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Regardless of your age, you should have an estate plan

Regardless of your age, you should have an estate plan

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Most people, if not all, can benefit from having rules and parameters in place for others to follow at the time of their death. These rules are called estate plans.

While creating such a plan may be an uncomfortable thing for many to attempt and deal with, it is a vital part of maintaining one’s assets and preparing for the future. Regardless of a person’s age or wealth, these plans can make a big difference in how their loved ones fare when they pass away.

Composition of an estate plan

Estate plans are a set of documents that outline how people would like their money, property and debts to be handled in the event of their death. The plan can also indicate who is to care for any minor children and in what manner, and any other provisions that the planner wishes to incorporate. The most common elements of an estate plan include the following:

  • Will
  • Trusts
  • Living will
  • Durable financial power of attorney
  • Durable medical power of attorney

Wills are the most widely known element of estate planning. It is usually within the will that people distribute their property, indicate their burial preferences, and designate a guardian for their minor children. Trusts, however, are used to direct a chosen trustee on how to handle the financial components of the estate, such as who receives money and when, or what items are to be sold and kept by the estate.

A living will and the two powers of attorney are used to protect the estate if a person becomes incapacitated and unable to make decisions for themselves or their property. Through these documents, people are able to proactively appoint a representative who will act with their best interests in mind in an emergency.

Why an estate plan is essential

Recently, a 9 year-old girl was the sole survivor of a car crash that claimed the lives of her brother and both her parents.  If her parents did not set up an estate plan, the state will have to place her with a family member or foster family. If there are multiple family members who wish to care for the girl, lawsuits could result. Conversely, individuals with estate plans know exactly who will care for their children and by what means in the event of their deaths. Additionally, when people pass away, no matter how much their estate is worth or how much property they hold, their family members are forced to seek permission from the courts to perform many regular tasks, such as closing out bank accounts, paying debts, and distributing possessions and property to any heirs.

Anyone with a family or property of any kind can benefit from an estate plan. Due to its highly sensitive nature and the numerous laws that are involved, Chicago residents of all ages and walks of life who are interested in creating an estate plan should contact an experienced attorney to discuss their situation.

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