Estate Planning 101: What’s the Difference Between a Will and an Estate Plan?

  • Estate Planning
Estate Planning 101: What's the Difference Between a Will and an Estate Plan?

Many people use the terms “will” and “estate plan” interchangeably, but in fact, they are very different. A will is a legal document that lays out your final wishes regarding your property and assets. It names benefactors for each or all of your assets, and it names those you want to care for your minor children.

An estate plan is several documents that can include a will, but also a health care directive, medical directive, durable power of attorney and other documents that outline your wishes for when you become ill or pass away.

The difference between a will and an estate plan is that while a will is a single document, and an estate plan includes all legal documents to protect your heirs and assets while you are still alive, if you become seriously ill or incapacitated and after your death.

What Is Included In An Estate Plan?

Every person has unique requirements, but here are some basics things an estate plan may include:

  • A simple will or one that addresses a more complex estate with significant assets and property
  • Guardianships and conservatorships, where your will includes the naming of a guardian if you have children, and a conservator for incapacitated adults in your care
  • A trust that lets you manage assets while you are still alive, thus sidestepping the probate process
  • The appointment of an agent under a durable power of attorney — a trusted person who will take care of your legal, health and financial responsibilities if you are mentally incapable
  • A health care agent who will make decisions about your medical treatment if you are incapable of doing so
  • A health care directive that includes instructions on what to do if you may be near death or suffer from a terminal illness

Having an estate plan does cover more than a will, and it is something an attorney can customize to your specific needs.

You still need an estate plan, even if you have no minor children or heirs. You want to establish a medical directive if you become incapacitated and take care of others when you pass away.

DuPage County Estate Planning Attorney

An experienced estate planning lawyer can advise you on the best options to meet our specific needs and to help you create legal instructions if you become ill. To talk to a qualified attorney in Chicago or Lombard, contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group at 630-864-5835

We serve Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties.