919 West Main Salem, IL 62881
Phone: (618) 548-3729 | Fax: (618) 548-3585

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About Us

Curt W. Ferguson
Attorney & Counsellor at Law


Curt is the founder and currently sole owner of the law firm called The Estate Planning Center. He started the firm in 1989 as a general law practice, but within a few years was concentrating his work in estate planning.

In 1996 he was invited to join the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys. Curt joined and from that time forward limited his practice exclusively to estate planning. In 1999 he actively implemented his "Three Step Strategy™" practice model; and in 2002 he joined LifeSpan LLC, a group of estate planning attorneys “unreasonably committed” to delivering predictably positive estate planning results for their clients through the LifeSpan Planning Process™.

Within the National Network Curt quickly distinguished himself.  In 1999 he was asked to start teaching other Network attorneys topics relating to practice management and incentive trusts. In 2001 and 2002, Curt was an instructor of the ESTATE PLANNING PRACTICUM©, an intensive week long training course, and ESTATE PLANNING PRACTICUM II©, an intermediate training course for Network members. In 2006 he began teaching the two-day “Generation Skipping Transfer Tax” course for National Network attorneys, along with team-teacher Mike Dolan of Colorado.  He also served his Network colleagues for many years on the Member Advisory Board.

Since Curt's practice often involves sophisticated strategies for higher net worth clients, he is a graduate of THE ADVANCED PLANNING STRATEGIES PROGRAM, a comprehensive two year course in advanced estate planning, tools, techniques and professional collaboration.  His professional development has included participation in each of the following:
·          InKnowVision Institute™;
·          Legacy Builder Institute™;
·          Esperti Peterson Institute ADVANCED STUDIES FOR WEALTH AND ESTATE PLANNING (graduated in April of 2000); and
·          Esperti Peterson Institute "MASTERS" program designing wealth strategies for Americans with estates in excess of $25,000,000.
·          Semi-annual Collegia (2 to 5 days long) of the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys
·          Others too numerous to list: Illinois State Bar, Missouri State Bar, etc.

Curt received his law degree from The University of Texas in 1989, and his BA from Buena Vista College in 1986. He is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Christian Legal Society.

Curt serves his community in a variety of ways: on non-profit boards and in his local church. He has served as Executive Director of the Rutherford Institute of Illinois and as a law instructor at Kaskaskia Community College.

He since 1989 has been the husband of Laura, who is an accomplished musician, homemaker and inspirational blogger. They are the devoted parents of two wonderful daughters: Rachelle (Hillsdale College 2017 highest honors) playwrite and entrepreneur, and LaRae, an Oxford DPhil in Greek and Latin Languages candidate (2019) and Junior Dean at Wycliffe College, Oxford.

A more formal "resume" follows for those who like additional details:


THE ADVANCED PLANNING STRATEGIES PROGRAM of the National Network, a comprehensive two year course in advanced estate planning, tools, techniques and professional collaboration

Continuing education through MASTERS 2003 class of the ESPERTI-PETERSON INSTITUTE


THE ESTATE PLANNING CENTER, Founder and President. This law firm was founded by Curt in 1989, in Salem, Illinois. The practice is concentrated in the unique, pro-active Three Step Strategy™ estate planning process known as LIFESPAN™.

Design and implementation of successful planning for all sizes of estates, from small-estate Medicaid planning to high-net worth sophisticated EPC WEALTH DESIGN tax planning

Special interests include Maximizing the Impact of Your Life and Legacy through Protective Trusts, Family Values Integration and Incentive Trusts


Instructor of the ESTATE PLANNING PRACTICUM©, an intensive week long training course for members of the NATIONAL NETWORK OF ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEYS, 2001 - 2002

Instructor of the ESTATE PLANNING PRACTICUM II©, an intermediate training course for members of the NATIONAL NETWORK OF ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEYS, 2001 – 2002

Periodic instructor of breakout workshops for semi-annual COLLEGIA: conventions of the NATIONAL NETWORK OF ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEYS; on practice management, estate planning tools and techniques, and “impact” planning

Frequent guest speaker at public, professional and private workshops and seminars on estate planning, including accredited continuing education programs for licensed financial professionals

Instructor of law, 1990 – 1992, KASKASKIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE, Centralia, Illinois


LIFESPAN LLC, a professional association of attorneys unreasonably committed to delivering their clients exceptional estate planning results



CHRISTIAN LEGAL SOCIETY, a national organization of Christian attorneys and law students


The Estate Plan Edge®: a monthly column of The Prairie Farmer®, Illinois’ premiere farm magazine.
Contributing author to WAYS & MEANS: MAXIMIZE THE VALUE OF YOUR RETIREMENT SAVINGS, published by Esperti Peterson Institute Incorporated, 1999


SALEM ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT #111 board of education 1991-2003

