Most individuals who live in northeastern Illinois and northern Indiana have heard about "living wills," but not everyone understands this legal term. A "will" is considered by many people to be a written document that directs the disposition of a deceased person's assets following that person's death. "Living wills," on the other hand, serve a different purpose: to express a person's wishes about end-of-life medical care and living circumstances. For this reason, these documents are often referred to as "end-of-life directives." Both Illinois and Indiana have enacted statutes that authorize living wills, but the two statutes differ only in detail.
When Illinois residents are thinking about their estate planning needs, they will generally focus on the basics, like wills and trusts. There are other aspects to an estate plan, but it is important to tailor the documents to the individual's needs. For those who are in a situation in which they might need a power of attorney, it is imperative to understand various critical points about such a document.
Illinois residents who want to make certain they are fully organized and that their loved ones are cared for after they have gone will take the necessary steps to have a comprehensive estate plan in place. While this is a good idea regardless of the circumstances, many people will be uncertain as to whether wills or trusts are better for them. There are many factors to consider when making that determination.
One of the main reasons people in Illinois and across the nation formulate an estate plan is to avoid family disputes after they have gone. This is especially worrisome for those who have substantial assets, but it is a concern for anyone.
In Illinois, a frequent concern for people who are crafting their estate plans and thinking about every possible eventuality is what they will do if they need another person to make health care decisions in their stead. This can be a difficult issue to come to grips with, but it is wise to be prepared for it. A health care power of attorney will let another person - an "agent" - make the decisions on the individual's behalf. This can encompass many parts of the health care process and, before granting someone this power, it is important to understand what it entails.
Some individuals in Illinois might see news stories about relatives of famous or wealthy people engaged in an estate plan dispute, and they may think it does not apply to them. However, crafting estate planning documents is critical regardless of the circumstances. A prime example of why is exemplified with the estate of the late singer Aretha Franklin.
Although formulating an estate plan is becoming more common for Illinois residents, there is still a perception that only those who are of significant means need to have one. This is a mistake that can be costly in multiple ways. Not only does it hinder attempts to preserve assets, but it can have tax implications, spark family disputes and cause other problems that are avoidable. Having a basic estate plan is critical and there are several reasons for these that people might not have considered.
End of life planning is not an easy matter for Illinois residents to come to grips with. This is true for people at any age. However, failing to have a comprehensive estate plan can cause problems after death. Family disputes, legal battles and more can come about if there is a hesitation or reluctance in drafting estate planning documents. Often, a main sticking point in drafting these documents is that the person - the testator - does not know what he or she needs. It is important to have legal advice that can tailor the estate plan to every individual's situation.
For those in Illinois who are preparing for the future by determining what kind of estate plan would be best-suited for them, it is often viewed as easier and more expedient to simply have a basic will. While in many cases, this is wise, there are other strategies that might be better. Trusts are just such a device. Some might be under the impression that trusts are only for those with significant income and assets. However, that is not true. When deciding whether to use a trust or not, having legal advice from a law firm that specializes in estate planning is a must.
Crafting an estate plan is something all Illinois residents should do. While it is important for people of all ages, it is even more critical for those 55 and older. However, recent research indicates that those in this age range have not taken the necessary steps to draft estate planning documents. According to Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, almost half of those 55 and older have failed to craft any estate plan. Since many family disputes, financial problems and more have emanated from the failure to take this basic step, it is important to understand the importance of these documents and to discuss them with a legal professional.