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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen most people think about estate planning, they often focus the transfer of assets from one generation to the next. Wills and trusts—the most common vehicles for transferring such assets—represent a significant part of the estate planning process, but there are many other considerations that should be addressed. One of the most often overlooked aspects of estate planning is preparing yourself and your home to make life easier as you age, and doing so often takes time, money, and self-awareness regarding your current and possible limitations.

A Glaring Need

According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 12 million Americans over the age of 65 live alone. A disproportionate 69 percent of that number—nearly 8.3 million—are women. While independence among senior citizens is often a desirable alternative to assisted living or nursing facilities, the reality is that a home that is suitable for a healthy, able-bodied adult may not be convenient or safe for an aging senior.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyMost people are familiar with the concept of different “stages of grief.” While you may not necessarily be able to list the five stages as they were introduced in 1969, you are most likely aware that grieving, for most people, is a process with fairly distinct elements. While there are other situations that could cause a person to go through the grieving process—such as a divorce or giving a child up for adoption—the most common is during the period following the death of a loved one. When you die, your children, grandchildren, and other family members will almost certainly experience a great deal of grief, which makes responsible estate planning all the more important.

What Are the Five Stages?

In 1969, a Swiss-American psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published a book called "On Death and Dying" which introduced the stages of grief as she saw them. Based on her experience and study, she identified the five stages as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Despite being laid out as linear—suggesting that one stage leads into the next—the reality is much more complicated. A person who is largely in the Anger stage of grief is likely to experience moments or days of Denial and Depression. He or she may even skip a stage and effectively come back to it at a later point.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysDo you have a signed and executed will or any other elements of an estate plan in place? If so, you are already ahead of more than half of American adults.

Next question: Have you had in-depth discussions about estate planning with your children and other important family members? If so, you and your family are well prepared for unexpected surprises—assuming your estate plan addresses all or most of the details that are significant to you and your loved ones.

Final question: Would your children agree that you have had the necessary conversations and do they know where to find important documents, passwords, and account information? Unfortunately, serious disconnects in communication are all too common when it comes to estate planning.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersEvery person deserves to have control over the medical care they receive, including that which is provided at or near the end of their lives. Advance medical directives, such as a living will, give you the power to make certain decisions about your end-of-life care in advance, taking into account the possibility that you may not be able to make such decisions if and when they are necessary. Unfortunately, many advance medical directives are open to interpretation which could result in a decreased quality of life and unneeded suffering. There are some things you can do, however, to ensure that medical care is provided in accordance with your wishes, regardless of your condition at the time care is needed.

Death-Delaying Procedures

A living will is used primarily to specify the types of death-delaying procedures that you wish to be provided if you are ever diagnosed with a terminal condition and are unable to make care decisions for yourself. Death-delaying procedures refer to treatments and care that are postponing death in situations where healing or curing the condition is not possible. Such procedures include blood transfusions, artificial respiration, dialysis, and intravenous feeding or medications.

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyersThere are many things to consider when you are creating your Last Will and Testament. One you may have not considered is what will happen if your will is contested. A will contest is a lawsuit that an individual files in order to invalidate a deceased person’s will. Someone might file a will contest because they don’t believe a family member’s or friend’s will accurately reflects their true final wishes. Any intestate heir or beneficiary named in the person’s will can file a will contest.

In previous blog posts, we have talked about challenging the will of a recently-deceased loved one using a will contest. Today, however, we will look at how you can help prevent your will from being challenged. There are a few things that can be done to protect your will. One of these is a provision included in the will known as a “no-contest clause.”

What Is a No-Contest Clause?

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen most people are asked about the concept of estate planning, they immediately think about a will and how it can be used to determine what will happen to a person’s assets and property upon his or her death. A will is certainly one of the cornerstones of a comprehensive estate plan, but on its own, a will is not always enough. There are four major elements of estate planning, and an experienced attorney can help you address each one properly.

