Estate Law Essential Estate Planning Tools
In general, estate planning extends your intentions, values, and priorities to future circumstances in which you will not be able to actively participate. The goal is to produce a plan that will strengthen and preserve financial security and order for your loved ones and yourself. Your estate plan may include a will and a trust, or it may just include a will. The Hays Firm can help you draft a comprehensive plan that fits your needs.
What are the advantages of a Will and a Trust?
A will is the written declaration of a person’s intentions as to the disposition of his or her property taking effect at death. A will governs and distributes only “probate property.” It names an executor (the person who will handle the financial affairs of your estate) and can name guardians for minor children, establish a testamentary trust, and waive expensive surety bond costs. A will is enforceable only at death and not before. Until one’s death, one's will may be amended or revoked. A will must be signed by the “testator” and signed by 2 witnesses who are not named in the will.
A will by itself does not permit one to “avoid probate” However, a will is beneficial in that it lessens administrative probate problems and costs, such as waiving the need for a surety bond for the executor. A will also specifically directs payment of certain debts and taxes. A will further provides for special payment from the estate through the creation of a testamentary trust. A will can provide appropriately for any special family situations and needs or even disinherit a family member. The biggest benefit of a will is that it reduces the potential for intra-family conflict because you are making a final statement to your family and give your life’s testimonial.
A trust is an agreement with respect to the management of assets. One person, “the trustee”, holds property for the benefit of another, “the beneficiary”. The person who creates the trust is called the "settlor" or the "trustor" or the "creator". Trusts are often utilized to avoid probate. Trusts can facilitate the division of property ownership among different owners, now and in the future. More importantly, certain trusts may be used to keep money out of the hands of creditors. Many people also use trusts to maximize annual tax exclusions for gifts and as an asset management tool. Often, a trustee can better manage the money than the beneficiaries or the creator.
Estate Planning Services provided by Hays Firm
- Consultation about estate planning goals
- Review of previously executed estate plan
- Amendments to previously executed estate plans
- Creation of estate plans including wills, trusts and power of attorney documents.
- Proper execution of estate plan documents
- Periodic review of estate plan documents
- Guidance and advice for current trustees and agents
If you or a loved one has been named as an executor or trustee, and have questions regarding your obligations and duties, please contact the attorneys at Hays Firm LLC to discuss how we can help. To contact our experienced Chicago estate attorneys, contact the firm by calling (312) 626-2537 or via e-mail.