the state or the family members left behind. With the growing complexity of family structure in conjunction with our spending habits, the need has arisen to secure a plan for after we die. Legal documents such as wills, trusts, and other estate planning measures can help protect the future of your loved ones after you pass.

Know the Difference

The best and most direct route of starting the process is to know which option is best for your current circumstances. It may be that none of the options are a completely perfect or it may mean that multiple options will help achieve your goals. No matter the case, it is necessary to understand the each option. 

Estate Planning: "Estate planning" is an umbrella term used to describe the preparation of your estate. Your estate is everything that belongs to you. This includes physical items (jewelry, home, vehicle, etc.), but also encompasses the items sometimes not planned for, such as other real estate property, checking and savings accounts, life insurance policies, and investments. Planning of this nature should also delve into what you would like to happen to your children if they are minors or what should happen to you if you are left unable to make decisions for yourself.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysBeing the parent of a physically or intellectually disabled child comes with a variety of special challenges. When your child struggles to adequately care for himself or herself due to a disability, you may worry about what will happen when you are not around to help him or her. It can be an uncomfortable reality to consider but making plans for the care of your disabled loved one for after you pass away will give you tremendous peace of mind. One option that many parents of disabled minor or adult children utilize is a special needs trust.

How Does a Special Needs Trust Work?

A trust is a financial instrument often used in estate planning that places assets under the authority of a trustee. In a special needs trust, the trustee is legally obligated to follow the directions contained in the trust and use the funds contained in the trust for the benefit of the disabled individual. The assets held in a special needs trust can be used to pay for your child’s home, living expenses, education, personal care attendant, out-of-pocket medical expenses, recreation, and more. One way to set up a special needs trust is to name yourself as the trustee and name another trusted individual, such as another one of your children, as a successor trustee. When you pass away, the successor trustee becomes responsible for using the assets in the trust for the benefit of your disabled child.

Assets in a Special Needs Trust Do Not Limit the Beneficiary’s Eligibility for Government Programs

You may be wondering why you cannot simply leave an inheritance to your disabled child through a standard will. Many government aid programs are only available to individuals if their property and income is below a certain level. If you leave funds or property of a substantial value to your child without a special needs trust, this could raise his or her income and available resources to a level which disqualifies him or her for these aid programs. When you leave assets in a special needs trust, the assets are not considered income or available resources so this does not limit your child’s eligibility for need-based government programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysPeople vary dramatically in their feelings regarding medical treatment. Some people want every possible medical intervention to be taken, even if those medical treatments will only slightly extend the duration of their lives. Other people only want the bare minimum actions taken if they become seriously ill or injured.

Have you ever considered the types of medical treatments you would want to undergo if you became extremely sick? What if you were too sick to express these wishes? A power of attorney for healthcare is a type of estate planning instrument that can allow you to take your future medical care decisions into your own hands.

Health Care Power of Attorney Basics

Through a power of attorney for health care, you can designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. The document gives this individual authority to make decisions about your medical treatments if you cannot do so yourself. Instead of a doctor who you may have never met making these decisions—and who might not share your personal values—you can entrust these important decisions to someone you know and trust. The individual you designate to speak on your behalf is called a health care proxy or agent. Your proxy may be a close friend, spouse, family member, or anyone else you choose. Once you have chosen who your proxy will be, you can have a conversation with him or her about the actions you do and do not want taken if you become gravely ill.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerIn the days and weeks after the death of a loved one, you are likely to remain focused on getting back to some semblance of normalcy in your life, especially if you were very close to the decedent. Just as things start to settle back down emotionally, new concerns can arise when your loved one’s will is presented for probate. When the provisions in the will are finally made known, you may be surprised to learn that your loved one has made some unexpected decisions. Such surprises may lead to you to think about filing a will contest, but there are some factors to consider before you do so.

Hurt Feelings Will Not Invalidate a Will

The first thing you need to remember is that, following a person’s death, there will almost always be someone who feels that they got ignored, left out, or the short end of the stick. They may have been led to expect a certain portion of the inheritance or a particular piece of property, only to find out later that such “promises” were never formalized in the will. If you feel slighted by your loved one’s decisions regarding his or her will, that is not sufficient grounds for challenging the document.

Appropriate Contests

There are, however, a number of situations in which you can file a challenge to your loved ones will. To be successful in such a challenge, you will need to show that:

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DuPage County guardianship attorneysAt one point or another, most of us will need help from someone else in regard to managing our affairs. For some of us, we might only need help temporarily as we recover from an injury or illness. In other situations, the need for assistance is permanent and much more serious. If you have a loved one who is struggling to manage their financial or health-related affairs, you might consider pursuing guardianship of that person. There are, however, a few things you need to know before you take any action in that direction.

1. Guardianship Can Only Be Granted by a Probate Court

In the state of Illinois, guardianships fall under the jurisdiction of the probate court. The court has full authority over the appointment and removal, if necessary, of adult guardianships. Unless you have been already been named in your loved one’s valid power of attorney, you cannot begin acting on your loved one’s behalf until the court says that you can.

2. The Person Must Be Disabled

Before appointing a guardian, the court must determine the person in question actually needs help due to some type of disability. In most cases, such disabilities include deteriorating physical or mental faculties, mental illness, or developmental issues. Illinois law also allows the court to find that a guardianship is necessary for an adult who has serious drug, alcohol, or gambling problems.

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