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The time after a loved one’s passing is hard for all grieving family members, and it can be even more difficult when disputes arise over the decedent’s wishes or the validity of the will. As you prepare your estate plan, you should consider what you can do to prevent these disputes from happening after your death so that your family remains intact and well-provided for. The following tips will help prevent a contested estate.

Creating an Illinois Estate Plan to Minimize Disputes

Many contested estate disputes happen because family members are dissatisfied with how the terms of the will affect them, while others may be based more firmly on legal grounds. You should, of course, make sure that the terms of your estate plan reflect what you truly want, but there are also steps that you can take to help your family and beneficiaries understand your reasoning and show that you were of sound mind when making your decisions. These include:

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In the instance that you become unable to handle your own affairs, either financially or medically, it is important that you have a power of attorney (POA) set in place. This allows you to designate who will be in charge of your affairs if you are unable to do so on your own. The person designated to handle the affairs is known as the “agent” and the person who the POA concerns is known as the “principal.” If you are intending on getting your affairs in order, it is important to work with a reputable estate planning attorney to ensure that the POA is valid and the proper terms are included.

General POA Requirements

There are a number of requirements that must be met when creating a POA in the state of Illinois. In order for the legal document to be valid, the agent must be designated by name and their powers must be outlined. POAs are unique to your circumstances so you should include, in detail, what your agent is legally responsible for. This person must be at least 18 years of age. The POA must be signed by the principal and at least one witness must be present. The principal must also acknowledge their signature, and thus their consent to the POA, in front of a notary public, or attorney.

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Although many people assume that a last will and testament is the only estate planning tool that they need, a will is not always the best way to accomplish all of your estate planning goals. Other estate tools such as living trusts are often overlooked due to confusion or misunderstandings about the purpose of these tools. A trust is a legally binding agreement involving an individual or entity called a trustee who holds property for the benefit of a beneficiary. A living trust is an advantageous tool for managing your assets during your lifetime and then passing those assets to beneficiaries upon your death. If you are interested in using a living trust to manage your assets, you may question whether you should use a revocable living trust or an irrevocable living trust.

Revocable Trusts

 

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power of attorney, Wheaton estate planning lawyerHave you ever thought about who should handle your affairs if you became physically or mentally capacitated? Sadly, unexpected accidents and illnesses can affect even individuals who are otherwise young and healthy. A power of attorney is a type of advance directive that allows a person to designate a representative or “agent” to speak on his or her behalf in the event of a catastrophic illness or injury. The term “power of attorney” is used to refer to the estate planning tool as well as the individual who is chosen to act as the agent. This is a heavy responsibility, so it is important to choose someone who is capable of handling the role.

Financial Power of Attorney and Power of Attorney for Healthcare

A power of attorney for healthcare, also called a medical power of attorney, allows you to choose a representative to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become unable to express your own medical wishes. For example, if complications arise during surgery and you are under anesthesia, your power of attorney for healthcare may need to make decisions on your behalf about how to proceed.

A financial power of attorney allows you to choose a representative to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Your agent will be responsible for paying your bills and handling other monetary or real estate matters.  Some individuals choose to assign both medical and financial responsibilities to the same person, while others choose to assign these roles to two different people.

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living will, Wheaton estate planning lawyerYou may have already considered how you want your assets distributed to heirs after you pass away, but this is not the only issue that estate plans can address. Have you ever wondered what types of medical treatment you would want if you became incapacitated through a serious illness or injury? For example, if you were involved in a car accident and left comatose, would you want doctors to do everything possible to extend your life? Would you want a feeding tube, mechanical ventilation, or other death-delaying procedures? Would you want to let nature take its course?

Through a living will, you can make these types of decisions in advance. This saves your loved ones from being forced to make these decisions for you and also gives you the peace of mind knowing that your medical wishes will be followed.

The Terri Schiavo Case Emphasized the Need for a Living Will

Although it was over 20 years ago, many people still remember the media frenzy surrounding Terri Schiavo. The young woman fell into an irreversible persistent vegetative state after suffering a cardiac arrest at age 26. Her husband believed that Terri would not want to be kept alive via long-term life support and elected to have her feeding tube removed. The woman’s parents strongly disagreed and wanted their daughter to continue receiving artificial hydration and nutrition. The case resulted in a seven-year legal battle.

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