What is an estate plan, and do I need one?

For most individuals, the ability to determine how his or her assets will be distributed after death is an essential right that is often left unexercised. Creation of an estate plan will provide such individuals with the ability to direct not only where their assets will go after death, but how those assets will be managed for the benefit of the estate beneficiaries. In addition to providing for the management of the transfer of assets after death, estate plans also include advance directives (i.e., instructions) for the future care of a client who may become physically or mentally incapacitated somewhere down the road. No two estate plans are alike, and the estate planning tools used by attorneys vary across the board, including creating a will, living trust, testamentary trust, special needs trust, power of attorney for health care, power of attorney for property, and many other planning tools.

While each of these planning tools serves an important purpose, not all are recommended for each person. An experienced estate planning attorney will work closely with clients to create a personalized estate plan that serves the unique needs of each client. Despite the varying strategies available to each unique client, however, everyone shares one commonality in that every individual stands to benefit from having a tailored estate plan. This post is the beginning of our 4 Part Series on “Why you need an estate plan.”

Reason #1: To ensure that your wishes will be honored. Absent a will or some other estate planning tool describing how your assets should be distributed upon your death, there is no guarantee that your testamentary (i.e., post death) wishes will be honored. In Illinois, if an individual dies without a will, she is deemed to have died “intestate.” In such an event, her assets will be distributed automatically to her heirs in equal portions, despite any contrary intent. While intestate distribution to one’s heirs may be a satisfactory result for some, many others may wish to leave property to a close friend, a caretaker, a charity, or perhaps may wish to disinherit an heir altogether. A written will or trust agreement will guarantee that your specific desires for the transfer of assets after death will be honored.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of “Why you need an estate plan.”

For more information on creating an estate plan, feel free to contact Nemani Law in Chicago, IL at 312-646-5323.

Please note that the above does not constitute legal advice. Please discuss your specific rights with an attorney in your own jurisdiction.

By Kaitlin Hargate, J.D. & Priti Nemani Connor, Esq.