Estates and Trusts

Save your family the pain of fighting amongst themselves in their moment of grief.

You can save a lot of money, potential chaos and hard feelings between those closest to you by preplanning how you want your assets managed should you become unable to manage them yourself, and how your property will be divided at your death.

Powers of Attorney

In Illinois, you can sign a power of attorney to appoint someone to handle your assets if you become incapacitated. At a minimum, a power of attorney should include the power to:

  • Manage and transfer all assets
  • Deal with the IRS
  • Make gifts on your behalf
  • Create and amend any trusts you set up

You don’t need to transfer any assets at the time you sign a power of attorney, but it’s a good idea to keep the person you’ve chosen informed about your ongoing financial matters.

You can also appoint a Power of Attorney for Health Care to make health care decisions for you when you’re unable to do so yourself. This person can provide informed consent for treatment, or even refuse treatment for you.

Dying Without A Will

If you die without a will (known as dying “intestate“) in Illinois, your assets will be divided amongst your immediate family. If you have a spouse and at least one child, one-half of your estate will be given to your spouse and one-half to your children (to be shared equally among them). If you have a spouse but no children, your entire estate will go to your spouse.

If you have no spouse or children, your estate will go equally to your parents and siblings. If you have no spouse, siblings or parents, your estate will pass to any descendants of your grandparents, such as aunts, uncles, cousins and other next-of-kin.

Alternatives To A Will

There are many ways to transfer assets outside of a will in Illinois, including:

  • Life insurance policies or trusts
  • Gifting cash or other assets before your death
  • “Payable On Death” (“POD”) bank accounts
  • Holding assets by joint tenancy with right of survivorship (“JTROS“), with the assets transferring automatically to the other joint tenant at the time of death
  • Retirement plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (“IRAs“)
  • Revocable living trusts,” giving all your assets to a trustee for management before your death

Making A Will

In Illinois, you can make a valid will if you are at least 18 years old and of sound mind and memory. The will must be in writing and signed in front of two witnesses who aren’t beneficiaries of the will.

An Illinois lawyer who does a lot of estate planning can explain the consequences of some of the most basic choices you must make, such as whether property you want to leave to your minor children should be put into a trust at your death. For that reason, it makes sense to consult with an Illinois estate planning lawyer and have him or her draft your will, so that you don’t make costly mistakes or accidentally not accomplish what you intended.

Providing For Young Children

There are many kinds of trusts, but the most common is one you would set up for your minor children or incapacitated adult relatives for their care after you are gone and until they are old enough or well enough to take care of themselves. A parent can name a trustee to be in control of the finances and decide whether to sell or keep property, and manage assets such as real estate. The trustee, usually a family member or trusted friend, can be paid an hourly rate or a set monthly amount for their services out of the trust assets.

You’ll probably also want to name a guardian for your children. This is someone who would have physical custody of and take care of your children on a daily basis should you or your spouse be unable to do so.


Probate” is the public process of:

  • Filing and validating a will in court
  • Paying all the debts and taxes of the deceased person
  • Dividing up the assets according to the will or Illinois law

Illinois has an independent administration process for all estates, no matter how much property is involved. This allows for more privacy, because it’s not usually necessary to file property inventories or financial accountings. The probate court is only involved for the opening and closing of the estate.

Illinois probate lawyers generally charge by the hour, and make sure everything gets processed according to the law.