As a short, general definition, estate planning is the process of choosing among alternatives to ensure greater financial security during your life so that you can provide for your heirs upon your death. Typically, some of the alternatives include last wills, living trusts, health care directives, powers of attorney, and so on; then, upon your death, many of your properties and assets will need to go through Illinois probate courts before they’re handed down to your beneficiaries, a process that costs a lot and could take months, or even years.
As such, if you’re planning on saving a few bucks for a DIY estate plan, it’s advisable to study up on Illinois law to such a degree that all of your estate planning documents dictate your end-of-life wishes in a way that is legally valid. Small errors, minor omissions, and lackluster organization can leave room for serious, family-destroying conflicts and court battles. For this reason, Chicago estate planning attorney James C. Provenza recommends using an estate planning attorney for your wills, trusts, and other estate planning materials.
But, of course, we would say that. In this week’s post, we’ve included a few aspects of attorneys and estate planning laws that can help you make the decision that’s right for you, and we’ll try and be as objective and unbiased as possible.
An Attorney Can Help Navigate Illinois Laws That Govern Estate Plans
Illinois laws are very specific about what can and can’t be in a will, a trust, a medical or financial power of attorney, and other estate planning tools. Furthermore, Illinois laws are also fairly strict regarding who can serve as the individual’s personal representative, trustee, health care surrogate, or attorney in fact. The State also examines who can (or cannot) be a witness to a will, trust, or power of attorney; lastly, the State also considers the formalities when signing a will, trust, or power of attorney.
With all of these rules, regulations, and formalities, it can be incredibly easy to make a small, yet significant, error. For instance, to have a valid will in Illinois, you need to have two or more credible witnesses to validate or attest to the will. Each witness must watch the testator sign or acknowledge the will, determine whether the testator is of sound mind, and sign the will in front of the testator.
With a complex will, a revocable living trust, or a medical or financial power of attorney, for example, the regulations can be a lot more strict. Furthermore, the actual text used in the will must be comprehensive and clearly state your wishes in a manner that leaves no room for interpretation or the possibility of a conflict later on.
An Estate Planning Attorney Can Help Resolve Complex Financial Situations
Although your estate planning attorney will be essential in helping you draft and administer your estate plan, your attorney can also provide counsel and advice if you have a complex family or financial situation. For instance, creating comprehensive estate planning documents can be very complex if you fall into one of the following categories:
- You are in your second (or subsequent) marriage
- You have one or more businesses
- You have extensive real estate
- You have minor children
- You want to leave some or all of your estate to charity
- You have a taxable estate when it comes to federal and/or Illinois tax purposes
Without an Attorney, You Need to Be Extra Careful
One of the worst parts of a DIY estate plan is the insecurity associated with it; imagine planning your estate, and then due to a technicality with Illinois law, your family discovers that your will, trust, or other estate plan isn’t valid. Because these documents are considered after your death, you won’t be available to clarify any unclear segments or to make any documents legal. In the end, to get your estate transferred to your beneficiaries, your family may end up spending thousands of dollars on an attorney to fix these mistakes.
Contact the Top Estate Planning Attorney in Chicago
There are certainly endless benefits associated with having an attorney for your estate plan. An estate planning attorney can also help with financial advice, as your attorney will use his/her experience and knowledge of Illinois law to maximize the effect of your estate so that your heirs can benefit as much as possible. With years of experience helping hundreds of individuals with their estate plans throughout the Chicago area, we at James C. Provenza & Associates will work with you and develop the ideal estate plan unique to your property, assets, wishes, and so forth. To speak with Chicago attorney Provenza, call our law firm today at (847) 729-3939.