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IL estate lawyerFor people of any age, estate planning allows them to make decisions about what will happen in the future. In many cases, the focus of an estate plan will be on what happens after a person’s death, and this will be covered in part by their last will and testament, which is commonly referred to as a will. However, multiple types of estate planning documents, including a living will, can also be used to address how issues such as medical care will be handled throughout the remainder of a person’s life. By understanding the differences between wills and living wills, a person and their loved ones can ensure that their wishes will be followed correctly.

Wills vs. Living Wills

A last will and testament is used to make decisions about how a person’s final affairs will be handled after their death, including who will inherit their property and assets. It will name a person known as an executor who will complete the probate process and ensure that the deceased person’s instructions will be followed when distributing their assets to their family members or other beneficiaries. A will can also be used to nominate a person as the guardian of the deceased person’s minor children, and it can specify the deceased person’s wishes for their funeral and burial or cremation.

The term “living will” would seem to indicate that it is a document that covers similar issues as a last will and testament prior to a person’s death. However, a living will can only address certain types of specific issues, and it will only apply in certain situations. Basically, a living will can make decisions about the medical care a person receives prior to their death, ensuring that their wishes will be followed if they cannot make these wishes known. To make decisions about medical treatment in other situations, other estate planning tools such as powers of attorney may be used.

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DuPage County estate planning lawyerIf you have already created a will, you should be happy to count yourself among the majority of Americans in certain age groups who have done so as well. According to AARP, almost 70 percent of individuals aged 65 years and older have prepared a will, as have just under 60 percent of people ranging from 50 to 64 years old. Like you, these testators appreciate having more control over their final affairs and the Illinois estate administration process, as well as knowing their assets are better prepared to make it to the hands of their intended beneficiaries.

However, there is much more to estate planning than just a will. Without other critical documents, there could be substantial gaps in your estate plan. As such, it is wise to talk to an estate planning attorney about other arrangements outside of your will, such as:

Health-Related Advance Directives

Some of the most critical estate planning documents provide advantages before your passing. Illinois allows for different kinds of advance directives, which provide instructions on how to handle your health care and medical needs if you become incapacitated. These include:

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DuPage County estate planning attorney wills and trusts

If you were to ask your children or other family members what you should do about dividing your assets and property upon your death, you would likely get a variety of answers. Some may suggest that you just divide it equally—without offering ways to determine what “equal” means. Others may remind you that you can make any arrangements that you want since it is your property. Of course, chances are also good that the same family members telling you to do whatever you think is best could be the same ones who are offended when they discover that their inheritance is not what they expected it would be. Fortunately, a qualified estate planning lawyer can offer a great deal of insight into planning for the future and, based on previous experience, can even provide advice on how to prepare your family for what is ahead.

Determine Your Priorities

Those who remind you that you have the right to do with your estate what you wish are exactly correct. You certainly have that right. However, it is important to consider how dividing your assets could affect your family and loved ones over the long term. You may decide that you do not really care if family members are upset or offended by your choices since you will be gone, and that too is your right. For many people, the specific property and assets that each heir receives are far less important than maintaining stable, trusting family relationships. Although it is not true in every situation, you may have the power with your estate planning decisions to positively or negatively affect your surviving family. Use it wisely.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerA last will and testament can serve as the backbone to any estate plan. It can be used to determine who will become the executor of your estate, who will inherit what, and who will assume guardianship of your children or your pets. But, there are some things that a will cannot do. In some cases, the limitations are set by state laws or federal regulations. However, there are also situations in which additional documents can be used to ensure your final wishes are carried out.   

When Incapacitation Precedes Death

Wills are meant to cover what happens after your death, but not all accidents, illnesses, or chronic health conditions lead to immediate death. When incapacitation occurs, whether it is short-term or long-term, physicians will follow standard protocols. If you have wishes that deviate from that standard of care, additional estate planning documents are needed. Examples include:   

  • Power of Attorney for Health Care: Also called a medical proxy, giving someone power of attorney over your health care allows him or her to make medical decisions for you, should you become incapacitated.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyGetting a divorce can sometimes make it feel as if your world has been turned upside down. Between dealing with the financial consequences of your divorce and managing child custody or spousal support concerns, you may feel like there are almost countless tasks to complete.  In all of the chaos, it can be easy to forget important estate planning considerations. Unfortunately, if a person divorces, beneficiary designations and certain other estate planning arrangements do not change automatically. You will need to update such provisions manually, and a qualified estate planning attorney can help.  

Review and Revise Your Will

Only about 40 percent of U.S. adults have a will or other estate plan in place. If you already have a will or trust that describes your property distribution wishes, you are already ahead of most Americans. However, you will want to read and update your will after divorce. According to Illinois law, any directions in your will that refer to your spouse are made void once he or she becomes your ex-spouse. However, any provisions that address inheritance for your ex-spouse’s family members remain valid. It is always a good idea to go over your will after divorce and make sure it still reflects your current wishes.