Protecting Your Property During Your Lifetime

While estate planning is largely focused on what will happen after you die, the process also includes ensuring you have enough financial security to live out the rest of your life as you see fit. Investment strategies and savings, of course, are important, but you may also want to take steps toward protecting your family business or income-generating real estate holdings. You should also consider assigning power of attorney for property to a trusted person who can make decisions regarding your affairs in the event that become incapacitated and unable to make such choices for yourself.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen you get divorced, virtually your entire life is affected. Your relationship with your children changes, your living arrangements are different, and even your outlook on the future is likely to evolve. A divorce can also have a dramatic impact on the viability and the appropriateness of your existing estate plan. If you have recently gone through a divorce, it is a good idea to sit down with your lawyer and go over the details of your will, trusts, and any other estate planning tools you have in place.

Changes in What You Own

One of the most important reasons to update your estate plan after a divorce is the potential change to the property that comprises your estate. According to Illinois law, marital property must be divided equitably between divorcing spouses, which means that you probably own less now that you did when you were married. If your estate plan only makes general references to the property in your estate, the existing terms may be sufficient. Many estate plans, however, contain provisions for specific items or assets such as a particular vehicle or the family home. In the wake of your divorce, you may no longer own these assets, thus making an update necessary.

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Lombard estate planning attorneys“It’s what he would have wanted.”

We have all heard this phrase used by surviving family members of a recently deceased person as a justification for taking certain actions. Too often, we say such things to make ourselves feel better about the decisions we are making on behalf of the decedent, rather than knowing for sure that what we are doing is what he or she actually wanted. Unfortunately, many families are left to figure out what their loved would have wanted because that loved one never wrote down his or her wishes as a part of an estate plan. This is especially common regarding funeral arrangements as the thought of making such decisions can be extremely difficult.

Save Your Family the Trouble

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Lombard estate planning lawyerIn today’s world, you can Google a “how-to” on nearly anything. Want to build a playhouse for your children? There are YouTube videos to show you how. Trying to become a better writer? A quick search can offer you thousands of workbooks, prompts, and exercises. Need a will or a power of attorney document? Countless resources are available to help you skip the “hassle” of hiring an estate planning lawyer. Unfortunately, a do-it-yourself estate plan is rarely a good idea, as even a small mistake can have significant consequences.

Retaining an estate planning attorney may seem unnecessary, especially as you draft your documents. At the very least, however, you should have a lawyer review your will and any other documents before you sign them to ensure that you do not become a victim of:

Selecting the Wrong People

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Lombard estate planning lawyersIf you have taken the time to create a will or any other instrument of estate planning, you are already better off than more than half of American adults. When drafting a will, most people consider most of their physical belongings along with investments or savings kept in the bank or at other financial institutions. Digital assets, however, often go overlooked, as many people do not even remember that they exist when they sit down to develop their estate plans. Some may not even know what digital assets are.

What Are Digital Assets?

Do you have a library of e-books from Amazon? What about a collection of songs from iTunes or apps from Google Play? These are some of the most common examples of digital assets. With the advancement of online technology, there are more types of digital assets today than ever before. In addition to e-books, programs, and music, digital assets also include pictures, data, visual designs, artwork, and online accounts for gaming, entertainment, and social media. If you have even one these types of assets—and since you are reading a blog right now, you probably do—it is important to develop a plan for dealing with them after your death.

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyIt is understandable that many people are put off by the idea of sitting down and creating a will. Doing so requires a person to face the reality that he or she will not live forever. While this is something that we all know, it is often much easier to avoid confronting the idea in a direct way. Perhaps that is why as many as 60 percent of American adults have yet to draft a will or other elements of an estate plan. You should know, however, that by taking the time to write up your will, you could save your surviving family members a great deal of stress, aggravation, and money down the road.

