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When considering all that is entailed in planning your estate, one of the most important decisions you may make is whether or not to include a power of attorney for healthcare. Choosing a spouse, family member or close friend to be your advocate when it comes to your care, the choice of medications, or end-of-life decisions should you become incapacitated, is arguably one of the most important part of your estate planning.

It is important to note two different estate planning tools that involve healthcare. Where a living will is an advance directive that spells out your preferences for end-of-life treatments and the kind of care you do or do not agree to, a power of attorney entrusts a loved one with responsibilities to ensure that your wishes are honored.

Power of attorney under Illinois law

In Illinois, a statutory short form power of attorney for health care empowers the health care agent with decisions concerning health care of the principal. Should your physician determine that you are incapacitated, your health care agent will talk with your caregivers about your condition or treatment, will have access to your medical records and can grant permission to others to see them.

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When someone trusts you to handle their estate, you may feel both completely honored to be chosen — but watch out. While the process of handling an estate from start to finish usually goes smoothly, the job can be somewhat overwhelming if you aren't prepared.

Here are the problems nobody realizes that an executor can face (unless they've been down that road before):

  • Heirs with sticky fingers: Part of the executor's job is making sure that the deceased's assets are all collected and secured before they're disbursed. If you're too trusting, however, one or more of the heirs may decide to help themselves to mom's jewelry or dad's antique watches. If valuables go missing, you may be held to account for them.
  • Heirs that are disagreeable: You're only doing whatever the deceased wished, so you might believe that the heirs will respond accordingly. Most will — but some may accuse you of playing favorites or something equally unpleasant. Others may demand that you fork over their inheritance right away, and get angry when you say that you can't.
  • Personal liabilities: If you don't handle the estate properly, you can end up on the hook for things like unpaid taxes that are due or other out-of-pocket expenses that are hard to recoup.
  • Stress and strain: Handling an estate can be very time-consuming. There are usually multiple organizations — everything from the Social Security Administration to credit card companies — that have to be contacted. Forms have to be completed. Court filings have to be made. All of that can be very stressful for the executor.

You don't have to handle the job on your own, however. Executors frequently turn to experienced attorneys for assistance with the probate process. If you're feeling the pressure due to someone's estate, it may be something to consider.

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When you start having issues with credit card debt, they can start to feel like a scam. Say you can't afford to pay off the entire balance. The fees are large enough that just paying them off is all you can manage the next month. This process repeats itself over and over until you realize that you've been paying for months without actually making any headway.

Certainly, there are credit card scams. People may try to give you fraudulent cards, they may steal your identity, or they may sign up for cards in your name. These scams do exist and you need to know what to watch out for.

On the whole, though, the idea of credit cards is not a scam in and of itself. In the example above, you're just experiencing the strict penalties that go along with failing to pay the minimum balance. That's not a scam, as you were told how it worked at the beginning.

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When you're considering setting up trusts, something you may want to consider is an irrevocable trust. Irrevocable trusts have a few benefits that you may not see with others.

Why? When you create an irrevocable trust, you're taking assets out of your hands. That means that you can:

  • Protect your assets against creditors if you die with debt
  • Assign assets to specific children, family members or friends
  • Save money on your tax bill by limiting the value of your estate

There are many different kinds of irrevocable trusts, which is why it's a good idea to talk to your attorney about creating one if you're interested. Some possible kinds of irrevocable trusts to consider include:

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When you realized that you weren't going to be able to catch up on your bills, it upset you a lot. You felt like you were a failure and that you would always be struggling with debt.

You should know that most people go through a situation like yours at one time or another. Whether it's because of a medical emergency, a lost job or another problem, financial issues can be a result. There is no shame in needing help, and bankruptcy is one option that you can pursue.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a type of bankruptcy that allows you to eliminate the majority of unsecured debts, like credit card debts or medical bills. In exchange, you may need to give up (or liquidate) some of your assets. You won't always have to give up items in your possession, however, depending on the exemptions you can use and what you own.

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