Estate Planning

There are several documents which allow you to make sure that other people have the authority and information to act in your place if/when something happens to you. I help clients prepare and execute:

A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare allows you to name who you want to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to. It also gives the named agent some guidance on the level of medical intervention you want. This document gives that agent the legal authority to consent to treatment, or authorize the removal of treatment, in accordance with your wishes. It is important to choose an agent who will act based on what you want, not necessarily what they think is best. It is best to have a discussion with your appointed agent so they know that they will be expected to make decisions if you are unable to. Let them know where the POA for Healthcare is, unless you give them a copy.

You have the option of executing a Declaration under the Illinois Living Will Act which states that you only want comfort care and no death delaying procedures if you have been diagnosed with a terminal condition. If you have already been diagnosed with a terminal condition and want to make your preferences concerning treatment part of your medical chart, you and your doctor can execute a POLSTPractitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. This document becomes part of your medical record so that it travels with you to whatever care provider you visit. Because it is a medical order, you must discuss it with your medical care provider and have them sign it.

Since there are any number of medical situations where a Declaration or a POLST do not apply, it is important that your agent under the POA for Healthcare knows what decisions to make on your behalf. You can complete a Living Will which outlines the medical decisions you prefer in various situations, but the authority to consent to or withdraw treatment is with your agent.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Property allows you to name who you want to have authority over your finances and property if you are unable to act on your own behalf. You can grant full authority or limit the assets or scope. It is important to choose an agent who can be trusted with authority over your resources and who will keep records. As with the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, you will want to discuss your situation with your agent. You might want to leave them information and instructions concerning your accounts and property along with the location of the POA for Property, unless you give them a copy.

You have the option of creating a Trust for the ownership and management of assets while you are alive, if you become incapacitated, and upon your death. The Trust Agreement contains the terms for the management of the trust assets. Often the initial Trustee, the person with the authority and duty to manage the trust, is the person who created the trust. You name a successor Trustee to take over management if you are unable or unwilling to continue to manage the Trust.

A Last Will and Testament is a document in which you can designate an individual to administer your estate after your death. If you have minor children, you can nominate who should be their guardian. If you have pets, you can provide for their care. You can specify what happens to your property after you die. Some assets, like an insurance policy with a designated beneficiary or a car that is co-owned by two people, do not pass under the will but under the terms of the policy or the title. Similarly, a home or other real estate passes according to the terms of the deed first. For all your other property, you can determine who gets what, or how the estate should be divided. You should let your chosen administrator know that you would like them to serve as the administrator of your estate when you die. You also need to let them know where the original signed Will is kept.

If your Will covers assets in excess of $100,000, your estate might need to be administered through a court process called Probate. It is sometimes possible to avoid Probate by creating a Trust, executing a Transfer on Death Instrument, or making other arrangements. For more information on Probate and Estate Administration, visit that practice area page.

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Frens Elder Law & Estate Planning has placed the information on this website as a service to the general public. Use of this website does not in any manner constitute a client-attorney relationship between Frens Elder Law & Estate Planning and the user. While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for the particularized advice of your own counsel. Anyone seeking specific legal advice or assistance should retain an attorney. This website could include inaccuracies or typographical errors. The materials on this website do not constitute legal advice, do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Frens Elder Law & Estate Planning or of Attorney Stacia Frens, and are not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date. The articles and information on this website are provided as is without warranty of any kind, either express or implied.