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Hillside, IL 60162

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Oak Park last will and testament attorneyFor any person over the age of 18, there is no better time than the present to create a Last Will & Testament. Nobody likes to think about what will happen after they pass away, but a Will is a person’s way of ensuring that everything they leave behind (their estate) is handled the way that they prefer.

In the unfortunate event that a person passes away without a Last Will & Testament, their estate (the sum of their assets minus any liabilities/debts owed at that time) will be divided up according to the laws of the state of Illinois, which means the estate may be divided up in a different way from what the person actually wanted.

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Posted on in Estate Planning
who-acts-for-you-when-you-cannot

If you had to be away at the time of an important transaction, or if you suddenly became incapacitated, who would act in your place? Fortunately, there is a legal document that lets you name someone to act for you in situations like these - the "power of attorney."

There are different kinds of powers of attorney. A standard power of attorney lets you appoint someone to handle financial affairs. You can grant power over all your property, or limit the authority to handling a certain task. A standard power of attorney ends when you die, become incapacitated, or on a set date.

A durable power of attorney is like a standard power of attorney, except it stays valid even if you become incapacitated. Durable powers of attorney are often used to help avoid guardianship proceedings - because someone has already been appointed to handle your affairs, a court won't have to.

A durable power of attorney for health care lets you authorize someone to make your medical decisions if you cannot.

Powers of attorney are valuable planning tools. Laws regarding them are complex, so you should seek legal help in making or changing one.

preventive-law-tip-estate-planning

Proper estate planning has great benefits for you and your family. It gives you security that your property will be divided how you want, and it can save taxes during your life. For your heirs, proper estate planning means they will receive property with few hassles and minimal expense.

Estate planning is more than just wills and trusts. It includes such other matters as right type of life insurance, how to hold title to your property and whether to make gifts during your life or by a will at death.

Estate planning is one kind of preventive law where the financial and other benefits can far outweigh the cost.

plan-your-medical-care-in-case-of-a-serious-illness

If you became so seriously ill that you could not tell others your wishes, who would make your medical decisions? Would your family members know your desires about using life-support equipment if it was necessary to keep you alive? Fortunately, there are documents you can prepare now to help plan your medical care in the event you ever have a serious illness and are not able to communicate your wishes. These documents are a "living will" and a "durable power of attorney for health care." Here is a brief summary of each.

  • Living wills. A living will is a legal document that states your desires about using life-support equipment if you are terminally ill and cannot communicate. With a living will, you can authorize the withholding of life-support equipment so you can have a "natural" death. You can also use a living will to specify that you want all types of treatment used to sustain you.
  • Durable power of attorney for health care. The other main document that helps you receive the medical care you want if you ever become incapacitated is a "durable power of attorney for health care." This lets you appoint someone else (such as your spouse or child) to make medical decisions for you if you are not able to make these decisions yourself.
  • Which Is Better? In some states, laws may make it better to have one or the other. In other states, it may be possible to have both, or to combine them in one document.

    Illness can strike at any time and be sudden, so it is best to make these documents as soon as possible. The only requirement for making them is that you are at least a certain age (18 in most states) and that you are legally competent when you make them.

    Some people delay making a living will or health care power of attorney. They think they may later change their mind about what they want to happen if they become terminally ill. There are two key points to remember about these documents:
  • your living will and durable power of attorney for health care take effect only if cannot communicate your wishes. If you can communicate your wishes, what you say at that time will be followed.
  • you can change or revoke these documents at any time. Thus, if you want to change the type of treatment you receive if you become terminally ill, or if you want to change the person you have named to make your health care decisions, you can do so.

Living wills and durable powers of attorney for health care are useful planning tools. They will help make sure you get the medical treatment you want if you are ever unable to communicate your wishes. They can also help avoid disputes between family members over the type of care you should receive. Laws about making these documents are complex and vary from state to state, so be sure to seek legal help in preparing them.

Posted on in Estate Planning
how-probate-works

Many people who hear the word "probate" conjure up images of the long and complicated process that takes place when someone dies. Although traditional probate procedures have tended to be lengthy and complex, many states now have simplified procedures for most estates, so that with a lawyer's help most people shouldn't have too much difficulty serving as the personal representative of an estate (called the "executor" if a person dies with a will or "administrator" if the person dies without a will).

The probate process is conceptually simple: someone supervised by a court accounts for the decedent's property, pays debts and taxes, and distributes what remains according to the person's will or state law. Here's a closer look at what would be involved if you were named an executor or volunteered as administrator.

1. Opening the estate. You begin the probate process by submitting the will (if any) to the probate court in the decedent's county and notifying relatives, heirs and creditors of the death. The court will issue you documents authorizing you to act on the estate's behalf.

2. Investigating the estate. You next must locate all the property, determine its value, collect money owed the estate, and pay debts. Professional appraisals may be needed for some items.

3. Paying taxes. You are responsible for estate and inheritance taxes and for the decedent's final federal and state income tax returns. Only a small percentage of estates owe federal estate tax, but most states have an inheritance tax. Sometimes the estate pays it, sometimes the heirs.

4. Distributing the estate. You can't usually distribute property to heirs until you have receipts showing all taxes have been paid and you have filed an accounting with the court. There is a waiting period during which people can object to what you've done, but sometimes this comes after you've distributed the property. In any case, once you've filed the accounting and distributed the property, and the waiting period has expired, the estate is "settled" and your responsibility ends.

Non-Probate Property

Not all property goes through probate. Non-probate property is transferred automatically to another person. One example of such property is property held in "joint tenancy." It automatically goes to the surviving joint tenants. Another example is life insurance. The proceeds go to beneficiaries outside of probate.

Although probate in theory is simple - a person's will is verified, property gathered, debts and taxes paid, and remaining property distributed to heirs - the process can be complex and time-consuming, as it involves paperwork and court appearances. Legal assistance can be obtained to help the executor or administrator perform some or all of the duties of probating an estate, and to help you decide who will be your executor.

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