Senior making personal asset protection decision

Do I Really Need a Will or Trust for Personal Asset Protection?


Despite what many people think, Illinois law does not require anyone to have a will or trust. There are laws on the books that direct who will raise your minor children if you are unable to and who receives your assets when you die. You really just need to ask yourself whether you are confident having the State of Illinois make these important decisions for you and your loved ones.

There is also the issue of who will make decisions for you while you are still alive but are incapacitated in some way such as in a coma or suffering from dementia or other mental impairment. These conditions can occur at any time, often without warning, such as the result of an auto accident. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a plan in place so when the unexpected happens, there is a trusted relative or friend who knows your wishes and has the legal authority to act on your behalf and in your best interests?

Nobody really wants to think about end of life decisions, but failure to do so almost always causes great stress, not to mention substantial expense to the people left behind. This is in addition to the normal grieving they will surely experience when faced with losing a loved one. The good news is you have the power to spare your family this pain and expense by taking the time to meet with an experienced Estate Planning Attorney to discuss personal asset protection.

Wills & Powers of Attorney

For many people, a simple Last Will and Testament coupled with Durable Powers of Attorney for Healthcare and Property will provide peace of mind and ensure your wishes are followed. The Last Will dictates specifically who receives your property when you die and can include virtually any division you can think of if there are more than one recipient. It can also specify who will raise your minor children and the manner you want them raised from an education, religious, geographic or any other standpoint. The Healthcare Power of Attorney allows you to name someone else to act in your name and on your behalf to speak with your treating physicians and make crucial medical decisions, including end of life choices, in accordance with your wishes. The Property Power of Attorney allows you to name someone who will pay your bills when you can’t and manage all your assets in your best interest and the best interests of your heirs.

Living Trusts

Many people mistakenly believe a Living Trust is only for the very wealthy. While that may have been true many years ago, changes in the laws have made it an attractive choice for people of all income levels who own real estate and desire personal asset protection. With a Living Trust, the trust becomes the legal owner of record over any property you transfer into it. You are the grantor or creator of the trust and the initial trustee and beneficiary. The key is the trust continues on after you die and successor trustee(s) can continue to manage all the assets of the trust or, if you so direct, can immediately sell and distribute the assets according to your plan without court involvement or additional expense and with complete privacy.

With a Living Trust you still make all the same decisions about the trust assets you are currently making and can amend or revoke the trust any time you wish. The trust only becomes irrevocable when you die. One of the greatest benefits of having a Living Trust is your successor trustee can sell your home and any other real estate you own immediately upon your death without court involvement and in compete privacy so long as it is done in the best interests of your beneficiaries.

If you only have a will or die without a will, before your real estate can be sold your family will need to retain an attorney to file a petition with the Probate Division of the Circuit Court and in most cases, obtain permission from the judge before taking any action. Probate cases can take more than a year to complete and the total associated cost can easily exceed $10,000 to $20,000 when you consider your family still has to pay the mortgage, utility bills, insurance premiums and all other expenses until the court gives permission to sell the property. In addition, because probate is a matter of public record, anyone can learn who your beneficiaries are and what they have inherited from you.

No two people or families are the same but they all share one thing in common, the need for personal asset protection. For this reason, Costello Legal Services will develop a personalized estate plan for each client to address their specific needs. The whole process can be completed in as little as two weeks for a fraction of the cost associated with probate. Please consider contacting us for a complimentary consultation. You and your family will be glad you did!

Costello Legal Services, Ltd.


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