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Estate Planning Terms to Know

Goldstein Law Office Dec. 20, 2023

Estate planning is a critical part of securing your family's financial future. It's about making sure your loved ones are taken care of and your wishes are carried out after your passing. But, it's not just about wills and trusts; it involves understanding a whole host of legal terms and processes. 

As an experienced estate planning attorney at Goldstein Law Office, I often see clients struggling with the complex jargon and intricate processes involved in planning their estates. I understand that dealing with these unfamiliar terms can be daunting. But don't worry, I'm here to help. Let's break down these terms one by one so you can approach your estate planning with confidence and peace of mind. 

Why Estate Planning Is Important

Estate planning is not just for the wealthy. It's a crucial process that gives you control over how your assets will be distributed after your death. It's about ensuring your loved ones are provided for and your final wishes are respected. By creating a comprehensive estate plan, you can potentially reduce the tax burden on your beneficiaries and streamline the transfer of your assets. Additionally, estate planning allows you to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. 

Important Terms to Know

When dealing with the estate planning process, it's important to understand the terms you're likely to encounter. These terms can often seem intimidating, but gaining a working understanding of them is essential to ensuring your estate planning process is as smooth and effective as possible. Let's explore these key terms to empower you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your future. 

  • Advance Healthcare Directive: Also known as a living will, this legal document outlines your preferences for medical treatment and appoints someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. 

  • Beneficiary: A person or entity named in a will or trust who is entitled to receive assets or benefits from the estate. 

  • Charitable Trust: A type of trust established to benefit a particular charity or the public rather than a private individual or entity. 

  • Conservatorship: A legal arrangement where a person is appointed to manage the financial affairs and assets of an incapacitated individual. 

  • Contingent Beneficiary: A secondary or backup beneficiary who will receive the benefits from a will, trust, or insurance policy if the primary beneficiary is unable to do so. 

  • Codicil: A legal document that amends, rather than replaces, a previously-executed will. 

  • Decedent: The person who has passed away and whose estate is being administered. 

  • Estate: All the assets, property, and debts left behind by the decedent. 

  • Estate Tax: A tax on your right to transfer property at your death. The value of everything you own or have certain interests in at the time of death is subject to this tax. 

  • Executor: The person named in a will who is responsible for carrying out the instructions in the will and managing the estate during the probate process. 

  • Gift Tax: A tax on the transfer of property by one individual to another while receiving nothing or less than full value in return. 

  • Guardianship: A legal arrangement where a person is appointed to make decisions for a minor or incapacitated adult who is unable to make decisions for themselves. 

  • Heir: A person who is legally entitled to inherit some or all of the estate of another person who has died without leaving a valid will. 

  • Inheritance Tax: A tax paid by a person who inherits money or property from a person who has died. 

  • Intestate: When someone dies without a valid will, they are said to have died intestate. In such cases, state laws determine how the estate will be distributed. 

  • Joint Tenancy: A type of ownership where two or more people own property together. If one owner dies, his or her share automatically goes to the other owner(s). 

  • Living Trust: A trust that's created during a person's lifetime where a person's assets and property are placed within the trust, usually for the purpose of estate planning. 

  • Powers of Attorney: Legal documents that grant someone the authority to make decisions on your behalf, either for financial matters or healthcare decisions. 

  • Probate: The legal process of validating a will and distributing the decedent's assets. 

  • Testator: A person who has made a will or given a legacy. 

  • Trust: A legal arrangement where a person (the grantor) transfers their assets to a trustee who manages and distributes them according to the grantor's instructions. 

  • Trustee: A person or firm that holds and administers property or assets for the benefit of a third party. 

  • Will: A legal document that outlines how a person's assets and property should be distributed after their death. 

Remember, I'm here to help you navigate these complex terms and processes. At Goldstein Law Office, I'm dedicated to making estate planning as straightforward and stress-free as possible for our clients in Antioch, Deerfield, Highland Park, Lake Forest, North Chicago, and Waukegan. Let me guide you through every step of the way. 

Secure Your Family's Future With Goldstein Law Office

Navigating the world of estate planning can be complex, but with the right guidance and understanding of these important terms, it becomes manageable. As an experienced estate planning attorney, I am committed to helping you create a comprehensive estate plan that meets your specific needs and protects your loved ones.  

If you're ready to take the next step in securing your family's future, reach out to me at Goldstein Law Office today. Let's start planning for your estate together. Call now to schedule a free consultation.

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