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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt is a fact that many avoid thinking about, but unexpected illnesses and accidents happen to people every day. A living will is a type of advance medical directive that identifies the types of medical care you do and do not want if you cannot speak for yourself due to a major illness or injury. Through a living will, you decide in advance whether you want treatments such as dialysis, artificial ventilation, or a feeding tube to be used if you are incapacitated. Not only does a living will put you in charge of your future medical care, it also saves your loved ones the burdensome task of making important medical decisions on your behalf. If you are considering using a living will to specify your future medical wishes, you may be wondering, “When does a living will take effect?”

Determining When a Person Is Unable to Articulate Medical Wishes

A living will is used when a person has a terminal condition and is unable to express his or her wishes about death-delaying procedures. A terminal condition is typically defined as a medical condition that is incurable and will result in imminent death. The Illinois Living Will Act regulates the rules regarding living wills. In a living will, you will give a declaration explaining directions for medical care should you be unable to express these directions yourself. The declaration reads in part, “In the absence of my ability to give directions...it is my intention that this declaration shall be honored… as the final expression of my legal right to refuse medical treatment.”

A living will goes into effect when your physician decides that you can no longer express your own healthcare decisions and certifies this in writing. To make this determination, doctors typically consider whether the patient can:

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DuPage County estate planning attorneysHome health aides, private duty nurses, and other paid caregivers can make a tremendous impact on the lives of the elderly or disabled individuals in their care. From helping with medical needs to transporting patients to and from doctors’ appointments to simply providing companionship, these caregivers are a valuable source of support. For many people, these caregivers are more like family members than hired help. If you have a special, non-related caregiver who goes above and beyond to make your life better, you may be considering leaving him or her an inheritance. Special laws dictate rules regarding inheritance to non-related caregivers in Illinois, so it is important to discuss your inheritance plans with an estate planning attorney to make sure your wishes will be followed.

Illinois Law Regarding Inheritance Left to Non-Related Caregivers

Unfortunately, elder financial abuse is a major problem in Illinois and throughout the United States. Some caregivers will use deceit or psychological manipulation to influence an elderly or disabled person into changing their estate plans so the plans benefit the caregiver. Because of the prevalence of elder financial abuse, Illinois lawmakers recently amended the Illinois Probate Act of 1975 to include special rules regarding inheritances left to non-relative caregivers. According to the law, a property transfer of more than $20,000 is automatically presumed to be fraudulent during any challenges to a will or trust. This means that if you leave your caregiver property valued at more than $20,000 and someone disputes the validity of your will or trust in court, it is possible that your caregiver will not receive this inheritance.

What to Do If You Wish to Leave a Large Inheritance to a Non-Family Caregiver

You worked hard to accumulate the assets you own and you deserve to choose who those assets are passed down to upon your death. If you have decided that you would like to include your caregiver in your estate plans, speak to a lawyer. Your attorney will be able to help you transfer your property to the caregiver in a way that does not cause unnecessary legal problems in the future. Once you have made your estate plans, it may be a good idea to share these plans with your family. It is less likely that your plans will be contested if your surviving loved ones are not surprised by the contents of your will or other estate planning documents upon your death.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIf you have started looking into creating an estate plan, you may have come across advertisements for do-it-yourself estate planning or will creation services. At first glance, these services often look very appealing. The advertisement may claim that creating an estate plan through the DIY program will save you time and money. It may even explicitly state that you do not need a lawyer to create an estate plan. Unfortunately, these advertisements lead many people to make estate planning mistakes that end up costing them (or their surviving loved ones) much more time, money, and frustration than they would have spent through traditional estate planning.

Only a Lawyer Can Offer Personalized Estate Planning Legal Guidance

One of the major limitations to online DIY estate planning is that it is a one-size-fits-all approach to drafting an estate plan. There may be several basic documents available such as a will, healthcare power of attorney, and financial power of attorney available through a DIY site, but not lesser-known estate planning instruments. Unlike a website, an estate planning attorney can help you figure out which documents will best fit your needs and which documents you can do without.

Consider this example: A mother with a severely disabled teenaged son is worried about how her son will have access to a home health aide and other necessities once she passes away. She creates a will using a DIY website and assigns her son a significant amount of inheritance money. Unfortunately, when she passes away, the money that was left to her son causes his assets to be too high for him to continue benefiting from government aid programs. If the mother had consulted with an estate planning attorney, the attorney could have helped her set up a special needs trust or another estate planning instrument that would allow her son to receive his inheritance without losing access to necessary government aid.

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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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