Trusts & Estates Law
WHAT IS TRUSTS & ESTATES LAW?
What a person acquires during his or her lifetime - both real estate and personal property - makes up that person's estate. The estate lawyer's role is to help their client arrange his or her financial affairs so that, upon the client's death, the client's assets are distributed exactly as he or she wishes and the tax consequences of distributing the property are minimized.
The law of estates and trusts governs the use of certain types of instruments such as wills, living trusts, or charitable trusts, to provide for an orderly distribution of the assets and payment of any debts or liabilities of the estate. Developing an effective estate plan can be very challenging, as each client has a unique set of assets and unique family, business, and financial concerns.
Estate planning attorneys interview their clients concerning their wishes, conduct a thorough analysis of their clients' personal assets, and then provide recommendations. After reviewing the recommendations with the client, the estate planning attorney drafts estate planning documents which may include one or more of the following:
- A will: a document specifying how property is to be distributed upon the client's death;
- A trust: an arrangement where property is held by one party (the trustee, which is often a bank) for the benefit of another (the beneficiary or beneficiaries), either during or after the life of the grantor;
- Power of attorney: an instrument authorizing someone else to act as one's agent or attorney;
- A living will: a document that states that, if a medical situation arises where the client cannot reasonably expect to recover, he or she be allowed to die and not be kept alive by artificial means or heroic measures.
Most people die intestate, or without a will. State law then determines how their estate is distributed. When someone dies with a will, or testate, the attorney represents the executor, a person appointed by the decedent to carry out, or execute, the provisions of the will.
Formation of Trusts
The law allows great flexibility in arranging trusts for a broad range of purposes. There are many types of trusts, and they are often set up to minimize the tax consequences of financial distribution. Trust law is extremely complex, requiring those practitioners specializing in this area to keep abreast of the latest developments in both trust law and tax law.
IF YOU'RE CONSIDERING PURSUING A CAREER IN TRUSTS & ESTATES LAW...
1. Take estates and trusts classes, including advanced seminars in estate planning, and tax law classes, including personal income tax and estate and gift tax.
2. Develop your counseling skills by working in one of Loyola's legal clinics.
3. Gain practical experience in the estates and trusts field by working as a law clerk or summer associate at a firm with a trusts & estates department, working at a bank, or working on estate matters for the Cook County Public Guardian's Office.
4. Sharpen your writing skills by writing for one of Loyola's law journals.
5. Participate in bar association activities with the American Bar Association's Section of Real Property, Trust & Estate Law.
6. Get to know Loyola's professors specializing in the areas of trusts & estates law - Anne-Marie Rhodes, Sharon Buccino, David Fuechtman, Thayer Herte, and Melanie Rummel.
TRUSTS & ESTATES LAW RESOURCES