An Estate Plan is something everyone should have in order to protect your wishes, well-being, and assets at a time when you and your family are at the most vulnerable. The following five documents are essential to your planning and retaining a trusted Estate Planning attorney is the first step in setting these legal guidelines in place.
The will is a legal document that outlines who receives your assets after death. A valid will is critical for adults to possess regardless of age. It is especially true if you have dependent children since your will identifies guardians for them. Without a will, the courts decide who is responsible for raising your children and what happens to your assets. Each state has statutes that prescribe the formalities to observe in making a valid will. In Illinois, two non-family witnesses are required, as well as a notary.
2. Revocable Trust
This type of trust allows you, as the grantor, to amend, add assets to, or terminate the trust for as long as you like or until you can't or no longer wish to manage the trust. You also name a trustee (if married, this is generally your spouse) who will eventually make daily decisions regarding certain assets on behalf of the trust and transfers these assets to beneficiaries upon the your death. Assets in the trust pass outside of a will and outside of probate, thus reducing court fees, delays in asset distribution, and protecting assets from becoming a matter of public record.
Your estate planning lawyer can also design your revocable trust to reduce federal estate taxes. Please know ... you don't need to have significant assets to benefit from this trust. A revocable living trust is one of the most important documents for nearly anyone to have in their estate plan.
3. Medical Directives or Advanced Directives
This document, also known as a Living Will Declaration is a backup to your Healthcare Power of Attorney and is specific document outlining your wishes for healthcare choices in anticipation of incapacitation, illness, or end-of-life care. For example, some individuals want medically heroic measures to remain alive, while others might opt for a peaceful passing and less invasive care. A medical directive provides clarity and guidance in decision-making for medical teams and family members regarding these choices.
4. Healthcare Power of Attorney
This document permits the legal transfer of authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. In the event you are not able to make decisions for yourself, the designee, known as the agent, can determine what medical procedures are allowable on the your behalf. In Illinois, the Healthcare Power of Attorney also contains a section allowing you to choose from healthcare options based on quality of life versus quantity of life. The combination of a medical directive and healthcare power of attorney assures you will receive the care you desire. The medical directive serves as the blueprint for your health care decision preferences. The healthcare power of attorney gives the legal authority to effect decisions based on this blueprint.
5. Power of Attorney for Property
Depending on how the document is written, this designated agent can make many financial decisions for the principal. They may include overall financial affairs, bill pay, property sale, bank safe deposit boxes, contract for services, property rental, tax audits, and more. There are four basic types of power of attorney:
Our team at The Knee Law Firm, Ltd, in Mount Prospect, Illinois, serves clients throughout the Chicagoland area. We would be happy to discuss implementing these critical documents for you in an estate plan customized to your specific circumstances.