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Park Ridge IL Medicaid and Estate Planning Legal Blog

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Is Probate and Estate Administration a Lengthy Process?

In Illinois, experienced estate planning attorneys help residents plan for the inevitable. While nobody wants to think about their mortality, virtually everyone reports that the peace of mind that comes from putting your affairs in order and protecting your loved ones through estate planning far outweighs the discomfort and fear about preparing for their death.

In a nutshell, proper estate planning is a very comprehensive and individualized process that provides for the distribution of your property and the payment of your debts after your death. If you have minor children, your Last Will and Testament (a/k/a your Will) names the guardians who will raise them as well as the trustees you may appoint to handle their financial affairs until a designated point in their adulthood. A Will and/or various trust documents are employed by estate planning lawyers to accomplish your particular wishes.

In addition to Wills and Trusts, estate planning lawyers will prepare powers of attorney, living wills, and durable powers of attorney for healthcare which may come into play in the event of a disability and/or may impact your end-of-life decisions, such as do not resuscitate orders. These documents govern your affairs prior to your death and have no effect after you die.

A power of attorney designates the person you wish to make non-health related decisions on your behalf such as the ability to handle financial transactions like banking and bill-paying. It can be broad or limited in scope. A durable power of attorney for healthcare designates the person you wish to medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. A Living Will outlines your wishes for end-of-life decisions and advanced medical directives or preferred medical treatments if you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill.

Often, the decedent’s assets can pass to intended beneficiaries automatically on death without going through probate. Examples would include assets held in living trusts, joint tenancy accounts (like joint bank accounts), payable on death accounts (like insurance policies and retirement accounts with named beneficiaries), and Stand Alone Retirement Trust accounts. Other assets will go through the probate process.

Although the probate and estate administration process is more time-consuming than assets that pass automatically to beneficiaries and avoid probate, it's in the state’s interest to have estates administered in a timely manner. Because of "the need for closure with respect to matters related to a decedent’s estate," the time within which a party can make either a claim against an estate or a claim questioning the estate plan itself is reasonably limited.

After death, the probate and estate administration process generally runs smoothly if the estate planning process was comprehensive… and no one contests the will.

Will contests don't just happen in the movies. Nothing brings out the worst in families like being cut out of a parent’s Will, receiving less than what you expected or less than your siblings were given, or finding out your parent’s brand-new spouse is getting it all. Such hurt feelings and disappointments may cause someone with standing to hire an attorney to challenge the Will based any number of factors, including the decedent’s mental capacity at the time it was drafted, undue influence upon the decedent, or the propriety of the document’s execution. A skilled estate planning attorney can help you create an estate plan that will withstand virtually any contest and dispose of your assets in accordance with your wishes.

If you need help with the estate planning, or would like to change an existing estate planning document, The Law Office of Thomas J. Hansen can help. Call us at 847-423-8033 to schedule a consultation. From our offices in Park Ridge, we've been serving clients throughout Illinois for over 20 years.

Thomas J. Hansen, LTD. assists clients in Park Ridge, Cook County, IL as well as Niles, Des Plaines, Glenview, Norridge, and Rosemont.

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