Estate Planning

Estate Planning Lawyer and Illinois Will Attorney

Serving Joliet, Frankfort, and the Surrounding Communities

Preparing for the future and the unknown is a critical life step, but many individuals put off crucial estate planning.  Unfortunately, without a will or estate plan, contentious disputes over assets frequently arise, and intentions regarding the distribution of possessions are disregarded, leaving loved ones with little to nothing.

Careful estate planning and a sound asset protection strategy can help safeguard your hard-earned assets and protect your family, friends, and future generations.

At RNH Law, I assist clients with the preparation of cost-effective estate plans based upon their needs, help them protect all of their assets throughout their lives, and ensure that their estates are distributed according to their wishes after they pass.

Call Our Office to Schedule a Free Consultation About Developing an Estate Plan that Meets Your Objectives and Protects You and Your Family!

As a Will County estate planning lawyer, in addition to serving Joliet and Frankfort, I also serve clients in, Mokena, New Lenox, Matteson, Chicago Heights, Orland Park, Tinley Park, and throughout Will, DuPage, and Cook County.

Why Should I Have an Estate Plan? Protecting Your Family and Assets During Life

Many people are not aware that estate planning can be highly beneficial during a person’s life, as well as after their death.

There are two events that can take place during a person’s life in which estate plans can be critical – a person suffers a disease or injury and cannot make decisions for themself, or the person is suffering a terminal medical condition and cannot express their wishes for the care that they would like to receive.

What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney, and How Do They Help in the Event of a Severe Disability During Life?

When a person becomes disabled and loses the capacity to make decisions regarding their health and welfare, loved ones may have no choice but to seek expensive and unnecessary court appointments for what are known as guardianship and conservatorship.  Guardianship and conservatorship are the legal basis by which one person is vested with the power to oversee virtually all aspects of the life of another individual. This includes decisions such as where they will live and how their assets will be managed.

If a person becomes disabled without a healthcare proxy, often the court will need to appoint a guardian and/or conservator.  In this case, continued court oversight may be necessary for years (or even decades), which is costly.

Healthcare powers of attorney, however, can normally bypass this process.  With healthcare powers of attorney, a person can designate who will be able to make decisions about their care, welfare, and “end of life” choices if they suffer an injury or medical condition and are no longer able to communicate their wishes.

For example, if you are involved in a severe car accident and sustain a traumatic brain injury, without a healthcare power of attorney, family members will be tasked with making medical decisions.  If multiple family members are present, there may be conflicting opinions on how to proceed, and a physician must wait for a consensus.  Alternatively, if a healthcare-proxy representative is appointed, the person will be the sole decision-maker, which can increase the chances that your wishes are followed and eliminate the need for a unanimous family decision.

What is a Living Will or Advance Directive?

A living will (sometimes called an “advance directive”) allows an individual to specify the type of care that should be provided if they are experiencing an end of life event and cannot express their wishes.  As a result, family members can avoid hassling with the court system, and they will not be tasked with making heart-wrenching decisions, such as whether to take a beloved family member off life support.

How Do Estate Plans Help After Death?

Without an estate plan in place, disputes over asset distributions frequently arise after death, placing loved ones at odds with each other and often leading to contentious litigation.  Often, these disputes arise over heirlooms and other assets with substantial sentimental value.  By utilizing a last will and testament, trusts, and other legal tools, you can guarantee that your assets are distributed as you intend while heading off family disagreements, expensive legal battles, and potential damaged family relationships.

What Is Included in an Estate Plan?

Estate plans are usually comprised of the following:

  • Last Will and Testament.  A will takes the guesswork out of estate administration.  This document sets forth the people and/or charities who will receive your possessions, as well as exactly what assets each beneficiary will receive.  A will can also specify what will happen to an asset after death, such as if you would like to have your house sold and the assets distributed to your children.
  • Trusts.  A trust allows a third party to hold assets on behalf of the named beneficiaries of the trust, and to distribute assets as specified in the trust.  Trusts can be utilized during a person’s lifetime and can continue after death.  (Learn more about “Do I Need a Trust if I Have a Will?”)
  • Property Power of Attorney.  Property powers of attorney are sometimes used in conjunction with other matters to help manage and/or protect assets.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney. Healthcare powers of attorney are used to allow someone to make healthcare decisions for you when you are unable to.
  • Living Wills/Advance Directives. 

Estate Planning for Those in Unmarried, Long-Term Relationships – Why Estate Planning Is Critical!

For married individuals who die without a will, Illinois law automatically grants (at least) half of the estate to the surviving spouse under intestacy laws.  However, for unmarried couples, there are no such statutory protections.  Thus, if a person is in a long-term relationship and dies without a will, a partner will most likely not inherit any assets; instead, the property will pass to children or distant relatives of the deceased person.

Common law marriages are not valid in Illinois.  As such, if you are in a long-lasting partnership, marital intestacy protections will not be available unless you have a formal marriage license.  Because of the high risk that a girlfriend, boyfriend, fiancée, or another partner can end up with nothing, it is crucial for unmarried couples to have estate plans in place.  As an experienced estate planning law firm serving Joliet and the surrounding communities, we can help construct a plan that ensures your partner will be taken care of in accordance with your wishes.

How Does a Trust Work in Illinois?

A trust is an arrangement in which a person (known as a grantor) transfers his or her assets into a trust, which is then managed by a third-party (known as a trustee).  The grantor stipulates in the trust agreement how, when, and to whom the assets will be distributed.  Assets are then transferred to the trust (which holds legal title), and the trustee ensures that the property is managed and distributed according to the trust conditions.  Because property held in trust is no longer owned by the trustor, the assets in a trust are not normally subject to probate at the time of death.

What are the Duties of a Trustee?

Trust administration includes managing and distributing assets in accordance with a trust agreement.  The responsibilities of a trustee generally include:

  • Investing trust funds
  • Paying taxes
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries

When creating a trust, it is essential that an experienced and ethical trustee be named who will be well-equipped to handle the complexities of a trust.  As an experienced Frankfort estate planning attorney, I can not only help construct a trust, but I can also assist in selecting a reputable trustee who is qualified for the position.

How Can I Ensure that My Special Needs Child is Taken Care of?

Many children with special needs require lifelong care, which can come at a hefty price.  If you have a child who is disabled or has special care needs, it is vital to exercise care in making an estate plan.  A child’s age, competency, other family factors, and long-term healthcare demands should be thoughtfully considered when creating a plan.

If you have a disabled child, I can construct a plan that utilizes your estate to enhance the life of your child while ensuring that full government benefits (such as Medicaid and Social Security Disability) remain accessible.  This can be accomplished by utilizing a special needs trust.

Protect Your Loved Ones and Your Legacy!

Your legacy is what you leave behind for your family, friends, and community.  It is more than just money and assets; rather, it is how you will be remembered.  I can help you construct an estate plan that carries out your final wishes for the distribution of your assets, and minimizes the possibility of disputes among heirs or beneficiaries.

Call my office to schedule a free consultation.  There are many aspects to an estate plan, and every plan is different.  If retained, I can review your assets, discuss your wishes for family and friends, evaluate your goals, review with you the estate plan options that may be best for furthering your objectives, and prepare your personalized estate plan.

5.0

Knows what he is doing and talking about. He is helpful, informative, very easy to contact and get ahold of. He answered all of my questions clearly and in all a nice guy.

J.S.

How Can I Help?

Please call me at (708) 279-4050 or fill out this form for a FREE Consultation.

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