Change Your Beneficiaries on Your Retirement Accounts

If you have an IRA, 401K, or other retirement plan, you will probably need to update the beneficiaries listed in your policy. As a part of your divorce settlement, you may be required to share retirement funds with your ex-spouse. However, any remaining retirement funds should rightfully be yours. If your spouse is currently listed as the beneficiary on your retirement account, you need to change this sooner rather than later. Some divorced individuals still want their spouse listed as a trustee for their children. If this is your situation, read through your retirement policy and other estate planning documents any make any necessary changes so that they documents reflect your wishes

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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 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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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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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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DuPage County power of attorney lawyersWhen you look to the future, you probably understand that a time might come where you are no longer able to make sound decisions for yourself. Nobody likes to think in such terms, but the reality is your health could deteriorate to the point where you cannot express your desires about your money, belongings, or even your medical care. In order to account for this possibility, the law in Illinois allows you to choose a person to act as your power of attorney for important decisions like these. The selected person will have legal authority to make decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them for yourself.

Characteristics of the Right Person

Under Illinois law, the person you choose as your power of attorney is actually called an “attorney-in-fact” or an “agent.” Your agent must have the necessary skills and ability to handle the responsibilities associated with a good power of attorney. A solid candidate must:

  • Be detail-oriented;
  • Be organized and financially responsible;
  • Be educated and/or experienced in dealing with finances, insurance, and/or healthcare, depending upon the duties you are asking of him or her; and
  • Be able to work well with accountants, lawyers, doctors, hospitals, and other professionals to protect you and your best interests.

In addition to being capable, your selected agent must also be willing to take on the responsibilities associated with powers of attorney. A person who only agrees out of a sense of obligation is not likely to be very helpful. If you ask someone to be your agent and they seem unsure, you might want to ask somebody else.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneysWhen creating your estate plan, it is vital to choose the right person to be your power of attorney, or agent. Powers of attorney have a tremendous amount of responsibility when it comes to estate planning, so choosing a representative who is accountable and trustworthy is imperative. A power of attorney document allows you to authorize someone to act on your behalf if you cannot do so due to illness or other incapacitation. The authority given to a power of attorney is largely dependent upon the document’s language. For help drafting a power of attorney document or for other estate planning assistance, contact a qualified estate planning attorney.

Types of Powers of Attorney

A non-durable power of attorney is designed to provide only a temporary solution. This document can be custom-made to authorize your agent to complete specific transaction. For example, you could give authorization to another person to sign a document that requires your signature if you are unable to do so yourself for some reason. A non-durable power of attorney terminates when you lose the mental capacity. Alternatively, a durable power of attorney is a more permanent solution which stays in effect even if you become incapacitated and cannot manage your own financial affairs. Both types of power of attorney can be designed to give your agent the level of authority you feel comfortable with.

The two types of powers of attorney listed above apply to matters involving property. By comparison, a health care power of attorney gives your agent the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyThinking about the end of your life is not an easy task, especially if you are still fairly young or currently in the prime of your life. Yet failing to do so can have serious consequences for you and those you love the most. Of course, you are not alone. In fact, statistics suggest that only about 40 percent of American adults have a valid will. Do not continue leaving your family unprotected. Learn how creating an estate plan can improve the future of your family and how you can create one that protects everyone’s best interests.

How Creating a Plan Can Protect You

People do not generally consider how an estate plan can help them, yet there are some clear benefits to having one. If, for example, you become incapacitated, a valid power of attorney can help ensure your wishes are followed. You can name someone you trust to make any medical decisions you have not already considered. It is also possible to assign someone to watch over your financial affairs. In short, an estate plan can protect and preserve your interests in the face of the unthinkable.

How Creating a Plan Can Protect Your Family

A valid and well-designed estate plan can protect your family, regardless of whether you have become incapacitated or have passed away. By having someone you trust assigned to your financial matters, your estate is preserved, even if you are incapacitated. By having a clearly defined will, you can save your loved ones the stress and worry of probate or long, drawn-out battles over who gets what. Your plan can also reduce the state and federal taxes that your family may have otherwise been responsible for paying.

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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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Lombard estate planning attorneyResearch shows that only about half of Americans have any estate planning documents in place. Those without a last will and testament and other critical estate planning documents risk having their estate decisions made for them if they pass away or become incapacitated. One vital piece of estate planning that is important for anyone to have is a power of attorney. A durable power of attorney is a legal document which gives someone else the authority to act on your behalf if you cannot do your yourself.

