If you have not yet started thinking about planning your estate, now is the time to do it. No matter how old you are, your current health status, or which types of assets you have, it is always wise to have an estate plan in place. Without one, your loved ones could be subject to the probate process, intestacy laws, and high taxes on your assets.

The most effective way to plan your estate is to work with an estate planning lawyer. There is more to estate planning than simply writing a will; you will want to consider an advance medical directive, beneficiary designations, and a power of attorney designation. You might also want to make use of trusts to preserve your assets for your loved ones or include charitable giving in your estate plan.

Components of Estate Planning

Your estate plan will include at least one of the following. It will likely include more than one and can potentially include them all:

  • Wills – This is the legally binding document that outlines who will receive each of your assets. Your beneficiaries do not have to be your relatives – you can leave assets to a charitable organization or an institution, such as your alma mater;

  • Power of Attorney – You can grant power of attorney, the right to make medical, financial, and personal decisions on your behalf, to a loved one you trust to act in your best interest when you cannot make decisions for yourself;

  • Living Trusts – With a trust, another party holds the legal title to a piece of your property, then transfers it to a beneficiary after you pass;

  • Instructions – You need to instruct for the care of your minor children or disabled adult children.

Legal Issues that can Arise with Estate Planning and Probate

If you do not have a will in place when you pass away, your assets are subject to Illinois’ intestacy laws. These laws state which parties are to inherit a deceased individual’s assets depending on which descendants he or she has.

After receiving assets, whether through a will or intestacy succession, beneficiaries can be subject to estate taxes if the deceased did not take careful measures to reduce or eliminate these taxes. In certain cases, receiving assets can put a beneficiary deep into debt.

Probate is the process through which the court identifies and appraises a deceased individual’s assets, then pays the associated taxes and debts, followed by distributing the assets to the deceased’s beneficiaries. Choosing an experienced estate planning attorney to help you draft or modify your plan can reduce or even eliminate the need for an estate to go through probate, which can be expensive for the deceased’s family and potentially create interfamilial rifts.

Working with an Estate Planning Lawyer is a Wise Choice

An estate planning lawyer is well-versed in Illinois law, federal law, and the products and investment options available to you. Instead of facing this confusing, complicated process yourself, work with a lawyer who can act as your guide and advocate. Schedule your initial consultation with a Chicago estate planning lawyer and prepare a few questions to ask during the session. A productive conversation about estate planning will lead to empowered, productive choices.