At the risk of sounding cliché, the right time to draft a will is now. Every adult should have a written plan for what will happen to his or her property—no matter how simple or modest the estate may be—upon his or her death. That being said, there are certain events in a person’s life that should prompt him or her to think about the future and draft a will. If you already have a will, these same events should encourage you to review your will to make sure that it is up to date.

Obtaining New Property and Changes in a Financial Situation

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DuPage County estate planning attorneysIn many ways, estate planning is similar to dieting and healthy living. We all know that we should eat better, exercise more, and spend fewer hours in front of computer and televisions screens. Compared to the total population, only a portion actually make a sustained, consistent effort at improving their lives. The same is largely true for estate planning. Most of us understand that it is important to have a formal plan in place for when we die. We know that it will be better for our families, and it could even benefit us during our lifetime. Yet, for some reason—or many reasons—more than half of American adults do not have a will or any other type of estate plan in place.

The similarities between estate planning and healthier living do not stop there. Have you ever been at the gym when someone pointed out that you were doing a particular exercise wrong? It can be frustrating, since doing something—even if your technique is not perfect—is better than doing nothing. Estate planning is no different in that regard, but there are several common mistakes that many people make as they go through the process, including:

  • Thinking an estate is too simple or small to need a plan. Are you over the age of 18? Do you have a car and a checking account? All adults should have an estate plan in place, even if the plan is very basic. Sure, you do not need a complex plan loaded with contingencies and endowments, but you should know what will happen to your assets upon your death. If you have children, planning for their future can also be part of your estate planning process;
  • Trusting that things will work themselves out. Life is full of surprises, both good and bad. Marriages, divorce, births, deaths, illnesses, addictions, new jobs, and financial windfalls can all create uncertain circumstances that should be accounted for in your estate plan. A well-developed estate plan can be created to include possible “what-if” scenarios, ensuring that your assets can be fully protected both now and in the future;
  • Choosing the wrong people to manage your estate. Your estate plan affords you the ability to choose an executor, as well as trustees or Powers of Attorney depending on your needs. Too often, people name someone just to get it done, with little thought given to the actual responsibilities in question. The results of doing so can be devastating not only to your estate but to your family’s stability as well; and
  • Forgetting the pets. You would not create an estate plan that failed to account for your young children, but many plans do not address family pets. Instruments such as pet trusts are available and relatively easy to set up so that your furry friends can be well provided for in the years following your death.

Contact a Skilled Lawyer

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Lombard estate planning attorneyThe ASPCA estimates that about 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats are owned in the United States. For many people, their pet is a valued member of the family. They think of their pet not as a piece of property, but as a beloved companion. If you are one of these people, it is important to consider what will happen to your cherished pet when you are not around to care for it. A pet trust is an estate planning tool which can give you piece of mind that your pet will be looked after even if you cannot be the one to do so.

What Is a Pet Trust?

A trust is an arrangement that holds property or money for a beneficiary, often for when the creator of the trust passes away. Since a person cannot leave money or property directly to an animal, a pet trust legally enforceable arrangement regarding how your pet will be cared for in the event that you cannot care for it.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyThe maxim that nothing in life certain except death and taxes has persisted in American culture since Benjamin Franklin used it as a quip in a letter more than two centuries ago. While death and taxes are undoubtedly certain for most people, it is the combination of the two that can be troubling for many individuals and families. Between estate taxes, inheritance taxes, and other tax obligations, it can be expensive when a loved one dies. Through proper estate planning, you and your family may be able to limit your tax liabilities, however, and a relatively new tool may be available to help you do so.

What Is an IDF?

Insurance dedicated funds (IDFs) were introduced in the early 2000s, and despite their bland name, they have quickly become a hot item in the world of finance and asset protection. Such funds are rather complicated and subject to complex rules and regulations, but their appeal is based primarily on their ability to legally avoid taxes by meeting certain requirements.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyFollowing a divorce, the terms and provisions of your estate plan may become obsolete, especially if your ex-spouse factored prominently in your plan. While there are laws that help prevent estate planning issues after a divorce, it is still a good idea to take another look at your will, trusts, and any other estate planning tools to determine if modifications are needed.  