Types of Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney assigns an agent which will be responsible for the medical decisions, legal choices, personal banking, investment, insurance and real estate transactions of the person signing the document (the principal) should they become incapacitated. A special power of attorney allows the principal to be more specific. He or she can narrow down the types of choices the agent(s) can make. It is possible to have several different powers of attorney for different purposes. An individual may choose their spouse or family member to make medical decisions on their behalf, but he or she may choose another individual to make financial or business decisions in the event they are incapacitated.

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyersEstate planning can be a difficult task for many individuals. Rare is the person who is excited about confronting his or her own mortality. The reality is that none of us will live forever, and estate planning affords us the opportunity to provide for our family members and loved ones well beyond our lifetime. Some elements of estate planning, however, are intended to take effect, if necessary, while you are still living so that your affairs can be properly managed, no matter what happens to you. Powers of Attorney are among the most important estate planning instruments, but they are often overlooked by those who are unfamiliar with their application.

Two Types

There are two different kinds of Powers of Attorney (POA): Power of Attorney for Property and Power of Attorney for Health Care. The two categories refer to the subject matter covered by the document, but both types give a trusted friend or family member the authority to make decisions for you in the event you are not able to make them for yourself. As their names imply, a POA for Property gives your chosen individual or entity—known as an agent—the power to make decisions regarding your finances, assets, and debts while a POA for Health Care appoints an agent to make medical and health-related decisions. By using POAs properly, you can help protect your family from uncertainty and unnecessary costs associated with guardianship proceedings.

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyersAs you look toward the future, you may realize that there could be a time when you are limited in your decision-making abilities. It may become impossible for you to express your wishes regarding your finances, property, and even your own medical care. To prepare for such a possibility, Illinois law allows you to select an individual to serve as your power of attorney for these types of decisions. Your power of attorney will have the authority to make decisions on your behalf if and when you are no longer able to do so.

The Right Person

The individual that you choose to serve as your power of attorney must be capable of handling his or her assigned responsibilities. This means that he or she should:

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Lombard estate planning attorneyAs with most estate planning arrangements, you, thankfully, have a say over who you appoint as your “agent” when it comes to your health care power of attorney. Under this planning tool, you are considered the “principal” and the person you appoint as “agent” is granted various permissions regarding your health care.

In short, a health care power of attorney, or POA, is a type of advance directive which allows you to designate someone you trust to make decisions about your health, on your behalf, in the event you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself due to illness or debilitative condition. You can create a binding power of attorney for your health by using the standard state form or by writing your own.

How the Powers Are Determined

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen it comes to estate planning and documenting your wishes regarding your health care, it is important to know which options you have and to understand your rights before you put anything in writing. After all, this is your chance to speak your mind concerning what you do and do not want in the event you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions about your own health.

Acquainting yourself with the full scope of the options available to you can help you select the advance directives that best suit your needs and desires. Having these plans in place not only offers the advantage of bringing you peace of mind, but it can also benefit your loved ones as well by providing them with the comfort knowing you are prepared for the unexpected.

The Four Main Advance Directive Options in Illinois

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Lombard estate planning attorneyIt is never easy for one to think about the end of their life, and preparing a living will can feel unsettling as it stirs up a mixture of emotions. Despite the unpleasant nature of the subject, a living will can actually be a very useful and powerful tool when it comes to protecting your best interests, in turn offering a sense of peace of mind. Knowing you have addressed your wishes, boundaries, and directives regarding your health, property, and finances can give you a sense of accomplishment and make things easier for your loved ones.

How Does a Living Will Benefit Me?

In the state of Illinois, there are two kinds of power of attorney: one that covers health care and personal issues, and one that covers the management of property. Similar to these documents, a living will is an advance directive that also serves a specific purpose. It exists to allow a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness to express their desire to have death-delaying procedures withheld or withdrawn in the event they cannot speak for themselves.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerUtilizing the Power of Attorney to manage what happens to your property is an important part of will, estate, and trust planning. Everyone has different needs and different circumstances when it comes to making arrangements for the handling of their possessions and accounts, but no matter how much or how little you own, it is helpful to know your belongings are protected and that your wishes are carried out.

The Purpose of Power of Attorney for Property in Illinois

The main purpose of the Power of Attorney in terms of property is to designate and grant a specific individual the authority to handle and make decisions regarding your various financial affairs. In the state of Illinois, this power allows that person (also referred to as an “agent”) to sell or dispose of your property, even without your consent. It also deems the agent right to make such decisions without giving you any advance notice. Ultimately, Power of Attorney is a tool that allows you to officially document and voice your wishes, how you do or do not want them carried out, and to whom you would like the power given to in the event that you cannot--or do not want to--make the final say on a financial matter.

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