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Illinois Estate Planning And Probate Legal Blog

How to avoid making mistakes when writing wills in Illinois

There comes a time in every adult's life when they begin thinking about what would happen if they were no longer on the planet. When life changes happen -- like marriage or the birth of children -- that's when many Illinois residents may give thought to writing their wills. There are a few things people might do or neglect to do when beginning the will-writing journey.

First, some people fail to have their wills witnessed after having signed it themselves. The will should be dated, signed by the testator -- the one who wrote the will -- and properly witnessed by at least two people older than 16 years of age and not related to the testator. The witness also needs to comprehend what he or she is signing.

Long-term care planning: Clearing up the misconceptions

Time waits for no one. Everyone gets older and with that may come the need for care. Illinois residents who are young and vibrant and even those in mid-life don't usually think about long term care planning. But the truth is there are some pretty big misconceptions about long-term care and one of the major ones is that many individuals believe they won't have a need for it.

A recent marketing showed that most respondents didn't feel they would need long-term care in their old age. Those who did really didn't understand the dynamics of care or the actual cost. Most people taking part in the survey believed that a private room in a nursing home would cost about $54,000 a year, though it's more like $102,000. And even though many believed that they would be cared for by family members who could handle the emotional aspects of care, the truth is most caregivers -- 84 percent in fact -- started that the emotional burden of caring for someone was great. Another alarming fact the survey turned up was that financial planners are mentioning long-term planning less and less to those who are planning their estates.

Estate planning: Leaving a messy estate could cause problems

The last thing people want is to leave a mess for loved ones after they've passed away. But that is exactly what could happen if someone leaves a messy estate. So, those intent on comprehensive estate planning in Illinois, would be wise to ensure all the i's are dotted and all the t's are crossed. When family members are left sorting through every item of clothing and looking in every crack and crevice for something that might have been saved, it may only add to their stress when they're already grieving.

When people take the time to go through their possessions and either earmark them for an individual person and get rid of those items they aren't using and don't believe anyone else will either, it may make estate administration an easier process. Beneficiaries -- most likely loved ones -- will appreciate the effort. It may be wise to do the same thing with assets. Consolidation may be wise in more ways than one.

Proper writing of wills could keep the peace in Illinois families

Most people would like to leave something to their loved ones after they pass away. But there may be some downsides to the contents of wills that may cause some serious family squabbles, pitting loved ones against loved ones. So, in Illinois, communicating clearly to adult children what an estate plan includes could mean the difference between bringing siblings together or tearing them apart.

Most parents can cause a rift between their children without meaning to because of their estate plans. Dividing everything evenly among children isn't always necessarily the best way to proceed. Testators can leave their assets to whomever they wish, but experts say communicating wishes to loved ones prior to death may avoid horrible family spats.

Why it's important to update estate planning documents

Going through the time-consuming task of fashioning an estate plan may fall short if that plan isn't updated as life changes. Estate planning documents in Illinois should always be as current as possible and should reflect current life situations. Amassing documents like a will and storing them in a safety deposit box for decades without ever looking at them again may be doing beneficiaries a great disservice.

The only constant in life is change. People get married, people get divorced, babies are born and people die. if estate planning documents don't reflect those changes, it may cause angst for loved ones when the testator dies. As a rule of thumb, estate planning documents should be reviewed about every three years, and sooner when significant life events occur.

A popular 60s movie teaches about long term care planning

The original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has a few scenes in it that might make people think about what they would do if they were bedridden. All four of Charlie's grandparents share a four-poster bed since none of them can walk. Long term care planning could likely have avoided such a situation. In fact, the movie gives some good lessons about health care planning for the long haul for Illinois residents.

People are living longer today, and consequently, most people will need long term care at some point in their lives. Some people will only need care for a short period, while others may need it for most of the older years and within an institutional setting. As the population ages, more services related to long term care will be needed. 

Health care directives in Illinois estate planning

When planning their estates, many people choose to leave directions as to what they would like to have happen should they become ill and not be able to make decisions regarding their health care. These inclusions in estate planning are called health care directives. But are these directive enforceable in Illinois? Health care providers are obligated to follow any written health care orders that are put in place, with some exceptions.

If the directive goes against the law or a physician's conscience comes into play, the directive may not be heeded. If doctors feel the health care directive will not be effective or if it goes against hospital rules, those also may be grounds not to follow the directive. If health care practitioners make the decision not to follow the directive, they must inform either the patient or the patient's health care agent, if someone has been so named to act on his or her behalf. That will give the patient or his or her appointee the chance to change facilities and/or doctors.

Long term care planning is crucial for old age

Younger folks don't sit around thinking about getting old and what their lives might look like when that happens. Many Illinois residents don't take the time to devote to long term care planning while doing so may make their golden years shine brighter had they planned for it. With some forethought about the future, people may be able to stay in their homes longer without a lot of help, stay healthier and have enough money to meet their needs and to enjoy their later years.

The likelihood that people may need long term care at some point in their lives is more pronounced than other life events for which people plan like a house fire or a major car accident. People pay for house and car insurance but are reluctant to put funds aside for their future independence. It seems even those who are 65 years of age or older aren't taking the time -- for a myriad of reasons -- to prepare for the possibility they may need long term care.

Even those under 40 should think about estate planning

It has been said that there are two certainties in life -- death and taxes. Unfortunately, they are also well associated with each other. Rarely, do people under the age of 40 in Illinois think about dying, much less begin estate planning, just in case the unforeseen should happen. Doing so, however, could be a wise step since a carefully prepared estate plan will maximize the amount of assets that actually end up in the hands of beneficiaries.

Every adult should have a will, which is an integral part of an estate plan. It is doubly important if there are children involved. A person does not have to have a lot of financial wealth to have a will.

The numerous benefits involved with estate planning in Illinois

Many individuals in Illinois and elsewhere may consider it intimidating to plan for certain scenarios in life. However, while forming a strategy for the unknown can seem a daunting task, it could also prove exceedingly beneficial in the future. By exploring the potential advantages that are available in estate planning, one may be able to overcome previous hesitations and decide upon a path with his or her wishes for the future at heart.

When first considering a similar process, one may be uncertain if planning an estate is necessary. However, this may be a more prevalent concern for those who simply associate the process with the distribution of assets upon death. While an estate plan can dictate what happens to a person's assets after he or she passes on, there are a multitude of other life scenarios that an estate plan can cover.