In Illinois, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone determines what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you truly want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for truly implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these intentions.
In addition to decisions regarding the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For instance, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your sentiment on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such arrangements for you, if you are unable.
A knowledgeable estate planner in Illinois may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Moreover, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in Illinois
Estate plans in Illinois almost always have these elements:
Will: If you've determined who you want to leave your property and money to after you die, you should make these wishes official, by writing a will. When writing a will, it's always a good idea to have the assistance of an attorney, since many problems can come up which might make the will much more challenging to implement, or they might even void it entirely. Common problems include ambiguities in the terms of the will (a term which is not precisely written, so it can be interpreted differently by reasonable people), as well as failure to follow the obligated formalities.
Power of Attorney: This is a legal document in which you give some other person (typically a family member) the ability to make decisions (often related to money or healthcare) on your behalf if you become incapable of doing so.
Funeral Arrangements: Obviously, deciding what you want done with your mortal remains is a very personal decision. Nonetheless, once you have made this decision, you should put it in writing, in some place other than your will. You should also make your wishes known to your family members. This is because wills are usually not read until days or weeks after the testator dies, by which time it may be too late to carry out their wishes on this matter.
Do I Need an Illinois Estate Planning Attorney?
Because these decisions are so critical in Illinois, it's almost never a bad idea to seek the counsel of an efficient wills, trusts, and estates attorney.
Interesting Facts About Illinois
Illinois is nicknamed "The Prairie State" and "The Land of Lincoln". It has the fifth largest population in all of the U.S. and achieved statehood in the year 1818. With its broad industrial base and economic productivity, it is sometimes referred to as a "microcosm" of America. Illinois is often looked to as a bellwether in terms of social, cultural, and political trends.
Of the 50 states, Illinois is noted for having a distinct and variegated system of governance. At the local level, Illinois' government is perhaps the most complex of all states. Many different districts have been created for specific functions. For example, there are school districts, library districts, sanitary districts, watershed districts, land use districts, and many others. These individual miniature government units often have their own taxing and election authority.
In contrast to its local governance system, the court system of Illinois is relatively simple. It is composed of Circuit Courts, Appellate Courts, and the Illinois Supreme Court. Most legal claims in Illinois are processed at the circuit court level. Appeals and more complex matters are typically heard in the Appellate Courts or at the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court of Illinois maintains the "Supreme Court Commission of Professionalism". The Commission is responsible for maintaining the professional standards for lawyers, judges, and for the justice system overall. Lawyers in Illinois practice law according to these standards, thus ensuring the quality of legal services provided to clients. Illinois lawyers are also familiar with the state's complex governance system.