Advance Directives, Living Wills, and Healthcare Power of Attorney

Web Admin - Thursday, February 08, 2018
Schaumburg estate planning lawyer advance directivesProper estate planning is essential for every family, and the decisions made during this process will allow you to protect your personal property and financial assets and pass them on to your heirs after your death. But in addition to considering what will happen after you die, it is also a good idea to plan for how medical decisions will be handled for you if you ever become unable to make these decisions for yourself. The documents detailing your instructions in these matters are known as advance directives, and the two most common directives are living wills and healthcare power of attorney.

Living Wills

With a living will, you can inform a doctor or other healthcare provider that you do not want them to use medical procedures which will delay your death if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. A living will only goes into effect if you have an “incurable and irreversible condition [in which] death is imminent” and you are unable to communicate your preferences to your doctor.

Illinois law provides a standard form for living wills, but you may also create your own customized document, including specific instructions about certain situations or medical procedures you do not want your doctor to perform.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

A healthcare power of attorney document allows you to name someone who is authorized to make decisions for you if you cannot make decisions for yourself. You can give this person, known as your agent, broad authority to make decisions, or you can include specific instructions about what types of decisions they can make, what treatments you do and do not want to receive, whether you would like to donate your organs after your death, and how your remains should be disposed of.

Healthcare power of attorney will go into effect as soon as the document is signed, and your agent will continue to have authority to make decisions until your death, unless you include a time limit. If you have both a living will and healthcare power of attorney, decisions about death-delaying treatments will be made by your agent, unless they are unavailable, in which case your doctors will follow the instructions in your living will.

Contact a Schaumburg Estate Planning Lawyer

In addition to healthcare power of attorney and a living will, you may want to consider other advance directives: a mental health treatment preference declaration which will describe what treatments for mental illness you want to receive if you cannot make decisions for yourself, or a do not resuscitate (DNR) order which states that you do not want to be revived if you stop breathing or your heart stops beating.

If you want to know more about how to create the advance directives that will ensure your wishes are carried out correctly if you are incapacitated, the skilled attorneys at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC can answer your questions and work with you to create the documents you need. Contact our Barrington estate planning attorneys at 847-934-6000 to schedule a personalized consultation.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


Estate Tax Changes: Is it Time to Revisit Your Living Trust?

Web Admin - Friday, October 11, 2013

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) introduced “portability” as a permanent law which has many Illinois residents asking about the need for customary trusts. Portability allows a transfer up to $5.25 million in federal tax exceptions to surviving spouses. Previously, a married couple could only make the best use of both spouses’ exception amounts by dividing asset ownership and establishing a credit shelter trust (or an A/B living trust) that initiates after one spouse is deceased. Accordingly, a married couple can pass on $10.5 million to their heirs free from federal estate taxes.

If you have an existing A/B trust plan drafted prior to the estate tax law changes it is most likely based on the Federal Estate Exemption amount, which when it was $650,000, probably worked for a “mid-sized” estate. Now that the exemption is $5.25 million, people need to revisit the funding/formula clause of their A/B trust plan so that there is money present for a surviving spouse. Using portability rules at the federal level can allow a surviving spouse to live off the estate without necessarily the need for A/B planning depending on the size of the estate.

Additionally, a deceased spouse’s estate will not be taxable if less than $5.25 million. A surviving spouse will be required to fill out an IRS Form 706. The United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return will allow the surviving spouse to use the deceased spouse’s tax exemption or it will be lost. This exception is not transferable, but an A/B living trust can take advantage of the exemption amounts for potential transfers to grandchildren.

Though portability simplifies federal estate planning, but not Illinois Estate Tax, the need for traditional trusts is still apparent with the use of a credit shelter trust. There is potential to lose a deceased spouse’s unused exceptions if the surviving spouse remarries. A credit shelter trust with a new spouse can be used to protect this exception before remarriage. Prior to a remarriage, a credit shelter trust may provide asset protection and secure inheritances for children of former marriages and save assets from an heir’s creditors.

Inflation can also effect an exception amount because the portability law is fixed, but again a credit shelter trust can offer a safeguard. Finally, a living trust can avoid the costs and delays of probate that can cause family grief after a family death.

Since portability is here to stay, now would be a good time to revisit your living trust to determine how the portability law effects inheritance distribution. Contact an Illinois estate planning attorney to make sure your assets are accurately dispersed as you intend.

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