Estate Planning

Estate Planning is just what the name implies. It is a process of planning during your lifetime the manner in which you would like your estate [whether it be large or small] to be distributed upon death; or the management of your assets during incapacity. Estate planning is not just for the wealthy.

If probate avoidance is your goal, a Living Trust will provide for your wishes without court supervision. The value of your assets will determine the complexity and the type of trust you will need. It is crucial that once the Trust is established it is properly funded so that the assets will be controlled by the document. In other words, creating a document such as a Living Trust provides for the method of handling your assets, but unless you title your assets in the name of your trust the document will be totally ineffective. Therefore, transferring assets is a crucial part of the estate planning process.

A Will and Powers-of-Attorney, for both health care and property, should be part of each person's legal documents. A will does not avoid probate, however, once again, the wishes of the testator will be recognized. Illinois statutes as well as other state jurisdictions provide guidance in the distribution of an intestate estate [an estate without a will]. The distributions may not parallel your wishes at all.

Powers-of-Attorney allow you to designate an agent who will act on your behalf if you are unable to do so due to illness or other incapacity. These documents must be executed while you are still able to make informed decisions or otherwise stated have "legal capacity". Very often we have family members consult us when a member of their family has been admitted to a hospital and cannot make decisions. It is too late at that point. A guardianship proceeding must be instituted. Powers-of-Attorney documents could avoid this dilemma.

Creating an estate plan and executing the essential documents in that plan will greatly reduce the stress level associated with the passing of loved ones. It allows the executor [a person designated by you to collect and disburse your assets under a will] or successor trustee to transfer assets in an orderly fashion and most importantly, allows you the comfort to know that your assets will be transfered according to your wishes.