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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyerA person’s last will and testament is a vitally important document. In it, an individual can record their wishes regarding guardianship of children and the distribution of assets and property. However, there are instances in which the directives set forth in a will are not carried out. If a judge determines that the person signing the will was not of sound mind or was illegally influenced, the court can disregard the will. In these cases, decisions about property and guardianship can become incredibly complicated.

The Person Signing the Will is Not of Sound Mind

Often, as a person ages, they experience changes in cognitive capacity and memory. A will must be written and signed by a person of “sound mind” in order to be considered valid. A person has “testamentary capacity” if he or she fully understands the instructions set out in the will and agrees to them. It can be extremely difficult to prove that the testator was not mentally capable of understanding the will that they signed. Often the strongest evidence of testamentary capacity comes from the people who witnessed the will maker signing the will.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyMost people are vaguely familiar with the concept of a last will and testament. However, there are actually many different documents that individuals use to distribute their assets and property upon their death. Wills and trusts sometimes get lumped together, but they serve different purposes. You may choose to use one, both, or neither based on your own personal circumstances and wishes.

A will is a document in which a person—the grantor—dictates what they want to happen to their property after they have passed away. He or she designates beneficiaries who then receive the assets and property upon the grantor’s death. A trust, by comparison, is a legal arrangement which allows a third party, called the trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries.

One significant difference between a will and a trust is that a will goes into effect only after the person who authored it, passes away whereas a trust can be effective immediately. Also, a will can only govern the distribution of property owned in the testator's sole name. Assets that pass directly to a beneficiary by contract or law, such as life insurance policies or joint tenancies with rights of survivorship, cannot be addressed by a will. Trusts, on the other hand, can manage and distribute any property the grantor chooses. Trusts can include life insurance policies and tenancy-in-common interests.

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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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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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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen you are dealing with the loss of a family member or loved one, financial and property considerations may be the furthest thing from your mind. In the weeks that follow, however, your intense emotions are likely to subside, giving you the space to think about your loved one’s estate and his or her will. Depending on your relationship to the person and his or her accumulated property, you may be expecting a sizable inheritance. But what happens if the terms of the will are not what you expected? What if your inheritance is less than you were promised? According to Illinois law, you may have the option of contesting your loved one’s will, but doing so may not always be the best choice.

Contesting a Will

The law provides certain people with the right to file a will contest, including those who would have some claim to the decedent’s estate if the person had died without a will as well as those named in previous wills. This means that if the person who died was a family friend rather than a relative and you were never named in any version of his or her will, you have no standing to contest the final will.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyOne of the most important decisions in the estate planning process is selecting who will be named as executor of the estate. The executor is the person who is responsible for overseeing and protecting the assets of the deceased person. He or she is responsible for ensuring that the wishes of the decedent are carried out, as well as maintaining any property of the estate until disbursement, paying the debts of the estate, and any taxes owed. It is critical for the person who is appointed executor to understand how to manage the estate. If they mismanage estate assets that add up to a loss to the beneficiaries of the estate, they can be held liable for those losses.

Important Duties

Unless arrangements have been made before the person’s death, it is typically the executor’s responsibility to handle the financial arrangements for the deceased’s funeral and burial expenses. The funeral parlor also provides copies of the death certificate to the executor. It is important to obtain several copies of the death certificate since a copy will be necessary in order to access financial accounts and canceling government benefit checks (i.e. Social Security). A copy is also required to be filed with the final federal tax return of the estate.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerIn the days and weeks after the death of a loved one, you are likely to remain focused on getting back to some semblance of normalcy in your life, especially if you were very close to the decedent. Just as things start to settle back down emotionally, new concerns can arise when your loved one’s will is presented for probate. When the provisions in the will are finally made known, you may be surprised to learn that your loved one has made some unexpected decisions. Such surprises may lead to you to think about filing a will contest, but there are some factors to consider before you do so.

Hurt Feelings Will Not Invalidate a Will

The first thing you need to remember is that, following a person’s death, there will almost always be someone who feels that they got ignored, left out, or the short end of the stick. They may have been led to expect a certain portion of the inheritance or a particular piece of property, only to find out later that such “promises” were never formalized in the will. If you feel slighted by your loved one’s decisions regarding his or her will, that is not sufficient grounds for challenging the document.

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