How to Choose Your Durable Power of Attorney Agent

How to Choose Your Durable Power of Attorney Agent

Completing advance directives is a responsible part of building your estate plan. Not only do you have the opportunity to dictate what matters to you at the end of life, completing certain tasks can give you control over who advocates or speaks for you in cases when you cannot. You are never too young to choose a Power of Attorney for your health or for your financial needs. These designations are crucial to assuring that your wishes are carried out even if you are unable to make them happen.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney form gives you the change to designate an Agent, or person who will make decisions on your behalf when you can no longer do so. You can choose an Agent for financial matters and an Agent for health care matters, and that Agent does not need to be the same for both duties.

There are different types of Power of Attorney documents that determine when the duties begin. Work with your lawyer at Bell & Shah to determine which may be best for your situation.

Choosing Your Agent

Choosing a Power of Attorney Agent is an important decision and one that you should take time in deciding. While many people choose a child or children for the roles, others choose a partner, family member, or trusted friend to complete the duties. In any case, you should be sure that the Agent knows you well, and that you can count on them to make decisions based on your wishes, even when those wishes may differ from their own.

While you can choose to have an Agent that does both financial and health care duties, you may consider splitting the responsibility between two people. If that option works for you, it can give the Agents relief in making every decision along every facet of your life.

Talking to Your Agent

Before you come into the office to declare your Power of Attorney Agent choices, be sure you talk to the potential Agent first. This is a big responsibility and while most people see the role of Agent as an honor, some people can see being named an Agent as overwhelming or stressful. Assure your potential Agent understands the role and then set specific times to talk about your wishes together. While these conversations aren’t always comfortable ones, it is imperative that you get your wishes out there for your Agent to hear and acknowledge.

Are you ready to complete your Power of Attorney forms, or do you have questions about the process? We would love to help; our attorneys have years of experience drawing up estate plans for clients of all ages and situations. Give us a call to get started today.

Reasons to Avoid DIY Wills

Reasons to Avoid DIY Wills

Many people around the country choose to make their own wills. This can be done through online forms, computer software, or with the assistance of books. However, one of the questions you need to ask is whether a do-it-yourself (DIY) will be as effective as one created by an estate planning attorney.

In most cases, the answer is no. While it might seem that any will is better than no will, this isn’t always true. Some DIY wills will not be executed properly. It could be invalid, which leads to the estate being handled as if no will was made, to begin with.

Not Appropriate for Everyone

Many of the products that help you create a will are extremely generic. This is done to ensure that they meet the needs of large numbers of people. The problem is that most estates are far from generic. You might think you have little to add to a will but that may not be accurate.

Everything from real estate to online assets and bank accounts to life insurance should be included in a will. DIY wills might offer the basics of a legal document, but it can be challenging to adapt the will to meet your specific needs.

Lack of Assistance

When you use a book or a website template to create a will, you may not have all the information you need. If you aren’t sure how to fill something out or you don’t understand some aspect of the will, there’s nobody available to help you. Internet research may help but it doesn’t make a substitute for having someone available with a law degree. After all, information on the Internet isn’t always true.

When you work with an estate planning attorney, you have someone to answer questions. They can give you advice and create a will that meets all modern regulations and laws.

Possibility of Challenges

Wills can be contested, whether made by an experienced attorney or through a template. However, the legal challenges are more substantial with a DIY will. If the will becomes invalidated, the people you want to inherit your estate may not receive what you desire.

While you might save money with a DIY will, it could lead to bigger issues. Working with an experienced attorney at Bell & Shah might cost more but it is important to protect your future. Get in touch with an estate lawyer today to get a will started that meets all your needs.

Essential Items to Include in a Will

Essential Items to Include in a Will

Wills are legal documents that outline what happens to all your possessions in the event of your death. Not having a will means those decisions are made by a court. A will ensures you can determine who gets an inheritance as well as who will be the executor of your estate.

State laws may set out requirements for the will which need to be followed. This is why having an experienced attorney help you create one is important. Below are some of the items you should include.

Personal Information

Basic information about yourself must be in the will. This includes your entire name, address, and birthdate. If you go by other aliases, include those too. It’s also useful to name your spouse and family members as well as what relationship you have with each of them.


Testamentary intent must be written in special legal language to state the will is what it is. Something like “This is my last will and testament” can be used but another verbiage is also fine as long as it shows that you intend to pass on the property after death. This sentence of intent is required for a will to be valid.

Beneficiaries and Assets

A large portion of the will is related to what assets are to be directed to who. Real estate, high-value assets, money, and belongings can all be included. The people receiving those things, beneficiaries, can be friends, family members, trusts, businesses, or charities.

Other Information

A will can be used to appoint an executor. This person is who will carry out the requests stated in your will. If nobody is named, someone will need to apply to be a representative or the court will choose someone.

For those with minor children, a guardian can be named for them if you and the other parent are both deceased. Guardians can also be named in some instances for others who are dependents, like senior parents or adult children with disabilities.

Beyond that, the will needs to have your signature and that of two witnesses. Adding a notarized self-proving affidavit is also useful when allowed by the state.

