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Estate Planning FAQs

Goldstein Law Office Nov. 3, 2023

Planning for the future can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to ensuring the well-being of your loved ones after you're gone. Estate planning is a crucial step towards protecting your assets and providing for your family's financial security. However, navigating the complexities of estate planning can be challenging without professional guidance. 

At Goldstein Law Office in Northbrook, Illinois, I understand the importance of estate planning and its impact on your family's future. With nearly 60 years of legal experience, I’m equipped to assist you in creating a comprehensive estate plan that meets your unique needs. From wills and trusts to powers of attorney, my team is here to provide insightful guidance throughout the entire process. 

1. What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning involves making arrangements for the management and distribution of your assets upon your death or incapacitation. It allows you to designate beneficiaries, appoint guardians for minor children, minimize estate taxes, and ensure that your wishes are carried out according to your intentions. 

2. Why Is an Estate Plan Important?

Having an estate plan in place offers several benefits: 

Asset Protection: An estate plan helps safeguard your assets from unnecessary taxes, creditors, and potential legal disputes. 

Family Security: By designating guardians for minor children or dependents with special needs, you can ensure their care and financial stability. 

Healthcare Decisions: Through advance directives such as a living will or healthcare power of attorney, you can specify your medical preferences and appoint someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. 

Avoiding Probate: Proper estate planning can help streamline the probate process and reduce administrative costs, allowing for a quicker distribution of assets to beneficiaries. 

Privacy: Unlike the public nature of probate proceedings, an estate plan offers privacy in the transfer of assets. 

3. What Should I Consider Before I Start?

Before starting your estate planning journey, it's essential to consider the following factors: 

Family Dynamics: Take into account the relationships between family members and potential conflicts that may arise. 

Assets and Debts: Compile a comprehensive list of your assets, including real estate, investments, bank accounts, and personal property. Also, consider any outstanding debts or liabilities. 

Guardianship: If you have minor children or dependents with special needs, think about who would be best suited to care for them if something were to happen to you.

Healthcare Preferences: Reflect on your preferences regarding medical treatment and end-of-life care. Consider appointing a healthcare proxy who can advocate for your wishes. 

4. What's the Difference Between a Will & Trust? 

A will and a trust are both essential components of an estate plan but serve different purposes: 

Will: A will is a legal document that outlines how your assets should be distributed after your death. It allows you to name beneficiaries, designate guardians for minor children, and specify any other final wishes. 

Trust: A trust is a legal arrangement that holds your assets for the benefit of designated beneficiaries. Unlike a will, a trust can go into effect during your lifetime and continue after your death. Trusts can help minimize estate taxes, avoid probate, and provide ongoing management of assets. 

5. What Happens if I Die Without a Will? 

Dying without a will is known as dying intestate. In such cases, state laws dictate how your assets will be distributed among your heirs. This often results in lengthy court proceedings and may not align with your true intentions. 

6. Is a Hand-Written Will Valid? 

While some states recognize hand-written wills, also known as holographic wills, it's generally advisable to have a properly-executed and witnessed will. A hand-written will may be subject to interpretation or deemed invalid if it fails to meet specific legal requirements. 

7. How Does Probate Work? 

Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person's estate. It involves validating the will, inventorying assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing remaining assets to beneficiaries. The complexity and duration of probate depend on various factors, including the size of the estate and any disputes that may arise. 

8. What Do I Do After the Death of a Family Member?

After the death of a family member, it's crucial to take certain steps: 

Notify relevant parties: Inform financial institutions, insurance companies, and other relevant parties about the death. 

Gather important documents: Locate the deceased person's will, life insurance policies, bank statements, and other essential documents. 

Consult an attorney: Seek legal advice to navigate the probate process and ensure that all necessary legal requirements are met. 

9. What Is a Power of Attorney (POA)?

A power of attorney is a legal document that grants someone else the authority to act on your behalf. There are two types of POAs: 

General POA: Authorizes someone to handle your financial and legal affairs. 

Healthcare POA: Appoints someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.  

10. When Should I Update My Estate Plan?

It's essential to review and update your estate plan regularly, especially after any major life events such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or significant changes in assets. It's also advisable to review your estate plan every few years to ensure that it reflects your current wishes and circumstances. 

Seek Trusted Legal Counsel

I want you to know that navigating the intricacies of estate planning can be daunting, but you're not alone. With nearly six decades of experience in this field, I'm here to take the burden off your shoulders. I'll work closely with you to understand your unique situation and objectives, providing tailored advice and solutions that align with your goals.  

Let's protect the life you've built and ensure your wishes are honored. Reach out to me at Goldstein Law Office, located in Northbrook, Illinois, and let's start this journey together. Your peace of mind is my priority.

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