Advisory Board Member of the SOUTH CENTRAL PREGNANCY CARE CENTER, of Salem



Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SCHOOL OF LAW Austin, Texas, 1989: Law School Admission Test score of 41 (93rd percentile); accepted as non-resident. Honors: Received honor grades in Constitutional Law I, Marital Relations & Divorce, Business Associations, Federal Income Tax, Religious Liberties Seminar, and Intellectual Property; received high scores in Hutcheson Moot Court and in Novice Mock Trial; partial scholarship award each year based on character, scholastic record and financial need; Participated in both the Children's Rights Clinic and the Criminal Defense Clinic, and presented brief and oral arguments in Texas Court of Appeals in a Criminal Defense Clinic case in January of 1989; President and on the Steering Committee of Lawyers Christian Fellowship, a prominent University of Texas School of Law student organization; intra-mural basketball on successful Law-Grad Division team "Contempt of Court"

B.A. Management Science, BUENA VISTA COLLEGE Marshalltown, Iowa, 1986, Magna Cum Laude; January, 1985 to June, 1986 Degree: B.A. Honors: Magna Cum Laude with final cumulative G.P.A. of 3.72. Major: Management Science. Minor: Psychology.

MARSHALLTOWN COMMUNITY COLLEGE, Marshalltown, Iowa; three semesters in 1982 - 1985. Major: Business. Honors: Phi Theta Kappa honor society, the National Honor Fraternity of the Community and Junior Colleges

COVENANT FOUNDATION COLLEGE, Greenfield, Indiana; two semesters part-time, one full-time. Major: Bible and Music. Honors: Dean's List; traveled and sang in a public relations quartet from September 1983 through August, 1984. Was offered scholarship to continue in 1984-1985, declined it to pursue my legal education.

CLARK BUSINESS COLLEGE, Indianapolis, Indiana, while attending Covenant Foundation College part-time. Major: Business Administration. Honors: President's List; 4.0 GPA




Mark J. Collins, Jr.
Attorney & Counsellor at Law


Mark (who goes by "Marcus") was raised in a small town in Southern Illinois. Marcus received his B.A. in German Studies, and his B.A. in Linguistics, from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He also received his Juris Doctor from SIU School of Law. While studying law, he specialized in International and Comparative Law, and Business and Transactional Law.* Marcus became an Illinois licensed attorney in 2019, and joined the Estate Planning Center in April of 2022.
Marcus believes strongly that one of the greatest benefits of practicing law is the ability to help make clients’ lives better. Some of the several factors that made it clear that the Estate Planning Center was the right firm for him were: the impeccable reputation of the firm; estate planning that is comprehensive and focused on results (in other words, an approach that ensures that the plan accomplishes the client’s wishes in reality, and not just in theory); the core values of the firm; and the opportunity to work with some great people.
Marcus’s focuses in the firm will be estate planning, and the formation and maintenance of business organizations.
Marcus and his wife are high school sweethearts. They have been happily married since 2017. They adopted their rescue dog, Snow, in 2020.
Marcus is a minister, and he and his wife are members, at the Apostolics of Salem (Salem, IL). They served as associate missionaries of the United Pentecostal Church from December 2020 to February 2022.



Gayla Ball
Education & Settlement Director 


Gayla joined our firm in January of 2003. She quickly proved to be an incredibly important member of our team, managing the educational events we provide for clients and coordinating the updating of legal documents.

Experience in a variety of previous jobs helped prepare Gayla for the multitude of demands that are placed on her as she meets the hundreds of clients in our LifeSpan updating process.

In 2008 Gayla earned a new title: Settlement Coordinator. She is the go-to person now for family members who’ve lost a spouse or parent with a LifeSpan estate plan in place, and she keeps the settlement process moving along to reduce stress on the family.

Client satisfaction--peace of mind--is her number one priority, and she does a great job of providing it.

Gayla and her husband David have two daughters and live in Salem.


Lauren Woodward
Receptionist/Funding Support

Lauren joined The Estate Planning Center in February of 2020.  She works part-time as a receptionist and assists the team as needed.
She is a pastor's daughter and a 2018 Homeschool Graduate.  She completed a certificate degree in Christian Leadership from Wilson University in 2020. 
She enjoys being involved in various ministries and activities in her church, as well as spending time with her family. 
Lauren lives in the country with her parents and three siblings. 

Laura Ferguson
Traveling Administrator

Laura is the person who coordinates--sort of our in-house travel agent--all the traveling Curt and Sam do for continuing legal education events and for their speaking engagements. She staffs many of our Truth About Estate Planning™ workshops, is our interior decorator, and is called upon to assist with special projects. Laura is an invaluable member of our team, even helping with entertainment! She is a wonderful hostess (like our Community Builder™ Bar-B-Q each September) and musician.

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, Laura is the "woman behind the man" in Curt's life. Laura and her husband Curt live with their two daughters near Salem.  She invites you to visit her blog at www.fergyfamforum.blogspot.com to get better acquainted with their family!

