Estate Planning | Living Wills | Guardianship | Power of Attorney

Estate Planning Requires Legal Help

Estate planning is a process whereby a person’s objectives for post-death asset management and disposition of one’s property are analyzed and action is taken to accomplish those objectives. Here are some of the areas that estate planning addresses:

  1. Who should get my money and property when I'm gone? The needs of one’s spouse, children and others must be weighed against one another. This can be particularly difficult if there are children by prior marriages or a property settlement agreement with a current or former spouse.
  2. Is there enough money to provide for my family? Particularly for young people, the adequacy of one’s life insurance program should be reviewed.
  3. Who will manage the estate? This is a critical problem if there are handicapped or minor beneficiaries. Who should be guardian of minors or handicapped beneficiaries?

When the objectives have been defined, documents are prepared and property transferred to put the plan into effect. A will is almost always part of the plan.  Other documents used may include trust agreements, beneficiary designations for life insurance and deferred compensation benefits, powers of attorney for health care and for property, buy-sell agreements and living wills. Sometimes the basic structure of a business will be altered through corporate recapitalizations, the creation of partnerships or the establishment of a pension or profit-sharing plan.

In most cases, people shouldn’t do their own estate planning without legal help. Few persons are experienced in solving the problems outlined above. Even fewer are skilled in drafting with precision and clarity the documents needed to put the plan into effect. One’s attorney should certainly be involved in preparation of the estate plan. Many other people – accountants, life insurance professionals, trust officers and financial planners – may also assist in this planning. For certain estates, bankers, business consultants and farm managers may be consulted as well.

There should be close coordination among the advisors. If a trust company is named as executor or trustee, your attorney will work closely with it. Coordination of life insurance with your overall estate plan may involve your insurance agent. Finally, all advisors should remain in contact with the family and review the estate plan from time to time, because many events can occur that call for changes in the plan. In addition, changes in the laws may necessitate a change.

It will be helpful to your attorney if you fill out information sheets, which many estate-planning attorneys have available, in advance of the visit. This will not only assist the attorney in properly advising you with the type of estate plan that will best suit your needs but will also assist in helping to keep the expense at a minimum.

Finally, you should review your estate plan periodically so that it is kept current.

Note: This information was prepared as a public service by the Illinois State Bar Association. Every effort has been made to provide accurate information at the time of publication. For the most current information, please consult your lawyer. If you need a lawyer and do not have one, visit our lawyer referral page

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