Creating an estate plan is not something you should do casually without serious thought to your goals. Jotting your last will and testament in a notebook is likely to create more confusion and frustration than you anticipate, and it won’t provide much protection for you or your heirs.
Your first step to establishing an effective and thorough estate plan is to decide what goals you want that plan to help you meet. Understanding the many elements and instruments in a complete estate plan may help you clarify your objectives and determine the best options for reaching them.
Certainly, your priority in creating an estate plan is to provide well for your loved ones. However, did you know that your estate plan can offer important protections for you as well? If you should become incapacitated or otherwise unable to manage your wealth, you may leave your assets at risk. Including a power of attorney designation in your estate plan means having a trusted individual who will have legal authority to manage your finances, pay your bills and make legal decision on your behalf.
You may also have in mind the level of health care you wish to receive if you become critically ill or injured. Without including this information in your estate plan, disputes may arise among your loved ones. You may be left waiting for appropriate care while your family seeks the court’s permission to make medical decisions for you. A health care proxy in your estate plan can relieve your family of this burden.
If your estate is more complex than your Illinois home and a savings account, or your family dynamic is complicated, you may need to carefully consider how you distribute your assets after your death. You will want to seek legal advice if your goals include any of the following:
Providing for loved ones with special needs or circumstances
Distributing assets to others besides your biological or adopted children
Minimizing the tax ramifications of an inheritance on your loved ones
Leaving a portion of your estate to charity
Protecting your estate from future lawsuits or creditors
Establishing a vehicle to instill the virtue of good stewardship in those who may be inheriting your generational wealth
You may have additional goals that are personal and unique to your situation. Seeking advice about these goals is the first step to creating an estate plan that will be a legacy for your loved ones.