Samuel Collins
Attorney & Counsellor at Law  


Sam was raised in the small town of White Hall, Illinois in a farming family, and has been a licensed attorney since 2004. In his first few years of practice, Sam saw firsthand that many estate plans did not work the way they were intended. This led to his desire to focus his legal
career extensively in the areas of results-oriented estate planning and trust administration in a firm that shared similar values to his own. The reputation of the Estate Planning Center, the Lifespan ™ commitment to “Plans that Work,” and Curt Ferguson’s expertise drew him to pursue a career with The Estate Planning Center and relocate to the Salem area in 2011. Sam’s focus is
in trust and estate settlement, and wealth reception—helping families to secure all the benefits of estate planning after a death. He also leads the development and growth of the firm’s Elder Law practice.
National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys (NNEPA)
Lifespan ™
National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA)
Christian Legal Society, a national organization of Christian attorneys and law students
Graduate of NNEPA Advanced Practicum Implementation Program – 2013
THE ADVANCED PLANNING STRATEGIES PROGRAM of the National Network, a comprehensive two year course in advanced estate planning, tools, techniques and professional collaboration – 2017
Since 2015 has served as Co-Chair of the Trust Settlement Co-Development Team, NNEPA, innovating and developing trust settlement procedures, tools, and processes for the efficient transfer of wealth to the next generation.
ATRA Game Changers: 2013 Spring Collegium, Indianapolis, IN, National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys, co-presented with attorney Curt W. Ferguson;
It's Not About (Those) Taxes: Legal Keynote address at the 2013 Fall Collegium, Orlando, FL,
National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys, co-presented with attorney Curt W. Ferguson;
Settlement Process--Start to Finish: 2013 Fall Collegium, Orlando, FL, National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys, co-presented with attorney Jennifer Norton;
Trusts as IRA Beneficiaries: 2014 Fall Collegium, Reno, NV, National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys, co-presented with attorney Rick Randall
Settlement With Clayton and Bounty: 2016 Spring Collegium, Indianapolis, Indiana, co-presented with attorney Curt W. Ferguson;
Trust Settlement and Administration: 2016 Fall Collegium, Reno, Nevada. This pre-cursor event was a comprehensive, process-oriented day and a half workshop for attorneys and paralegals on procedures in trust settlement and administration, co-presented with attorney Charlotte Landvik;
Tax Efficient Irrevocable Trusts- Refresher on IRC 678 Withdrawal Right and General Powers of Appointment: 2018 Spring Collegium, Indianapolis, IN, National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys, co-presented with attorney Greg Gentry.
Sam is an Elder at First Presbyterian Church in Centralia. He and his wife Kate have four children and live in Salem, Illinois.




Sarah Rupe
Client Services Corrdinator 

Sarah is the sunny voice and face that most people hear or see first when they stop by our office or call us. She has been with the firm longer than anyone except Curt. We don't know what we would do without her! Her duties are far too numerous to try to list. For starters, Sarah makes all client appointments, controls the attorneys' schedules, manages the office finances, runs the file room, types most of our letters and memos, and in her spare time--as if there is any--serves as part-time receptionist.  Sarah and her husband Steve have two daughters and live in Centralia.


Sherry French
Funding Coordinator

In July, 2007, Sherry French joined The Estate Planning Center service team as Funding Coordinator. Sherry has worked with the public for many years. She brings a wonderful sense of client care to our firm, and is known for her impeccable integrity.

Her primary role is helping us and our LifeSpan clients fully “fund” their living trusts, a critical step in assuring that their estate plans work. She meets with clients for their funding appointment, and follows through with delivery of letters of direction, assets transfer and beneficiary change forms, recording of deeds, and a zillion other kinds of paperwork to see that the funding is properly completed.

Sherry and her husband Ed live in Kell.

Brent LeClere
Legal Assistant 

Brent joined The Estate Planning Center in the summer of 2019. He grew up in Summitville Indiana, a small town in Indiana’s farming heartland. He attended God’s Bible School & College in Cincinnati Ohio and graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in Church & Family Ministries, a degree which focused heavily on passing faith and family values to the next generation.
Brent serves as a legal assistant to the attorneys. His various duties include legal drafting, aiding in the Client Update Program™, and managing the office data system. At times he also supports the Funding and Settlement departments.
Brent and his wife Megan reside in Salem with their daughter Eliana.

Olivia Davis
Receptionist/Funding Support

Olivia joined the EPC team in January 2019 and has been busy learning the ropes and loving it ever since!
Olivia is a 2020 high school graduate and is looking forward to what the future holds! She is the fourth of six children and is deeply grateful to be a part of such a supportive and loving family!
A big part of Olivia’s education and life has been music. She started weekly violin lessons at the age of seven and continued until she was fifteen when she switched to her true love: the viola! Olivia has also taken piano and voice lessons throughout the years. Another passion of Olivia’s is live theater/drama. She has participated in many full length dramas and can’t wait to see what else is in store in this field! Olivia is very involved in her church and the youth group there! Her main goal in life is to always be open to hearing God’s direction and guidance for her life and follow Him to the best of her ability!
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