Since wills are legal documents, a lawyer from Bell & Shah should help you ensure yours meets all requirements. When you speak with our attorneys, make sure you bring up the items above and ensure they make it into the final will. This is the best way to ensure things go where you want them to in the event you die.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

You don’t like thinking about your death any more than other people do. However, just because it is an unpleasant subject doesn’t mean it’s something you can avoid. Sometimes, people ignore putting together a will because they think that their children or spouse will automatically inherit property and money.

Sometimes, that might be true. However, when you don’t have a will, it doesn’t mean that your assets will go where you want them to go. One of the things you will certainly end up leaving behind is a lot of stress if you don’t have a will.

What Does the Will Do?

The will is a legal document that has clear instructions on what is supposed to happen to your estate. It includes all of the details on how it needs to be handled if you die or become incapacitated. The will contains your last wishes for what you want to happen with your belongings.

You want to be the one who has control over what happens with your belongings. You don’t want the courts to be in charge.

What If You Don’t Have a Will?

In the state of Illinois, if you die without a will, it is known as dying intestate. The intestacy laws will determine who receives the deceased’s assets if there is not a will in place. In Illinois, this means that they will go to your closest relatives. Types of assets that are included in these laws include property, retirement savings you own, and bank accounts. The laws are specific about what happens to your property when you die without a will.

If this happens, it’s important to know that those who survive you will not have any say. Even if you told someone that you wanted to give them some of your property when you passed away, it won’t happen if it’s not in the will. This can often cause fights between family members and friends.

Create an Estate Plan

The best thing you can do to avoid this type of problem is to get in touch with an attorney and create an estate plan. It’s better to do this sooner rather than later even if you are young and healthy. You never know what tomorrow could bring, so it’s a good idea to make sure you are as prepared as possible. It’s time to get your will and the rest of your estate plan in order. Contact the experienced attorneys at Bell & Shaw Law, LLC today to discuss your situation more fully.

Do You Need a Marital Deduction Trust?

Do You Need a Marital Deduction Trust?

Marital trusts are a type of irrevocable trust. It lets one spouse transfer assets to a surviving spouse without any taxes needing to be paid thanks to the unlimited marital deduction. It can provide benefits that are not transferred outright. Do you need to have one of these trusts? Although you may not need one, you will find that they can be quite beneficial. They are often a good idea, so you will at least want to consider having a martial trust added.

What Does Unlimited Marital Deduction Mean?

This allows the entire estate of the first spouse to die to pass to the surviving spouse. The surviving spouse is the sole beneficiary of the trust. They have the right to withdraw income and principal from the trust. The assets that are placed in the trust are going to avoid probate at the time of the first spouse’s death. Of course, when the second spouse dies, the contents of the trust will need to go through probate, as they will be included in the second spouse’s estate.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Have a Marital Deduction Trust?

You can see that there are certainly some benefits that can come from having one of these sorts of trusts. However, they aren’t as common as they used to be for a couple of reasons.

First, the federal estate tax exemption tends to be quite large. In 2022, for example, you don’t owe any estate taxes unless you have more than $12.06 million worth of assets. Most people won’t have to worry about estate taxes.

If you have a large number of assets, or you are not married to your partner, you may still find that using a trust is a good option. If you live in a start that has state estate taxes, then you might benefit from using a martial trust, as well.

Work with an Estate Planning Attorney

If you are trying to put together an estate plan, you don’t want to do it on your own. There is too much at stake, and it is far too easy to make a mistake. You want to have some help from the experts at Bell & Shah, who can do what’s right for you and your family. Sometimes, this means setting up a marital trust as part of your plan. Other times, there could be different choices that will work better for your estate.

The Steps of Probate

The Steps of Probate

Below, we will be looking at the basics of the steps of probate. To understand the ins and outs of probate further, get in touch with an attorney at Bell & Shah Law.

Step 1: Determine if There Is a Will

When someone dies, the first step is to see whether a will exists and whether it is valid or not. This will determine whether there is an executor or an administrator. If there is a will, then it may name someone as the executor. If there is not a will, there will be an administrator. The administrator is appointed by the court.

Step 2: Gather Information and Begin Duties

The representative of the estate (executor or administrator) will then take possession of the property and ensure it is safe until it is all distributed. Those who take this role have a lot of responsibilities. The person who is named as the executor might be a family member or friend. However, it could also be an attorney.

The representative will ensure that all debts are paid and will locate the Will if one exists. They will collect assets and death benefits, get certified copies of the death certificate, check out safety deposit boxes, manage digital assets, notify the Franchise Tax Board, and notify the Social Security Administration if the decedent was receiving monthly social security benefits.

Step 3. Finding Beneficiaries and Heirs

In addition to the above duties, the representative will also need to find the heirs and beneficiaries. They may be named in the will. If there is not a will or if there are other issues, the representative will have to look for other ways of finding the rightful heirs and beneficiaries. This could be living trust, joint tenancy agreements, etc.

Step 4: Inventorying Property

The representative also has to identify all of the decedent’s property and items mentioned in the will. They will need to take a full inventory, as well, and make sure that everything is there and in order.

Step 5: Transferring the Property to the Right People

Once they know the beneficiaries and the property, they need to make sure that everyone gets what they are supposed to receive. They also need to determine the best way to transfer it to those people.

Talk with an Attorney

If you are looking to put together a will and you want to name an executor, or if you need to know more about what could happen during probate and how to avoid it, talk with an attorney at Bell & Shah Law today!

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