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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt is unbelievable that the winter holiday season is already upon us. By this time next week, you will probably be on your way to—or at least preparing for—Thanksgiving celebrations with your family members and loved ones. Just a few short weeks after that, families will be getting together for Christmas. If your family is spread out around the country, the holiday season might be the only time your whole family gets together throughout the entire year. With that in mind, it may be the only opportunity you have to discuss important topics like estate planning.

Being Prepared

There is no question about it: it can be tough to discuss your estate plans. Voluntarily confronting the idea of death can certainly be uncomfortable, but the conversation is important. Discussing your estate plan does not necessarily need to take hours, nor does it need to ruin the fun of the holidays. You have the power to control the conversation and to keep things positive by preparing in advance.

For example, you may wish to:

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Lombard estate planning attorneyA trust is a fiduciary relationship in which an individual or entity called a trustee controls certain assets for the creator of the trust, called a grantor. An incentive trust arrangement is different from other trusts in that the trustee must follow specific rules set by the grantor regarding when the trust’s beneficiaries can receive funds from the trust. This legally-binding arrangement functions as a conditional inheritance, allowing grantors to encourage their intended beneficiaries to meet certain goals before being awarded their inheritance.

How Can an Incentive Trust Benefit My Family and Me?

Many individuals struggle to manage their finances responsibly. This is often especially true of individuals who acquire a large sum of money quickly, which can become a concerning dilemma for those who wish to leave money and other assets to heirs. For example, a grandparent may wish to leave money to his grandchildren but worry that they will squander their education in favor of frivolous spending. An incentive trust would allow this grandparent to ensure that his grandchildren only receive their inheritance, for example, after completing a higher education program.

On the other hand, an incentive trust could also be constructed to discourage certain activities or behavior. For example, an individual could design an incentive trust that requires beneficiaries to pass a drug test in order to collect their inheritance. An incentive trust like this will cease disbursements to a beneficiary if he or she tests positive for illegal drug use. There is almost no limit to the requirements or incentives that can be included in an incentive trust, as long as the stipulations are not illegal.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIf you have recently gone through a divorce, you probably experienced a number of challenges and obstacles. Even if in the best situations, it can be very stressful to negotiate the various aspects of a divorce agreement, including the division of marital assets and spousal maintenance. Couples with minor children often have even more to worry about. Now that your divorce is finalized, however, it is probably time to take another look at your estate plan, as the new dynamic of your life should be reflected in your will and other planning documents.

Your Ex is Out by Law

A will is, in most cases, a very durable instrument that will withstand a variety of life changes and other contractual obligations. One of the few exceptions, however, is that a divorce or dissolution of marriage, by law, essentially eliminates your ex-spouse from any will created before the marriage ended. According the Illinois Probate Act of 1975, a will executed prior to the dissolution of marriage “takes effect in the same manner as if the former spouse had died before the testator.”

This means, of course, that your ex-spouse is not entitled to any of the property you had intended for him or her to receive upon your death. On the other hand, depending upon the specificity of your existing will, it may be a little unclear what will happen now with that property. In fact, your entire will may need to be revamped to adjust for the serious life changes.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyEstate planning is different from any other aspect of the law for one main reason: it focuses heavily on planning for a future the individual creating the estate plan may not be around for. The main purpose of utilizing estate planning tools such as a last will and testament or an advanced care directive is to make plans for end of life care and what happens to our assets after we pass away. While planning for the eventuality of death can be uncomfortable and sad, it is tremendously important. In order to ensure your final wishes will be fulfilled, estate lawyers must ask very challenging questions. However, many people find that preparing for these tough questions in advance makes the entire estate planning process easier. If you have not yet done so, take some time to consider the following questions.

When Do You Want Life Support Ended?

We often think of death as a black-and-white scenario, however it is not always clear when a person’s life is officially ended. For example, the highly-publicized Terri Schiavo case involved an individual in an irreversible, persistent vegetative state. If you become incapacitated like this, do you want doctors to use prolonged artificial life support or mechanical ventilation? When should "the plug be pulled"? An advanced directive or living will gives you the authority to choose what medical treatment you wish to be used around the end of your life. Drafting a document like this also saves your loved ones from having to make these incredibly personal decisions for you.

Who Should Raise Your Children If Both Parents Pass Away?

Many individuals incorrectly assume that estate planning is only necessary for the elderly. However, if you have children of any age, you should have estate planning tools which dictate guardianship in the event of a tragedy. If something happens to you and your child’s other parent, who should be the child’s new legal guardian? Unfortunately, parents who do not make this decision official through legally-binding estate planning documents may not have their wishes granted upon their death. When parents die without choosing a legal guardian for their minor children, the court chooses one or more individuals to become guardians based on the best interest of the child.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyAn estate plan generally involves human heirs, such as children and grandchildren, but this is not always the case. Some individuals have non-human dependents to consider. Does that mean everyone should include their pet in an estate plan? Not necessarily, yet it might be worth considering if there is even the slightest possibility that your companion may outlive you. It is important to realize that this provision might be important, and how you can take the first step toward implementing it in your estate plan.

Why Plan for Your Pets?

When the owner of an animal dies or becomes incapacitated, the animal may end up at a shelters, especially if there are no family members who are willing to take on the responsibilities of surrogate pet ownership. It happens so frequently, in fact, that estimates suggest some 100,000 to 500,000 pets are admitted to a shelter after their owner’s death or incapacitation. How do these once companions end up in shelters?

Often, it is the friends, family, or children of the deceased that surrender them. Perhaps they do not have the room income to care for the animal, or have tried to care for it but do not know how to do so appropriately. Still others might have allergies, small children, or other extenuating circumstances that make caring for an animal difficult or nearly impossible.

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