Preparing an appropriate estate plan is important for any person of any age. The term "estate planning" refers to the creation of wills, trusts and other documents that control the distribution of your assets upon death or incapacity, including the selection of loved ones who will be responsible for overseeing that your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes. In order to avoid lengthy court proceedings in the probate courts and ease the burden on grieving loved ones, everyone – regardless of their net worth – should have an individualized estate plan. Additionally, an estate plan should be updated every five to seven years, or following any major life event, to ensure that your plan comports with your particular wishes and goals as circumstances change and as the law evolves.

Matthew R. Hess will help you understand the various types of estate planning tools that are available to you and create an estate plan that will accomplish your particular goals for the preservation and distribution of your estate.

Estate Planning Documents

The estate planning tools that are normally a part of any estate plan include the following:

Last Will and Testament

The purpose of a will is to set forth who is entitled to your assets after death; who will be responsible for distributing those assets; and who will care for your minor children, if any. Without a will, the above questions are determined by Illinois law in the probate courts. The probate process for intestate estates (that is, estates without a will) is extremely time-consuming and causes inconvenience and hardship to all of those involved. Although wills must pass through probate as well in most cases, the preparation of even a simple will can make life much easier for your loved ones and can ensure that your property is distributed according to your wishes.

Revocable Living Trusts

Also known as “inter vivos” trusts, these have become the cornerstone of most estate plans due to their flexibility and ability to completely avoid the probate process. A living trust is simply a document in which you (the “grantor”) transfer your property to a "trustee" for the benefit of others (the “beneficiaries”). Most frequently, the initial trustee and initial beneficiary is the same person as the grantor - you. Upon the death of the grantor, the trust agreement will determine how property is controlled or divided up without the involvement of the probate court.

Powers of Attorney for Health Care and for Property

Death is not the only catastrophe that can wreak havoc on the lives of you and your loved ones. In the event that you become incapacitated, Powers of Attorney give the person of your choice responsibility for making your health care and financial decisions. They clarify your wishes for loved ones and settle disputes before they arise, and are an essential component of any estate plan.

There are other, more advanced estate planning tools available for more complex estates which you may want to consider, including gift trusts, family limited partnerships, qualified personal residence trusts (QPRT’s), and others. Additionally, it is imperative that physicians and others in high-liability careers safeguard their assets appropriately to ensure that these assets are protected from future litigation claims or other creditors.

Contact Mr. Hess today to discuss which estate planning tools are appropriate for your situation.

Estate Planning Services and Fees

Hess Law Firm charges a flat fee for the creation of most estate plans. The fee may vary depending upon the complexity of the desired plan, but there will never be any surprises. Once presented with the documents that comprise your estate plan, you will be entitled to one set of revisions free of charge before execution. Additionally, Mr. Hess will continue to keep you updated on changes in the law which may affect your estate plan even after your plan has been finalized. Mr. Hess does not believe that the attorney-client relationship ends once a particular job is done. He believes that once you are a client, you are always a client.

Asset Protection Planning

For high net worth individuals and those in high-risk professions, more complex asset protection planning may be necessary in today’s litigious society. Asset protection involves the strategic restructuring of personal and professional assets to protect them in the event that someone files a claim or lawsuit against you.

Whether you are a physician, corporate officer, business owner, real estate owner or entrepreneur, individuals with a high net worth are frequent targets of litigation in today’s society. Hess Law Firm can provide the tools and resources that are necessary to create a plan to restructure your assets to maximize their protection.

Although Hess Law Firm is conveniently located in Naperville, Illinois, just off Route 59 and 83rd Street, in close proximity to the suburbs of Plainfield, Aurora, Woodridge, Bolingbrook, Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Oswego and Downers Grove, we work with clients from the entire Chicagoland area, and throughout Illinois. Furthermore, we will gladly meet with you at your home or other convenient location if you or a loved one is unable to physically come to the office. We welcome you to contact us to learn more or to schedule a consultation.