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What estate planning documents should one consider?

Many Illinois residents may feel overwhelmed when they think about preparing estate plans. It is understandable, as there is a lot involved in doing so. For example, which estate planning documents does one actually need? There are so many to choose from, and depending on one's current situation and future goals only a select few may actually be required.

There are just a few estate planning documents that just about everyone can benefit from having on hand for if or when they are needed. These include wills, trusts, financial power of attorney, medical power of attorney and advance directives, and -- if one has small children or a child with special needs -- guardianship assignment papers. What is the purpose of each of these documents?

A will and/or trust tends to make up the large bulk of any estate plan. However, depending on the types of assets ones has to pass on and if one has any special concerns, one may only need one or the other. The most important part of creating either of these documents is making sure the wording is just right, as failing to do so can have consequences when it comes time to use them.

By granting someone financial and/or health care power of attorney, one is giving that individual the right to make important decisions for one's monetary and/or physical health when one cannot due to incapacitation. Who one names is not a decision that should be made lightly as this is a significant responsibility. It is possible to leave instructions so that one's personal representative has some help in the decision making process. Advance directives, for example, can be filled out so that one can list what medical care one does and does not want to receive.

Finally, guardianship designation. If one has minor children or a child with special needs, making sure someone is there to care for them when one cannot is a must. This can be accomplished by naming a guardian.

While there are various other estate planning documents available, these are some of the most important to have in one's arsenal. Illinois residents can turn to an experienced attorney to help them create estate plans that truly fit their needs. In doing so, one can make sure that oneself, one's family and one's assets are all fully protected in the event of death or incapacitation.

Source: investopedia.com, "6 Estate Planning Must-Haves", Glenn Curtis, Accessed on June 28, 2017

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