When people in Illinois die without an estate plan, the state determines what happens to their assets. This can lead to family conflict. Therefore, adult individuals may want to consider creating a will. Several elements must be in place for the will to be considered valid, including being of sound mind and body. The will must be prepared correctly according to state law.
Unfortunately, wills are not immune to challenges. The probate process gives family members the opportunity to challenge it, and for this reason, individuals may want to consider other ways of passing assets. For example, a person might own a home with someone else as a joint ownership with rights of survivorship, meaning that the home will pass to the surviving individual. Retirement accounts and some other types of accounts are passed or can be passed using a beneficiary designation. Gifts prior to a person’s death and a revocable living trust are also ways to pass assets without probate.
If an individual does not die but becomes incapacitated, disputes may arise over finances and medical care. A living will and durable powers of attorney can address this. A living will outlines an individual’s wishes for health care and end-of-life care. Durable powers of attorney can appoint people to make health care and financial decisions on that individual’s behalf.
An attorney can help an individual create an estate plan based on that person’s situation. For example, for some people, a revocable living trust simply might not be practical. The person may have a relatively straightforward estate, and a trust may be too costly. In other circumstances, a trust might be the only way to protect assets for a relative with special needs or a beneficiary who may be irresponsible with money. An attorney may help ensure that the wording in these documents is unambiguous.