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Lombard estate planning attorneyMost people recognize the importance of having an estate plan in place just in case something unexpected happens. Depending on the size and nature of your estate, a comprehensive estate plan may include a will, various types of trusts, powers of attorney, a living will, and more. Sometimes, however, the unexpected “something” can take the form of a divorce. A divorce can dramatically impact your existing estate plan, so if your marriage will soon be ending, you will need to review and amend nearly every element of your estate plan.

Over the next couple blog posts, we will highlight several types of estate planning tools and how they might be affected by your divorce.

Your Will

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Lombard probate lawyersThe term “probate” refers to the legal proceedings which deal with a deceased person’s assets and debts. The probate courts are tasked with determining the validly of the decedent’s will, if he or she has one. If he or she did not have a will, the court will need to have much more involvement in the estate administration. There is a bit of confusion about probate, and many people are not sure what exactly it is. Read on to learn the answer to the most frequently asked questions regarding the probate process.

What Happens During Probate?

There are several things which typically happen during probate. If the decedent had created a will before he or she died, the judge will verify that it is a valid will. A will can be invalidated or thrown out if it is not signed by the testator (deceased person) and at least two witnesses, was forged, or if the testator created the will under undue influence. A will can also be invalidated if a newer will is discovered. Next, the judge will appoint an executor responsible for managing the estate. If the decedent had a will, the judge will appoint the individual named in the will. If there is no valid will, the judge will often appoint the next of kin as the executor. The executor is responsible for paying the deceased person’s final bills, notifying creditors of the decedent’s death, filing income taxes on behalf of the decedent, distributing assets to heirs according to the will, and more.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyBeing the executor of a will is a serious responsibility. An executor is tasked with managing the estate of a deceased individual and must do so until the estate is legally closed. When choosing the executor of your estate, it is important to select someone who has integrity and is capable of fulfilling the required duties. An estate executor is responsible for paying creditors and taxes and must oversee any legal processes such as a will contest or an estate tax audit. Depending on the circumstances, the job of being an executor can last months or even years. Experts have some advice for those who are ready to choose their executor.

The Importance of Having a Will – Regardless of Age

Recent surveys have shown that a staggering 64 percent of Americans do not have a last will and testament. This is quite surprising because it is one of the most fundamental estate planning tools a person can utilize. A will provides directions for how a deceased person’s property should be managed after death and can also include instructions regarding any minor children the person has. Those who pass away without a will put decisions regarding property, inheritance, guardianship of minor children, and more in the hands of the court.

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Lombard guardianship lawyersIf you wish to be the primary caregiver of a friend or family member who is unable to care for themselves, one option which you have available in Illinois is guardianship. Guardianship can be granted by a judge to help an adult who cannot make general life decisions on his or her own. Guardian responsibilities are categorized into two groups: financial/estate responsibilities and personal responsibilities. In Illinois, there can be separate guardians for a person and their estate or the same person can look after the disabled individual’s personal needs and make estate decisions.

Guardian Qualifications

In order to become a person’s legal guardian, you must be at least 18 years old, not legally disabled, a United States resident, cognitively capable of caring for another, and free from certain prior felony convictions. If the disabled person in question wishes for you to become his or her guardian, such wishes will be considered by the court, but the court is not obligated to approve you as a guardian.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyAccording to a CNBC.com survey, over one-third of high-net-worth families have failed to take even basic steps to provide for their loved ones when they die and to ensure that their final wishes are granted. More specifically, 38 percent of people with over $1 million or more in assets have not created an estate plan.

Many people do not realize the ways a comprehensive estate plan can help them and their loved ones, while others mistakenly believe that they do not make enough money to qualify for an estate plan. Another reason many otherwise financially-savvy people do not have an estate plan is because it can be exhausting and overwhelming to try to plan everything on your own. Studies show that some individuals suffer from what is called “estate planning fatigue” which makes them less likely to have up-to-date, enforceable estate plans.

Constant Changes to the Federal Estate Tax Laws Have Been Confusing

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