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Principled Advocacy For Families And Individuals With Disabilities And The Professionals Who Serve Them

Common estate planning tools and how to use them

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2020 | Estate Planning

You know you need a will. You may have even spent quite a bit of time thinking about how you want to divide your assets among your family members. Until you make one, though, Illinois intestate succession laws dictate who receives your assets after your death. 

To avoid leaving your decisions to others, consider these elements of an effective estate plan. 

Advance directives 

Not all estate planning tools are specifically for the end of your life. Advance directives are instructions you provide to your family and others in case you are unable to personally communicate them. A car accident that leaves you in a coma, a stroke or a degenerative disease may keep you from speaking out on your own behalf. The following documents include your express wishes: 

  • Health care power of attorney 
  • Living will 
  • Mental health treatment preference declaration 
  • Do-not-resuscitate 

In addition to instructions for the decisions you anticipate, you authorize someone you trust to become your agent. When your advance directives do not provide the answers, your health care providers will speak to your agent about your treatment options, and he or she will make informed decisions for you. 


If you have significant assets or your heirs are not in a situation where they can handle their inheritance, you may want to set up a trust and place the assets in it. A trustee then becomes the manager of your estate, and he or she distributes income or pays the bills for those beneficiaries you name. 


If you have already placed your assets in a trust, you may wonder why you would still need a will. No matter what, you should have this document. It can name the guardian for your minor children and can either identify beneficiaries or designate the trust as beneficiary. 

A will stating that your trust receives the estate upon your death is a pour-over will. This can ensure that you do not accidentally overlook an asset and inadvertently subject it to intestate succession laws.