You may think that estate planning using wills and trusts is only necessary for the very wealthy. This is untrue, and families with modest to average incomes and assets also benefit from having a proper will or trust in place. Downers Grove estate planning attorney Mary L. Collins will guide you through all your legal options, and she will draft the necessary documents to plan your future. If you or a family member is disabled, proper estate planning allows you to give medical directions and ensures a gift or inheritance will not prevent you or a loved one from receiving government benefits and services.

What Are Testamentary Wills, Living Wills and Powers of Attorney?
A testamentary will is the type of will that most people are familiar with and understand. A will is a legal document that distributes your property after death. A will may also name a guardian for minor children or disabled adult children. Without a proper will, your money and property will go to your heirs in accordance with state law. Most people prefer to distribute property according to their own wishes and want to name a trusted relative or friend to care for their children – a testamentary will can help you accomplish this.

A living will is also called an Advance Directive in Illinois. This document allows you to make medical decisions ahead of time, so if you become ill to a point where you cannot speak or make your own decisions, your relatives and your doctor will know how to proceed with your medical care. Although most people would rather not think about this subject, having a living will greatly helps families faced with difficult decisions. If you change your mind about your living will later in life, you can change it or revoke it at any time.

A power of attorney allows you to name a trusted person to make both medical and financial decisions in the event you are unable to make decisions on your own. Powers of attorney often accompany a living will.

Different Kinds of Trusts for Different Kinds of Families
A trust is a legal vehicle in which you can place money or property and hold it safe for later distribution to another person, a charity or a company. You retain control of all your property while you are living. You are the initial beneficiary. The person or entity that receives the trust property becomes the beneficiary. A revocable trust, or revocable living trust, distributes your property after death without the assets passing through the probate process. By avoiding probate, beneficiaries may receive the property quickly and easily, as the trustee will carry out the trust’s stated intentions. It also allows you a degree of privacy regarding how things are distributed.

A special needs trust, also called a supplementary needs trust or SSI trust, is created for an adult or child with a disability. Those who qualify for Supplementary Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid must not have income or assets over a certain monetary limit, and receiving an inheritance may make Social Security recipients lose their benefits. However, if you place money or an inheritance in a special needs fund rather than handing it over outright, because the money is in a specially designed trust, it will not affect your loved one’s ability to receive Social Security benefits. A special needs trust can create peace of mind for parents who worry what will happen to their disabled child after they are gone.

This is not a complete list of available estate planning options. Downers Grove estate planning lawyer Mary L. Collins is available for consultations to discern what type of will or trust will best suit your and your family’s unique needs. Contact Mary L. Collins today to set up a consultation and feel confident in knowing you are prepared no matter what the future may hold.