As you contemplate the inevitable end of your life's journey, fears understandably begin to creep in. You dread losing control of the decisions that matter — your ability to choose your own fate, and how to best share all the fruit of your life's labor once you're gone.
Let Southern Illinois Elder Law help you draft the key documents that ease all your worries.
Your last will and testament is a legal document that explains how you want to distribute your assets upon your death. Your will identifies your minor children's legal guardian, and allows you to appoint a trustee to manage the assets you leave them. Your will also appoints an executor to handle all unfinished business: identifying and collecting estate assets, paying last bills and settling debts, and ensuring that all remaining assets are shared as intended.
In Illinois, there are two primary types of powers of attorney — one for property and one for health care. In July 2011, the power of attorney laws and forms both changed significantly. So you might want to call to double-check that your own documents remain in good order.
In your power of attorney for property, you designate one or more people as your “attorney-in-fact” to make decisions about your holdings and financial affairs. That assignment remains in effect should you become incapacitated, but immediately becomes void upon your death.
Your power of attorney for health care, or health care proxy, designates someone to make health care decisions on your behalf should you lose the ability to make them yourself.
In Missouri, a single document usually covers both health care and financial functions.
Your trust is a fictitious legal construct that owns and manages assets on behalf of a third party. Technically, a trust is a legal property interest held by a trustee for the benefit of a beneficiary. The person establishing the trust is a grantor.
Despite what you may previously have thought, trusts aren't just for millionaires. They're highly useful for helping you minimize death taxes and probate costs. They also limit immediate access to money by beneficiaries you consider too young or impulsive.
Southern Illinois Elder Law will help you assess what type of trust is most suitable for your situation. A revocable trust is one the grantor can change or terminate at any time for any reason. An irrevocable trust cannot be terminated or altered for any reason.
For estate planning purposes, a trust will help you to:
Protect beneficiaries' property
Manage investment assets
Avoid guardianship of the property, and probate for the property owner
Assure privacy in the transfer of property
Better withstand challenges based on a lack of capacity or undue influence than your will alone can defeat
Avoid guardianship and probate requirements that apply to property transfers to incapacitated individuals or minors