Currently, the Illinois Probate Act provides that decedent’s having $100,000 of assets in their name individually, or real estate must probate their estate. While there are some alternatives, such as a bond in lieu of probate for real estate, probate can be costly, and for most people, can be avoided by getting a simple estate plan in place. Clearly, the most important reason to get a Will or Revocable Trust in place is to make sure that upon your passing your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes. If you pass without a Last Will and Testament, this is called intestate, and the Illinois Probate Act specifies how your estate will be distributed. We also prepare Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Property. A Power of Attorney for Health Care enables you to name an agent (and a successor if the agent is unable to act) to make your health care decisions consistent with your stated wishes in the event you are unable to. A new statute went into effect in July of 2011 that made some important changes to the statutory Power of Attorney for Health Care, including a HIPAA authorization, and as a result, if you have a power of attorney that prior to this date, it may be desirable to update your estate plan. The statutory Power of Attorney for Property is another important document that can save considerable legal fees and costs by enabling your agent to handle your property without the need for a court proceeding to have a guardian appointed for you. Another option relating to real estate is a Transfer on Death Instrument, which essentially allows you to beneficiary designate real estate that you own, again allowing your estate to be distributed without the expense and delay of probate. The current estate tax laws both at the state and federal levels are not a concern for the vast majority of Illinois residents, however, our firm has extensive experience in planning to minimize or eliminate such “death taxes” where needed.