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Lombard special needs trust lawyerIf you are considering ways to provide for a loved one with special needs, you have probably discovered the inherent conflict with giving money directly: Any funds you contribute could make this individual ineligible for benefits under the Social Security SSI program, Medicaid, and other forms of public assistance. Your heart may be in the right place, but you could be doing more harm than good when it comes to qualifying for needs-based programs that focus on income and assets.

With this information in mind, you may have also come across special needs trusts when researching ways to provide support. In short, this legal structure allows you to place funds in a trust managed by a trustee who makes permissible distributions that enable your loved one to still qualify for public programs. An estate planning lawyer can help with the details specific to your case, but you might benefit from knowing a few basic things about special needs trusts.

Creating a Third-Party Special Needs Trust 

You establish a third-party trust when you make the arrangements for a disabled beneficiary, often by appointing yourself as trustee. A first-party special needs trust would be one created by the person with special needs, such as when he or she received a settlement or inheritance. The distinction is important, since a first-party trust must pay Medicaid back when the beneficiary passes.

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Lombard, IL estate planning lawyerOne of the main goals of estate planning is to ensure that your wishes regarding your assets and property are carried out after your death. Of course, a qualified estate planning attorney is equipped to help you prepare the necessary documents and instruments to make the process relatively simple for you. For many of our clients, however, the real challenge is determining exactly what their wishes are. It can be difficult to decide who is to receive what portion of your estate, and while an attorney cannot tell you how to choose your beneficiaries when drafting your will, we can offer some things to consider.

Include Variety

It may be very tempting to oversimplify your will by naming your spouse as your only beneficiary. Or, perhaps, in acknowledgment that your spouse may not outlive you, you may choose to leave everything to one child. In creating your will, it is important to remember that you are planning for the future, which is always uncertain. Having a sole beneficiary can essentially negate most of your effort should something happen to that beneficiary, and suddenly, the disposition of your assets is dependent upon his or her own estate planning decisions.  By choosing multiple beneficiaries, or even designating secondary or tertiary beneficiary levels, you and your executor will maintain more control over the distribution of your estate.

Consider Family Dynamics

Although it may not seem fair to have to do so, you should also give thought to the way in which your family is likely to react to your decisions. Try to avoid a “who cares, I’ll be gone” attitude. In your estate planning, you have the opportunity to promote family harmony or to sow discord. Obviously, you cannot always predict emotional reactions, but you can take reasonable precautions and eliminate potential loopholes. For example, you may choose to leave a majority of your estate to one child with the understanding that he or she will distribute the inheritance among siblings and descendants. An “understanding” is not the same as explicitly naming the other beneficiaries, however, and there is no law preventing the beneficiary child from keeping the full inheritance.

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DuPage County estate planning lawyerIt is tragically common for children of any age to experience serious problems following the death of a parent. What may have begun as typical sibling rivalry and relatively minor annoyances may develop into an irreparable chasm between brothers and sisters when their mother or father is no longer there to mediate. In some cases, sibling estrangement is inevitable, as years of competition and hurt feelings may eventually lead to a permanent rift. In other situations, however, conscientious estate planning by the parent can help prevent more serious problems from developing.

If you have noticed that your children struggle to get along with each other at times, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you put together a plan designed to reduce friction and promote healthy relationships.

Discuss Certain Elements of Your Plan in Advance

Jealousy is one of the most common factors between estranged siblings, but communication can often alleviate such feelings before they become problematic. Before you formalize your estate plan, sit down with your children and have a frank discussion about the future. Your children are not responsible for making your estate planning decisions, but their input can be very valuable in developing a plan that will foster ongoing relationships when you are gone.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyAccording to an analysis of information from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of couples who choose to live together without getting married skyrocketed from 230,000 in 1995 to over 1.5 million today – a 550 percent increase. Included in these numbers are older couples who choose to cohabit without the various legal protections that a legally recognized marriage offers. This lack of protection can have a significant impact on rights of inheritance and other estate planning concerns.

At our firm, we have helped hundreds of families develop an estate plan to meet their unique needs, and we understand the challenges that unmarried, cohabitating couples may face. There are steps that both younger and older couples who cohabit should consider to ensure that if something should happen to one of them, the other is both financially and legally protected.

Transferring Assets

Couples who are married are entitled to tax-free transfers of at least a significant portion of assets upon the death of one spouse. Cohabiting couples, however, are not afforded that same benefit. That is why it is essential for unmarried couples to have a will in place that clearly specifies what their wishes are when it comes to those assets. It may also be a smart move to consider a living trust, which allows for more control during your lifetime and can help to avoid the costs and uncertainty of probate.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneyDo you have a plan for the allocation of your property and assets in the event of your death? Such concerns can be difficult to address, as many people, including a large number of my clients, have trouble with the concept of death and estate planning. It is extremely important, however, to formalize arrangements for your estate well in advance. As uncertain as the future may be, leaving your estate in the hands of the state without a will or other direction can be even more unpredictable. Personal assets that are not addressed in a will or a trust are known as intestate property and will be allocated by the state in accordance with its intestacy laws.

Intestate Succession

The condition of intestacy is created, generally, when a person dies without a will. In the event a will was created but did not make provisions for certain assets or contain broader provisions for unaddressed assets, intestacy laws are applied to the specific, unaddressed property. When a person dies intestate, Illinois law requires that all debts and obligations of the deceased must be satisfied before any property may be allocated. Once that is completed, a seemingly endless list of “if-then” possibilities govern how the estate is to be divided.

For example, if a person dies intestate, leaving a spouse and children, then intestacy laws provide that the spouse receives half of the person’s assets, and the children receive the other half. If the deceased has children but no living spouse, the children inherit everything. The same would be true in reverse: with no children, but a surviving spouse, the spouse would inherit the entire estate. When a person dies intestate with no spouse or descendants, the law then looks to parents and siblings of the deceased, and the complexities increase.

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