Estate planning is a process by which a person makes legal arrangements to most efficiently and effectively manage and transfer property both during life and after death according to your goals. Estate planning also involves the minimization of taxes, providing for personal care and property management during periods of incapacity and providing for the custodial care of any minor or adult dependent children.

Dying without any estate plan in place is known as dying “intestate.” This means that in Illinois, if you have over $100,000 in assets, you’ll need to go through a process called probate court. It is an expensive and lengthy process where your assets are distributed based on the judgement of the court. You need to create your own estate plan if you care about how your property is handled and disposed of after your death, or during periods of incapacity.

No. In fact, for most people taxes are well down on the list of concerns. Minimizing taxes is handled in an estate plan, but estate planning is to ensure that you choose where and how your assets are distributed on incapacity or death.

Yes. Joint property is only a portion of what your “estate” is made up of. IRA Accounts, Bank Accounts, Stock Holdings are all a portion of your estate. While holding joint property can be an estate planning tool, it is normally not solid enough to keep your assets out of probate on incapacity or death.

  • Your beneficiaries. Your beneficiaries are the people who will inherit your assets on your incapacity or death. This answer is not simple who and how much they will receive, but also when, how, in what form and subject to what terms and conditions. For instance, many people with children will have the inheritance distributed at intervals, not outright. Consideration should always be given to contingent and successor beneficiaries should any primary beneficiary predecease you.
  • Your fiduciaries. The person(s) or entity that you designate to serve as executor(s), trustee(s), agent(s) and guardian(s). Alternates and successors should be specified whenever possible. Since these are the persons entrusted with carrying out your instructions, these choices are among the most important aspects of an estate plan and should be given ample consideration. If you do not have family members or friends that you would entrust as your trustee, other options are available like attorneys, corporate trustees or financial advisors.

Life’s Plan Incorporated Trusts are a Medicaid planning tool used to maintain Medicaid eligibility and to pay for needs that Medicaid does not cover. Examples of allowable distributions under these trusts are: recreation & leisure activities like vacations and travel, home & grooming maintenance, transportation, medical care not covered by Medicaid, health & life insurance, and education & training.

This is not an exhaustive list, if you would like more information on the types of assets you can and cannot purchase under Medicaid Spend-Down, please see our free resource on Spend-Down Options: LINK TO RESOURCE

Bielski Chapman, Ltd. only engages in trust-based estate plans. This is because a sole will and other a-la-carte documents, such as a Power of Attorney for Property, will not satisfy a secure estate plan and keep you out of probate. Our Basic Estate Plans include:

  • Revocable Living Trust and Pour-Over Will;
  • State-specific Powers of Attorneys for Health and Property;
  • Health Care Directives such as a HIPAA Form and a Living Will;
  • Funding Instructions, Personal Property Memos, and Memorial Instructions.

Yes! Building your estate plan is important for yourself just as it is for your beneficiaries. Upon your incapacity, you’ll be able to choose who takes care of you and implement specific wishes for the fiduciary doing so. You can also leave your inheritance to whomever you please, including charities, family members and friends.

A qualified estate planning attorney can help ensure that your estate plan is structured and implemented to your exact wishes. Estate Plans are difficult to draft and without an attorneys help, can lead to many problems post signing. Do-it-yourself estate planning can cause more problems upon incapacity or death if it is not looked over by an attorney.

To begin with, our plans require a fully completed questionnaire which we provide. An estate planning attorney is going to need basic information and data on you, your family, your beneficiaries, your assets and your desired fiduciaries. To hold our Design Meeting, we will need a fully completed questionnaire. You can find our Confidential Estate Plan Questionnaire here:

Depending on a client’s specific situation, a different type of estate plan may be necessary. For those who may need long term care our firm drafts a Supplemental Needs Trust which ensures you or a family member receives the best care pertaining to their specific wishes.

Another type of estate plan is called a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust which allows the client to remain eligible for Medicaid in the event of a windfall or other unforeseen circumstance that may render them ineligible for Medicaid. Please see our blog for more information on this type of trust:

There are many different types of trusts that our firm can draft, however, it is important to set up a free 15-minute consultation to speak with a case manager or attorney who can better understand your situation and give you the best direction regarding your estate plan.