There’s a lot of information out there, including many websites that say you can get an estate plan online. The challenge is knowing how to fit all of that information into your own unique situation. So, here are five things we think you should know about estate planning if you are looking into getting documents prepared…
- Be wary of online wills. Every person and family is different, and those differences can affect and dictate how your estate plan is written. We always suggest using an experienced attorney rather than a website when it comes to something as important as this. That said, you certainly can use the internet to do your research, which will help you make the most of your meetings with your attorney and know what questions to ask.
- Find a focused attorney. There are hundreds of attorneys to choose from. Don’t have your workers’ compensation attorney write up your will just because you already know them (unless it happens to be something they have significant experience with). If you are going to hire an attorney, it makes sense to hire someone who has as much relevant legal knowledge as possible. This usually means that they focus on one or two areas of law.
- You might need more than just a will. The reason it’s called an estate plan is because it’s a set of documents that work together. A will is important, but there are other instruments that do things a will cannot. A power of attorney is one. There are actually two – one for finances and one for health care decisions. Both are good to have. You might also consider a trust to make property transfer easier upon your death or if you have concerns about privacy.
- What happens if you don’t have a will. If you don’t create an inheritance plan, then one will be created for you. The law imposes a generic plan on anyone who dies without a will. It’s called dying “intestate.” In Illinois, your assets go to your spouse and children. This might seem good enough, but the law gives half of your estate to your spouse and half to your children; many people prefer to have their entire estate go to their spouse, especially if their children are young. A will can set it up exactly how you want it.
- It’s a work in progress. An outdated estate plan can be as much trouble as having no estate plan at all. You and your lawyer should review your documents periodically. Some important times to review are when there has been a change in marital status, additions to your family or assets, or a change in the law.
There’s more to know, but that’s a start. Don’t hesitate to get an estate plan because you feel like it’s an unknown. A good attorney will not only draft you a solid plan, but he or she will explain everything in a way that makes sense.