When most people think of estate planning, they think of older people, or individuals who are extremely wealthy. They very rarely think about estate planning for younger, more ordinary individuals unless the person leads a very risky lifestyle or there is a serious illness involved. Unfortunately, the misconception that only the old, rich, or sick need an estate plan can leave Americans with no control over their medical care, their assets, or their children when the time comes.
Additionally, nobody really wants to think about planning their estate because doing so forces them to think about the worst case scenario with their health, or simply no longer being here. It can be especially difficult to consider those things when you are young and healthy and just beginning to build your life. The thought of an estate plan, therefore, frequently gets placed upon a shelf to gather dust and forgotten until something serious happens. Unfortunately, when something serious does happen, it is oftentimes too late.
Without an adequate estate plan, your estate will go into probate. This means that a probate court will get to decide what happens to your assets (you car, your house, your DVD collection) as well as any minor children in your care. That’s right, the court will decide who will take care of your kids. Probate is not only very public and frustrating for your survivors, it can take years to become resolved, which can make your death even more devastating to your loved ones.
Additionally, if you become incapacitated and unable to make your own medical decisions, or you are unable to make financial decisions, pay your bills, or make decisions for your business, without an adequate estate plan, who will take care of that? In the event of a sudden serious illness or severe accident, you will have no control over these decisions. The result will be a long drawn out guardianship proceeding in probate court that can be very costly.
It is important to realize that you are no longer the guardian of your children once they attain the age of 18. If you have adult children that have graduated from high school, attending college or have recently entered the working world, they may not feel they have the need to do a will or a trust but you should speak to them about having powers of attorney for health care and property in case of an unforeseen illness or injury. Having these documents prepared will avoid the need for parents to go through the costly and lengthy process of being appointed guardian for a disabled adult child.
While consumers can download the paperwork online and create their will, this is not a good option. In many situations, doing so is simply a waste of time and money because these documents might not be completed properly or they might not contain the required information to carry out your plan. The best choice for Illinois residents to create a comprehensive estate plan is to contact an experienced estate planning attorney who is familiar with the laws in the state.