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East Alton Estate Planning Law Blog

Conflicting information in estate plans can cause issues

Creating an estate plan is often considered a major step in many Illinois residents' lives. You and numerous other people may have put off planning for one reason or another, but now, you feel the time has come to get your affairs in order.

Though having an estate plan can certainly bring about some peace of mind, it is important that the documents created do not conflict with one another. If you want to have a comprehensive estate plan, you will likely need multiple planning tools, including a will and a revocable trust.

Why are you putting off signing a power of attorney?

You may have a will, and perhaps you have even established a trust as part of your estate plan. However, like many in Illinois, you may be neglecting one of the most important and misunderstood elements of a complete estate plan: the power of attorney.

Making a power of attorney designation is not an easy thing to think about since it means relinquishing your control over your affairs. The fear of what may happen as a result is why many refuse to include this designation. If you have a more complete understanding of the power of attorney responsibilities and limitations, you may be more inclined to include one in your estate plan.

A special needs trust can protect your child

When most people make plans, their first thoughts often include finding the most convenient and comfortable way to accomplish their goals. For example, planning a vacation may mean finding the quickest route and searching for hotels with pools or other amenities.

As a parent of a special needs child, you have all these concerns. However, you also have the over-arching responsibility to ensure your child's safety and well-being. Any plans you make for your future are entwined with the needs of your child. This is why you may be facing an additional challenge when it comes to estate planning.

Valid wills must comply with state laws

Like many, you may have specific ideas about what should happen to your property once you pass away. Perhaps you have a special niece to whom you would like to leave your grandmother's ring or a close friend who has always admired your car. As intimidating as it may seem, creating an estate plan is the only way to ensure those people receive your gifts. Without a will, the state of Illinois will determine how to divide your assets, and it may be nothing close to your wishes.

Sitting down and writing out your final wishes may seem the most expedient and affordable way to accomplish your goals. However, to reduce the chances that your survivors will misunderstand, alter or dispute your will, there are certain rules to follow to make your last wishes valid.

Estate planning doesn't end when you execute your documents

Not many people here in Illinois and elsewhere take the time to create an estate plan, so if you have, you are well ahead of them. However, if you simply put your documents in a secure place and never look at them again, you are doing yourself, and your loved ones, a disservice.

More than likely, your life has changed since you completed your estate plan. The question is whether any of those changes require you to make modifications, changes or adjustments to your plan.

Trust administration takes a considerable amount of work

Many people use trusts as part of their estate plans because they can add layers of protection for assets, help prevent assets from going through probate and have terms regarding the usage of the assets. Still, trusts need someone in charge of their administration, and your loved one may have named you as a trustee.

In many cases, trustmakers will name themselves as trustees on revocable trusts, but successor trustees are needed to take over after the trustmakers' deaths. If a loved one named you as a successor trustee, you have many responsibilities ahead of you.

Calculating your estate's net worth can help with estate planning

The idea of creating your estate plan may have you understandably intimidated. After all, creating this type of plan involves making decisions regarding essentially every aspect of your life, including your current affairs, possible future scenarios and events after your death. Anyone would feel overwhelmed by such decisions. Fortunately, you do not have to consider all of those affairs at once.

It may benefit you to start small when beginning your estate planning process. You can and should update or modify your plan whenever you see fit and on a regular basis. Therefore, if you do not have answers for certain questions now, you can add them later. For now, you may want to consider your estate's net worth.

The dangers of using incentive trusts

When you leave your money and assets to your loved ones, you may want to inspire them to do something in their lives that you believe would make it better for them in the long run. Perhaps during your life, those same individuals failed to take your advice and experience to heart.

Now that you have the means to do so, you may want to tie an inheritance to the completion of some task that you think will improve the lives of your loved ones. If that is the case, you may create an "incentive" trust, which puts conditions on whether a beneficiary receives distributions from it.

Controlling your future health care starts today

You understand that estate planning gives you the opportunity to put plans in place that will benefit you well into the future. When you think of an estate plan, you may think of a will or perhaps a trust – tools you can use to transfer assets and protect your beneficiaries. You may not know you can also address certain aspects of your health care in your estate plan as well.

There are certain documents you can draft that will allow you to outline the types of care you may want in the future in case you are unable to speak for yourself. Through a power of attorney and a living will, you can make your wishes known. Not only does this give you control over what happens to your body, it can spare your Illinois family and other loved ones from having to make complex decisions on your behalf.

Which type of trust is right for your estate plan?

Illinois readers understand that developing an estate plan is a smart step for individuals and families of all needs and income levels. What you may need as part of your plan depends on the details of your individual situation, but you may find it beneficial for you to consider a trust. This specific estate planning tool may provide certain protections you need to meet your objectives. 

A will is the foundation of a good estate plan, but in many cases, it may not be sufficient to help you do exactly what you want with your assets and money. A trust is different than a will as it allows you to set aside money for a specific purpose, such as charitable giving. As you develop your estate plan, it is useful to consider all of your options.

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Leonard F. Berg, Attorney at Law