estate planning

Estate Planning and Bologna

By October 23, 2013No Comments

It’s National Estate Planning Awareness Week, so this article digresses from the Marriage Equality Government March series that began last week. The regularly scheduled program will resume next week. This article is about estate planning sandwich meat, in particular, 3 common servings.

Worried Pumpkin

Photo: Tim & Annette, Argentina

“I have more important things to worry about.”
Colleagues and I often share “war” stories about the one that got away: the potential client who cancelled an appointment and then went on a fabulous vacation. We shake our heads because the scary anecdotes we tell clients about what happens when families fail to plan are not just Halloween pranks, they’re the stuff law students study. Still, no one ever thinks it will happen to them or their families until someone is seriously injured, diagnosed with a catastrophic illness, or dies. Then, because of procrastination, certain wishes may not be possible and what would have been unnecessary legal services will be unavoidable and potentially more expensive.

If you can think of something more important than having genuine peace of mind or maintaining family harmony while you’re going into surgery, do share.

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“I don’t need an estate plan; I don’t have anything.”
In fact, you do have an estate plan. If you’re in Illinois, it’s the one the state created for you in 1975, called the Probate Act. Perhaps you don’t need a will or a revocable living trust, but I’ve yet to meet an adult who doesn’t need powers of attorney. Also, I haven’t met a parent with a minor child who doesn’t need a will. Finally, even if you “don’t have anything,” is it fair to burden loved ones with emotionally challenging decision-making and bills were something to happen to you? For individuals with modest estates, a little life insurance and powers of attorney can go a long way.

Thus, yes, you do have “something.” Chapter 755 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, Act 5, Article 2, Section 1 says so.

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“I can’t afford an estate plan.”
Millions of people in this world go without buying quality items for a long time or ever. The decision-making process is similar to the one used when buying shoes. My elder family members – men and women – always cautioned me about shoe purchases. “You only have one pair of feet to last your entire life,” they warned. So was I going to buy cheap shoes and then pay a ton o cash to the podiatrist or buy good shoes and save a ton o cash in the long-term? Similarly, buying a will in a box or online are reasons why probate courts and lawyers who specialize in probate can end up with a ton o cash and why property goes unclaimed and why families feud.

So, what kind of shoes do you like? Better yet, what kind of shoes do you want your children to buy?

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It’s National Estate Planning Awareness Week; the same week will occur again next year; and most who need to act will not have acted by then. However, if one person does act after reading this article, whether by contacting me or another attorney, then it will be worth it to them and their loved ones; and I will have made one more person proactively aware.

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