Keeping Living Wills Current

Illinois living will, DuPage County estate planning lawyerliving will is a document decided before death that prescribes the medical attention you choose in the event that you are unable to do so yourself. According to the Illinois General Assembly, the Living Will Act was passed to ensure that every state resident had the fundamental right to control the decisions related to his or her own medical care. This means that these decisions are not left to chance or to family in the event that sickness or other incapacitating factor makes the person unable to decide for himself.

Proponents of living wills say that these are matters of patient rights—physicians are not able to withhold or withdraw death-delaying procedures if a patient has signed a living will. For a living will to be valid, it needs to be signed by the patient (before he or she experienced the debilitating conditions) in the presence of a witness. The death-delaying procedures can include, but are not limited to:

  • Assisted ventilation; or
  • Intravenous feeding or medication; or
  • Blood transfusions; or
  • Artificial kidney treatments.

Determining a living will before a person becomes sick is essential, as discussing a person’s last wishes when he or she is straddled with debilitating disease can be difficult and emotional. According to a recent article in The Guardian, however, a living will can sometimes be a negative thing for physicians. In certain cases, physicians can be backed into providing treatment far after a patient’s body has ceased functioning because he or she signed a living will—which is sometimes decades old.

Extreme medical advances in recent decades allow physicians to keep a person alive far past the point of truly living. In the worst-case scenario, a living will can sometimes require physicians to perform harrowing and terrible procedures in order to honor a person’s wishes—which perhaps he would no longer have chosen for himself. According to The Guardian, 70 percent of an average person’s medical care costs are accumulated in the last six months of his or her life.

Living wills are important for anyone, regardless of medical history or socioeconomic status, because they allow a person to determine what he or she wants for his or her final days. Yet it is imperative that they be updated, reviewed, and revisited often, most beneficially in the presence of a legal professional. If you are ready to draft your living will or interested in learning more, do not go through it alone. Contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney today.


The Role of an Executor

When drawing up a will, one of the most important decisions that need to be made is who will serve as the executor of the estate. The executor is the person who will be in charge of ensuring that your last wishes are carried out.

According to an article in The Huffington Post, there are several things that an executor is responsible for. The very first thing the executor needs to do is to file the will with the court in order to begin probating the estate.

The next step is to locate and take an inventory of all the estate’s assets in order to determine the value of all the assets. An executor is also responsible for paying any bills the estate owes, such as funeral costs or taxes. He or she must also make notifications to any government agencies (such as Social Security or Veterans Administration), banks, credit card companies and the post office that the person has died.

Executors are responsible for locating and notifying all the heirs of the estate. They are responsible for notifying the public that the estate is being probated, usually via legal notices in the newspaper. And if someone comes forward to file a claim to the estate, it falls to the executor to protect the estate against those challenges.

The final duties of the executor are to file final income taxes for the estate and then to disburse all assets to the rightful heirs.

Typically, people name a trusted family member or a close friend as their executor.  Other options are naming a trust company or bank to oversee your estate. Whoever is named executor is entitled to a fee for the work they do for the estate. In Illinois, that fee can range anywhere between 1 and 5 percent of the estate’s value.

There are many important decisions to make when drawing up a will. It’s also important to have an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney working with you to make sure that all your final wishes will be correctly written out in your will.

Potential Tax Hit of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Estate

Philip Seymour Hoffman's will, will, estate plan, update your estate plan, Illinois estate planning lawyer, DuPage County attorneyThe recent death of 46 year-old Philip Seymour Hoffman was a loss felt by the entertainment industry and the talented actor’s large fan base. What might make Hoffman’s death even more tragic is the family he leaves behind, including his three young children and their mother, Mimi O’Donnell.

The actor, who died from a drug overdose, left behind an estate estimated at $35 million. A recent article in Daily Finance reveals that there are several issues with the estate that could prove costly for his heirs – and that could have been easily avoided.

When Hoffman died, he did leave a will. However, that Philip Seymour Hoffman’s will was drawn up in 2004. At the time it was written, he and his partner had one child together, a son. The will left part of the estate to his son, in the form of a trust, and the rest to O’Donnell. In the decade that passed, Hoffman never updated his will. The couple had two more children together but nothing in the will has been changed to reflect that. Neither one of the girls are mentioned in the will.

It’s important to update your estate plan whenever a major life event occurs, such as a birth of a child, a wedding, divorce or a death. Otherwise the legal battles that can ensue between heirs can be very costly, both financially and emotionally.

Another issue could cause the estate to take a heavy hit in taxes. Although Hoffman and O’Donnell had been in a relationship for a long time, they never married. Therefore, the funds left to O’Donnell won’t qualify for the unlimited marital deduction. This deduction allows one spouse to leave the other spouse an unlimited amount of financial assets without the surviving spouse having to pay estate tax on those assets. Because Hoffman and O’Donnell never married, O’Donnell will have to pay an estate tax of 40 percent of what she inherits. Had the two married, approximately $12 million would be going to O’Donnell instead of the IRS.

These oversights in estate planning that Hoffman made are also ones can affect much smaller estates. It’s important to make sure your estate planning is up-to-date and drawn up in the best interest of your heirs, whether your estate is worth $35 million or $3500. Contact a qualified Wheaton estate planning attorney to discuss how you can secure your family’s future.