Revocable Trusts

A revocable or living trust is the most common instrument that requires review during or after a divorce. In a revocable trust, the holder of property (called a settlor) confers that property to a trustee to hold for a beneficiary while still retaining the right to take the property back. It is very common for either the trustee or the beneficiary to be a spouse.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyWhen it comes to making decisions regarding the end of your life, there are many factors to consider. No matter how difficult it may be for you to think about, leaving such decisions to your loved ones to make can leave lasting feelings of guilt, regret, and wondering if they made the right choice. Fortunately, there are several ways you can prepare in advance regarding your desired end-of-life care. They represent an important but often overlooked element of the estate planning process.

Advance Medical Directives

There are two common ways in which you can make your end-of-life care decisions ahead of time, and both are considered types of advance medical directive. An advance medical directive, put simply, is contingency plan that specifies your wishes to be carried out if you are no longer able to make such decisions for yourself. Living wills and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders allow you to maintain control of your own life to the very end.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerEstate planning in Illinois or any other jurisdiction is more than simply determining what legal documents are most appropriate to protect the value of your assets after death and achieve the goals and desires you have for the disposition of your property. Equally as important as choosing the right estate planning documents is choosing the right person to handle your affairs and exercise the powers those estate planning documents provide.

The Dangers of Selecting the Wrong Individual

Regardless of whether you named an individual as executor and administrator of your will, as a trustee overseeing your trust, or as your power of attorney, your estate planning documents give the individual significant powers. In the wrong hands, this person could potentially:

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DuPage County estate planning attorneyAs you begin the process of estate planning, you are likely to hear that probate is a time-consuming, expensive series of proceedings that should always be avoided. This idea is prevalent in online resources about estate plans, but there is often little explanation given as to why—other than it can take a long time and costs money. Before you decide whether avoiding probate is necessary, it is important to fully understand the process.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a judicial process by which an individual proves in court that a deceased person’s will is valid. This process also includes taking inventory of the recently deceased person’s property, appraising the property, and distributing the property according to the will. If there is no will or other estate planning instruments in place, property will be allocated by the probate court in accordance with the state’s laws of intestate succession.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen a person dies without a will or any other instruments of estate planning in place, his or her property will be distributed by the Probate Court in according with Illinois laws regarding intestate succession. Such cases often create significant disagreements among surviving family members. Of course, families may also fight when they discover what they are to receive in a will as well—and in some situations, things can get completely out of control.

More Than Money

While people often throw their familial allegiances to the wind and try to take as much as they can, family disputes on inheritance are not always about money. Conflict can arise for emotional reasons as well. While a grandson may not care to inherit a particular pie plate that his grandmother used for 30 years, for example, that same item could mean the world to someone else in the family. It is worth putting time and careful thought into your plan regarding who inherits the sentimental assets that you own. In doing so, there are a few things you should consider.

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Lombard family law attorneyPeople tend to forget or overlook things when they divorce. Dotting every proverbial “i” and crossing every proverbial “t” can be a difficult endeavor, especially when there are children involved. One of the most commonly overlooked issues—especially if a divorce is complex or acrimonious—is estate planning. Updating or re-drafting documents like wills and trusts can make all the difference in ensuring that your assets go to those who you have expressly chosen.

Make a New Will or Trust

Illinois probate law can be quite complex, particularly if you are trying to modify an existing document. This is made even more confusing by the fact that Illinois law, upon divorce, revokes any gifts or positions of authority given to an ex-spouse. For example, if you named your now-former husband as the executor of your estate, that designation will be void upon your divorce. Sometimes this can be advantageous, but in certain cases, you may want to keep your ex-spouse in the will. Doing so may be beneficial in situations where young children are involved as potential beneficiaries.

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