When you create an estate plan, you use various legal devices to decide what will happen to you and your assets when you pass away or become incapacitated. The consequences of failing to create an enforceable estate plan can be immense. Many people find estate planning uncomfortable, but it is well worth the effort.
At Greenwood Law, we aim to offer quality, customized guidance to individuals who are looking to prepare for the future. If you are new to the process, our experienced Rock Island estate planning lawyer can review all available options and help you understand how they can be used to achieve your unique goals. We can also help make changes to existing estate planning documents. Getting you peace of mind is our main objective, and we will be here for you whenever you have questions or concerns about your plan.
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Someone must inherit your property after you pass away, and estate planning allows you to decide who will get what. If there is no will, trust, or distributive instrument which clearly defines how assets are to be divided upon death, your state’s intestacy statute will govern the distribution of assets. In other words, the state decides for you. In most cases, your assets will be divided amongst your closest surviving relatives, but the specifics of these rules vary from state to state. Not all states recognize common law marriages, for example, which can become crucial in intestate succession. Estate planning is designed to take these complicated laws and fix the distributive scheme you desire.
Understanding Estate Planning Tools
When the subject of estate planning comes up, many people think about their will. Though the will is an important and necessary document, it should only serve as the start of your estate plan. Wills are public documents whose content is subject to probate. Having a will is better than having no estate plan at all, but you will likely be better served if you implement additional instruments.
Our Rock Island estate planning attorney can assist you with:
- Trusts. A trust is a powerful arrangement that can be customized to suit your specific needs. A revocable living trust is similar to a will and can be used to quickly transfer assets to heirs. Property placed in trusts is not subject to probate and thus skips the process entirely. Irrevocable trusts cannot be changed once implemented but are used for other purposes, such as limiting the impact of estate taxes.
- Powers of Attorney. To prepare for the possibility of incapacity, you should consider using a power of attorney document to authorize another person to act on your behalf. You can dictate that your agent’s powers will only activate should you become unable to communicate, and you determine the scope of their abilities.
- Advance Directives. If you have specific preferences for the types of medical care you wish to receive or not receive in the event you become incapacitated, you can define them in your advance directive. Your agent with powers of attorney will typically rely on the instructions in your advance directive to advocate for you.
When You Should Update Your Estate Plan
Estate plans should always reflect your current wishes, which will more than likely change as you grow older. It is in your best interest to go over your documents every few years, even if you are confident no updates are necessary. You should look over your estate plan as soon as possible if you experience a major life event.
Major life events include:
- Having a child
- Getting married or divorced
- A significant change in financial circumstances
- Developing a serious injury or illness
- Moving to a new state
Our team at Greenwood Law is prepared to support your estate planning efforts throughout your lifetime. Our Rock Island estate planning lawyer can help you conduct regular reviews of your instruments and recommend changes as your life evolves.