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"I need a will."

This is often what clients say when they are contemplating how to best take care of their families and their possessions after they pass away.

Following the client's initial declaration I usually ask some follow up questions to determine what specifically the client needs. However, after a few questions, most clients exclaim that all they need is a simple will and that any other work will not be necessary.

Given the frequency with which this conversation occurs there appears to be a general misunderstanding as to what a will can and cannot accomplish.

A will can do several important things following one's death:

  • Direct how some of their possessions will be distributed;

  • Direct who will care for their children; and

  • Direct who will finalize their affairs.

There are, however, several things that a will cannot do:

  • Direct how other possessions will be distributed;

o IRAs, jointly held property, and life insurance are a few examples of property that are not covered by a will;

  • Hold property for those who are not yet ready for the responsibility;

o Trusts can be created to manage property for children, those with special needs, pets, etc.;

  • Hold property in a way that minimizes estate taxes;

  • Direct who is to make decisions regarding property while a client is still alive but unable to make their own decisions; or

o A Power of Attorney for Property can provide for surrogates to make decisions;

  • Direct who is to make healthcare decisions for a client while the client is still alive but unable to make their own decisions;

o A Power of Attorney for Healthcare can accomplish this.

For these reasons a will is an important part of a comprehensive estate plan, but not necessarily the only part of an estate plan.

Contact the Wills, Estate, and trusts Lawyers in La Grange, Illinois at Larson & Greenberg Law Group, for a free consultation about your specific estate planning needs.

Published by Mike Darcy, Attorney at Law - Larson & Greenberg Law Group, LLC