Estate Planning & Probate

As we grow older, we face a variety of legal issues that we may not want to consider. Planning for retirement is enjoyable—the thought of being free to do whatever we want on our own schedule is appealing. Planning for our own death or incapacitation, on the other hand, is not as appealing; however, it is a necessary part of growing old that we must consider as we seek to protect our families and provide for their future. Protecting assets and providing for your family is an essential part of estate planning in Illinois.

As Illinois elder law attorneys, we can help you determine the estate planning documents you need in order to ensure your wishes are carried out in the event of your death or incapacitation. By taking the time now to plan for the future, you can use estate planning documents to decrease or eliminate estate and transfer taxes, reduce the risk of disagreements between your family members, provide for minors or incapacitated persons, and avoid probate when necessary. In addition to estate planning, elder law attorneys can help you with Medicaid and nursing home planning as well.

The estate planning and elder law attorneys of Franks Gerkin McKenna want to help ensure your final wishes are carried out, your family is protected, and you are protected in the event of an accident or illness that results in your incapacitation. Contact our office by submitting a request online or by calling 815-923-2107 for more information on Illinois estate planning and elder law.

Our attorneys focus on the needs of families and seniors by providing advanced estate planning services that avoid problems before they arise. By providing comprehensive asset preservation and estate planning services, our elder law attorneys can bring peace of mind to you and your loved ones by relieving the stress and worry regarding long-term care, disability planning, and estate planning.

What estate planning documents do I need?

The estate planning documents you need will depend on your goals and your financial situation. Some people require only one or two estate planning documents while other people may need multiple documents to accomplish their goals. When you consult with our elder law and estate planning attorneys, we will begin by asking you three key questions that every well-developed estate plan will answer:

  • Who will have the legal authority to make financial and medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated due to an accident or an illness?
  • Who will care for your children if they are minors at the time of your death or incapacitation?
  • If you are incapacitated or if you die, how can you ensure that your family is provided for financially?

By putting the legal framework in place that answers each of the above questions, you can ensure that your family is provided for and that your wishes are carried out. Our attorneys will tailor an estate plan that specifically meets your needs, personal goals, and unique situation. Without meeting with you and discussing your goals, it is impossible to advise you on what estate planning documents you need. We will discuss some of the most common estate planning documents here:

Last Will and Testament: A will is the most basic estate planning document. It is also the one estate planning document that every adult should have regardless of his or her age, financial, or family situation. Your will specifies the individuals who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes and provides the details of how your property should be distributed upon your death. Without a will, the intestate laws of Illinois will determine who your heirs are and how your property is distributed. Because friends and charities are not considered legal heirs, without a will, your property cannot be distributed to friends or charities even if that was your intent. Furthermore, you cannot provide for your beloved pets unless you do so in your will because intestate laws do not include this provision. A will gives you the power to ensure your final wishes are carried out upon your death.

Living Wills: A living will or a healthcare directive allows you to appoint a specific person to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so. It also allows you to specify your wishes regarding medical treatment in the event of a terminal illness or life-prolonging medical intervention.

Durable Power of Attorney: Your power of attorney has the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf. A “durable” power of attorney continues in the event of incapacitation. Without this estate planning document, a family member or another person must petition the probate court and be appointed as your legal guardian for authority to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.

Trust Agreements: You can choose from many types of trust agreements depending on your goals. Living wills are used to provide for minor children after your death or incapacitation and to avoid probate and estate tax. You may also use trust agreements to protect your assets in the event you qualify for medicaid. Our attorneys can discuss the pros and cons of various types of trusts including irrevocable trusts, revocable trusts, marital trusts, living trusts, and irrevocable trusts.

Pre-Marital and Post Marital Agreements: You can also use these types of documents as part of your estate plan; however, these types of agreements require your spouse’s consent for them to be valid.

Business Succession Plan: If you own or operate a business, you need a business succession plan in place. You should never assume your family wants to continue operating the business. We can help you put a plan in place to either continue the business or liquidate it upon your death.

Providing for Disabled Persons: If a loved one is disabled or incapacitated, there are a variety of estate planning documents you can use to provide for your loved one without jeopardizing benefits before their leaving. Our attorneys can discuss various ways to ensure that your loved one is taken care of if and when you are no longer able to do so.

Reviewing Your Estate Plan

You should periodically review your estate plan documents to ensure they still meet your goals and express your wishes. This is especially important after a life change event, like the birth of a child, the death of a family member, a divorce, marriage, or after acquiring new assets. You should also review your estate plan to determine if changes or revisions are necessary due to periodic changes in state and federal tax laws.

Do you have questions about estate planning and elder law in Illinois?

Contact the elder law attorneys of Franks Gerkin McKenna by calling 815-923-2107 or contact our office online to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys or elder law attorneys. We want to help you and your family put plans into place that will protect your assets and your family in the event of your incapacitation or death. In addition to planning, we represent families in probate court for matters such as trust administration, estate administration, guardianship proceedings, and probate litigation.

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