Review of Estate Planning Basics

In the state of Illinois, you need to be at least 18 years of age to make a valid will.  You also need to be of sound mind and memory.  The will must be in writing and must be witnessed by at least two people who cannot also be beneficiaries.  A will allows you to distribute property, select a guardian for any minor children and name an executor.  The executor oversees the process of moving your will through probate and distributing your property.  Changes in your life that should bring about a review of your will include marriage, divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, new property ownership or relocating to another state. Changes to an existing will are known as codicils.

The most significant decision made in any estate planning instrument is usually whether property you want to leave should be put into a trust, before (or after) your death.  Most people want to avoid dying without a will, which is known as dying intestate. In Illinois, this means your assets will be divided equally among your immediate family.  For example, if you have a surviving spouse and only one child, each will be given 50% of your remaining assets.  Since this statutory distribution is not always what one intended, a consultation with an attorney to make sure your wishes are followed is highly recommended.


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