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The process of estate planning can be challenging, depending on the size and complexity of your estate and what you want done with your assets upon your death. Proper estate planning requires a level of knowledge of the various tools, methods, and strategies that are often employed. For example, it is important to understand the differences between a will and a living trust and how those differences could affect your heirs. It is also a good idea to work closely with a qualified lawyer who can provide assistance in meeting your estate planning needs.

What Is a Will?

At its most basic, a will is a legal document that allows you to specify how your assets and possessions are to be distributed. A will can also name a legal guardian for any minor children. An important characteristic of a will is that it is a revocable and amendable document that you can control until your death. It can be updated, altered, or changed to accommodate changing situations, such as the death of an heir or divorce. Keep in mind, however, that there are some major limitations with a will—particularly when it comes to the amount of control you have over your estate after your death. The tax consequences for your heirs may also be significant if your estate plan consists only of a will.


As a recent Chicago Tribune article points out, there is no time like the present to update your basic estate plan. Now that Congress has spoken, albeit at the last minute, on the issue of estate and gift taxes in passing the American Taxpayer Relief Act, it is essential that you execute basic estate planning documents or update your old documents to suit your current situation.

There are a number of very basic documents that can clearly express your wishes in terms of your property and your children following your death. If you fail to complete these documents and you should pass away, then your state's law will determine the disposition of your property and the care and custody of your minor children. As a result, it is essential to complete the following documents if you wish to have any say in the resolution of these important issues.

  • Will - Perhaps the most basic estate planning document, a will is a legal document that directs how your assets are divided amongst your chosen beneficiaries. You can go into great detail as to how to divide your possessions, or you can simply divide up your estate as a whole in predetermined percentages between various people. Additionally, a will often expresses your wishes for a guardian for your minor children.
  • Trust - Like a will, a trust is a legal document that directs how and to whom your assets should be distributed following your death. However, a trust can be structured in various ways to avoid formal, lengthy, and often expensive probate proceedings, as well as federal estate taxes.
  • Health Care Representative or Proxy - This document designates who should make health care decisions for you in the event that you incapacitated and unable to do.
  • Power of Attorney - This legal form permits you to name another person to act on your behalf in different situations, as you choose. For instance, you can opt for a power of attorney to executing banking transactions or handle tax matters on your behalf.

Since basic estate planning documents are all legal in nature, and must meet certain legal requirements in order to be valid, the assistance of an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney is essential in executing these documents. Contact our office today for a thorough evaluation of your situation and needs so that you execute the proper documents to ensure that your wishes are carried out following your death.

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