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Estate Planning FAQs

Jefferson Park Estate Planning Attorneys

Q. What is estate planning?

A. Estate planning is an ongoing process through which a person can make arrangements for the management and distribution of assets during his or her lifetime and after death. Through estate planning, a person can reduce tax liabilities, provide for loved ones with special needs, and appoint trusted individuals to make decisions on the person's behalf if he or she becomes incapacitated.

Q. What if I do not have an estate plan?

A. If you die without any type of estate plan in place, decisions regarding your assets and your dependents will be made by the court according to the laws of "intestate succession." You will not have any say over which of your loved ones receives your property or who will be responsible for managing your final affairs.

Q. Do I need a will?

A. A will is usually the foundation for a comprehensive estate plan. Your will allows you to name an executor to manage your estate, as well as to determine how your property will be divided among your heirs. Your will can also name a guardian for your minor children.

Q. What are trusts?

A. There are a variety of different trusts that may be appropriate to help you meet your estate planning goals. A trust is a legal arrangement through with you can place your property under the care of a trustee for the benefit of your chosen beneficiaries. Trusts can be used to reduce tax liabilities, avoid probate, provide incentives to beneficiaries, and streamline the process of transferring your property to future generations.

Q. What is probate?

A. Illinois law provides that most estates must be validated and settled through a legal process known as probate. Not all assets are subject to probate, such as investment accounts with designated beneficiaries and most assets under the control of a valid trust. Probate can be time-consuming and expensive, but there are ways to make the process move more quickly.

Q. What is a fiduciary?

A. In your estate plan, you have the authority to name individuals and entities to take on certain responsibilities. Depending on the complexity of your plan, you could choose executors, trustees, agents (attorneys-in-fact), and guardians. Each of these parties is responsible for carrying out your wishes and acting in the best interests of the estate at all times. It is important to choose fiduciaries carefully.

Q. Should I have a power of attorney?

A. A power of attorney allows you to select another person to make decisions on your behalf if and when you are no longer able to make them for yourself. The person you select is called an attorney-in-fact or agent. He or she may be given authority to make financial decisions, health or medical decisions, or both.

Q. Do I need an estate planning lawyer?

A. There are countless websites that claim to offer legally sound estate planning services without the need for an attorney. Unfortunately, do-it-yourself estate planning often leads to expensive mistakes, avoidable delays, and costly litigation. An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you create a customized plan while anticipating potential problems before they arise.

Q. How often should I update my estate plan?

A. If you have an estate plan already in place, it is important to review and update it regularly so that it continues to meet your needs. Most experts recommend conducting a full review every three to five years. You should also update your estate plan following any major life changes, such as a marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of a spouse, or a move to a new state.

Call 773-631-7100 Today

If you have additional questions about estate planning in Illinois or to get started with your estate plan, contact our office. Call 773-631-7100 to schedule a confidential consultation with a qualified estate planning lawyer today. Otte & Czajkowska, LLC serves clients in Jefferson Park, Elmwood Park, and throughout Chicago's northwest side. Polish-language services are available.

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