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Having an estate plan helps you manage your assets.

What is an estate plan?

An estate plan is a prepared statement that explains how you want your assets to be divided after your death. Often it covers personal possessions, real estate, and businesses.


What is included in an estate plan?

While an estate plan can be created to provide for any needs you might have, a typical estate plan includes four separate documents: 

  1. Will
  2. Trust
  3. Power of Attorney for Property
  4. Power of Attorney for Health Care

The Will, Trust, and Power of Attorney for Property cover the main bulk of assets that a person might have, from jewelry to pieces of real estate. The Power of Attorney for Health Care deals with medical issues, such as end of life care situations and who is in charge of following through on those decisions.

What is the difference between a will and a trust?

A will is a legal document that, by law, is required to be filed with Illinois whenever someone dies. If someone dies without a will, Illinois has a pre-determined system to distribute a deceased person’s assets. The system is based on whether the deceased was married, had children, or what other close family members are still living. Illinois’ system can be avoided if a family member steps forward, even if no will was created during the deceased person’s life.

A trust is also a legal document, and is completely optional to have. Trusts are never required to be filed with the state, so they provide a more private way to transfer assets. Trusts, because they are not required to be filed with Illinois, allow for a quicker distribution of assets. This can often help the healing process to go quicker as well. 

Both wills and trusts provide the opportunity to explain how assets should be divided up, and to whom.

If an individual has both a will and a trust, it is common for the will to leave all assets into the trust. This option fulfills Illinois' legal requirement of having a will, and provides privacy for how an estate is divided, unique to a trust.

Specific Situations

I've got a young family. Why do I need a will?

My parents are getting older and I want to make sure everything is taken care of. What should I do?