Estate Planning Lingo

It’s never too early to think about estate planning, no matter what anyone may tell you. Make your first call to a qualified estate attorney to make sure your wishes are observed later.

When it comes to estate planning, there is a lot of lingo of which many people aren’t familiar; for instance, power of attorney, living will, and last will and testament. What do these things really mean in the greater scheme of making your last wishes known?

If you speak to an estate lawyer, you will discover that these particular documents are critical to making sure your assets are properly distributed, not only according to the law, but that your legal interests are protected as well. It goes without saying that you would also like your assets apportioned the way “you” want them to be and not at the whim of another.

In general, a will is a document that outlines how you want your assets distributed when you die. It’s funny, but the number one myth many people have about wills is that you have to tell the lawyer drafting the will all your personal financial information, where it is, how to access it, and how much you have on hand. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The only thing you need to worry about when writing a will is to whom you want your assets to go, what percentages each should receive, and the distribution of special items, e.g. a much loved painting, car, horse or home. That’s it in a nutshell, aside from the legal drama within the four corners of the document itself, meaning the legal jargon that is necessary for the will to meet the legal requirements of the state in which you live.

You will, of course, need to name an executor/executrix to handle the estate affairs once you pass on. Choose well and ask the person’s permission, as this is a very significant job in some instances. The executor figures out all the estate’s assets and liabilities, pays bills, distributes assets according to the will, and in general takes care of the hundreds of other nitpicking details to finalize an estate.

If your will calls for money to be left to a minor, you will also need to name a Trustee. Again, ask the person you want to if it’s ok with them if you do this. Your legal counsel will outline all these details for you when you are drafting your will. If you have a living will, that is another thing and relates to medical treatment, not the disposition of assets.

Primarily a living will tells your loved ones what you wish to do should you be permanently disabled with no hope of recovery. Usually this refers to a coma or a permanent vegetative state. In some states two doctors must certify there is no hope of recovery. Ask your estate lawyer which law applies in your state.

Patrick Warwick is the lead content contributor for Chicago Bankruptcy firm, The Law Office of Jay F. Fortier, P.C.. To speak with a Chicago bankruptcy lawyer or to learn more about creditor rights, Chicago bankruptcy, Chicago bankruptcy lawyer, Chicago bankruptcy attorney, visit