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East Alton Estate Planning Law Blog

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.

Are you hesitant to start estate planning?

Your surviving family may see your estate plan as a direct line of communication with you after your passing. As a result, it would be in your best interests, and the best interests of your family, to make sure that you create a comprehensive plan that fully expresses your wishes. Fortunately, you have many options for creating such a plan.

If you feel hesitant about starting the process, you are not alone. Many people feel that thinking about their eventual demises will seem morbid, but it may also help you to remember that planning can bring a sense of relief in knowing that you have made your wishes known. Additionally, it may comfort you to know that your loved ones will not have to go through the process of settling your estate while wondering what you truly wanted.

Your estate plan could help lessen the chance of conflict

You are likely among the many people who want to create an estate plan in order to detail how you want your final affairs handled. This desire is immensely beneficial, and having a plan can make the probate process easier for your loved ones. However, family disputes often taken place after a loved one passes, and if you do not take certain preventative measures, the inheritance you leave your family could dwindle.

You may already fear that conflict will arise after your death because your family has a naturally combative nature. While this fear can cause substantial worry, it may also help you create the best estate plan possible to work toward avoiding conflicts where you can.

Should you consider estate planning?

For many people, having an estate plan can be a significant benefit. Of course, you may think that you do not need a plan because you do not have substantial assets. Still, estate planning can have benefits for you and your family members.

Estate plans can go far beyond simply addressing who should get what after your death, but that area remains a main concern for most parties. Even if you feel you do not have a great deal of property, having your wishes on paper and legally binding can help your surviving family when it comes time to go through the probate process.

Are you prepared for the possibility of incapacity?

In the past few decades, medical technology has advanced to the point where people are living longer. At the same time, a whole generation of people is now reaching or is in their retirement years. The demand for long-term care services is increasing dramatically because of the intersection of these two factors. In accordance with the rules of economics, when the demand goes up, so does the price.

Long-term care is in higher demand partly because as people live longer, they still suffer from ailments, both chronic and acute, that limit their ability to care for themselves. Perhaps you are part of this generation and you fear you may become one of those people. If so, then you may want to prepare for incapacity as soon as possible.

Does the potential for abuse have you avoiding power of attorney?

As you work to create your estate plan, you may know that you want to create a will in order to distribute your assets. In fact, you may only consider the tools that could help you set your end-of-life affairs in order. However, your estate plan can encompass much more information, and you may also want to review your options for planning for potential incapacitation.

In particular, appointing a power of attorney agent may be worth your consideration. You may have heard about naming an agent to act on your behalf when it comes to financial matters in the event that you can no longer make important decisions for yourself, but you could have also felt hesitant about making such an appointment. After all, couldn't someone abuse that power and just run off with your money?

Should you directly bequeath assets to a loved one using SSI?

If you have a disabled loved one, you may consider leaving him or her a considerable inheritance as part of your estate plan. After all, most people find it a great benefit to obtain a sudden, and possibly unexpected, influx of money. You may also believe that naming a special-needs individual as a beneficiary could help him or her carry on receiving needed care.

While your intentions may be in the right place, your actions could actually end up causing more harm than good. In particular, if your loved one receives Supplemental Security Income, he or she could possibly lose that benefit by obtaining a considerable inheritance.

Specific details may prove useful in your living will

If you feel that the time has come to fully address your estate planning needs, among your priorities may be to understand planning tools that may also prove useful while you remain alive. Many people think that estate plans address only after-life desires, but certain documents could help individuals detail how they would like certain affairs handled in the event that they cannot do so for themselves.

In particular, a living will could prove useful to you. This type of document does not relate to your assets like a standard will does; instead, a living will details how you want your care handled in the event that you face a serious medical issue. This document can seem especially appealing because you generally can include any details you wish in reference to your care.

Are you aware of mistakes that could impact your beneficiaries?

Estate plans can serve many purposes. When it comes to using this plan before your death, you can detail how you would like your medical treatments handled in the event that you cannot express your wishes yourself, and you can appoint individuals to handle decisions relating to your health care and your financial necessities during such a time. Your plan can also be useful after your death as you detail how you would like your property distributed, who should act as guardian of your minor children and other similar decisions.

After creating your plan, you may feel a sense of accomplishment, and you should. The information you provide in documents that make up your plan could help your surviving family in many ways. However, if you do not remember to periodically review and update your plan, your family could face issues when it comes time to probate your will and distribute your assets.

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Leonard F. Berg, Attorney at Law