WGN-TV Show Notes — January 30, 2003

Sept. 11 was a wake up call to many of us. For many it raises the question, what would happen to our estates if we died unexpectedly?

Planning for the future means thinking about the unthinkable. But when your family or wealth expands, it’s time to write a will and create an estate plan.

“Failing to have a plan, unfortunately, takes away the personal decision you have and puts it in the hands of state law and federal law and the result may not be what you want,” says Georgia Loukas Demeros.

The four components of a solid estate plan are a will, a living will, a durable power of attorney for health care, a durable power of attorney for financial matters and perhaps a trust. It’s heavy stuff.

And most people would rather think about anything else.

“It’s stressful. It really brings up all the hot button issues for couples. Money, who’s going to raise your children. Decisions that are not always resolved between two people even if you’re on the same page on a lot of other issues,” says Dena Economou.

The one big mistake people make is thinking you have to be rich to write a will and plan your estate.

“An estate is composed of things you don’t think of. Your house, your couch, your jewelry, you may have grandmother’s china you want to pass down,” Loukas Demeros says.

And when you factor in the value of your home, life insurance policies and retirement accounts, you’re probably worth more than you think. But an estate plan doesn’t have to be expensive.

“Most wills start at $500 and goes up from there.

And what about those software programs and websites that offer do-it-yourself wills? They could be a good place to start, but you’ll want to have an attorney make sure the will says what you think it says.

“Wills out of a box won’t provide the estate tax savings you may get if you sat down with your attorney and crafted a will based on your fingerprint,” Loukas Demeros says.

“It’s easier to make an hour to go to Target than to sit down and do all the big thinking,” says Dena Economou.

But if you don’t make the time, your family will suffer after you’re gone.

To find an estate attorney, call the local bar association. And several local law schools have legal clinics that can help you if you’re short on funds.

The Chicago Legal Clinic
The initial consultation is $30 and if they go forward there is an hourly rate based on a sliding scale.

John Marshall Legal Clinic They only do housing and criminal not estate planning.

Loyola Legal Clinic They do not deal with wills and estate planning.

DePaul Legal Clinic They refer people to the Chicago Legal Clinic.

The Chicago Bar Association They have a program called the “Senior Citizens Will Program.” It offers eligible seniors one free related will consultation with a lawyer and a low cost preparation of a will.

Chicago-Kent’s legal clinic
Professor Feldman charges $75 for an initial consultation for a SIMPLE WILL. His rate is then calculated on a sliding scale, which is based on the income and assets of the person(s) involved in the consultation.

To get a newsletter on estate planning go to www.fagelhaber.com


A will is a legal document that states how your personal and real property should be handled and who will assume guardianship of your minor children after you die. To create a valid, enforcable will, you must sign the document, have it properly witnessed and notarized. If you die intestate, without a will, your assets and property will be distributed according to state law.

A living will is a legal document that tells the world whether you want death-delaying medical treatment in case you are unable to make that decision. To be considered valid, a living will must be signed and properly witnessed and notarized. You should give a copy of your living will to your doctors, your attorney, if you have one and a trusted friend or relative.

Also known as a durable power of attorney, is a document that gives someone the right to act on your behalf. A power of attorney for healthcare designates someone to act as your agent and made medical decisions if you are unable. A power of attorney for financial matters gives someone the ability to pledge, sell or otherwise dispose of your real estate or other personal property without giving you advance notice or seeking your approval. It is possible to limit the term of power of attorney or have the power of attorney begin when you become disabled.

There are two kinds of trusts, revocable and irrevocable. An irrevocable trust means you give away direct control over your assets permanently. An irrevocable trust can help you plan your estate and reduce estate taxes. A revocable trust, also known as a living trust, means you retain direct control over your assets transferring assets into the trust permits a speedy transfer of assets after you die and may allow you to save on probate filing fees. It can also help if you own vacation homes or investment property, businesses or boats in other states.

Jan. 30, 2003.