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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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Lombard estate planning attorneyVideo wills are not a new concept. In fact, they have been around since the early 1980s—basically since video cameras became widely available to the general public. You may have even seen one featured in a show or movie, probably used for dramatic effect. Maybe the owner of the fortune cut someone out of the will at the last minute or made conditions through which an heir might receive their fortune. Are they really legally binding, though? More importantly, should you use one for your estate plan? The following explores this interesting and unique option, and provides some details on how to execute it properly, should you decide this is the right option for you. 

Video Wills and Your Family

One of the biggest reasons that individuals decide to read their will on video is because they want to give their family one last memory. For some, it is a way to heal broken bonds. For others, it is a way to comfort from beyond the grave. Whatever your reason, ensure your intentions are pure. No matter how angry or irritated you might be with a member of your family, no matter how distant the two of you might have become, they will still likely grieve losing you. So be sensitive and kind. It will be their last memory of you.

Video Wills and the Law

Though a video may give your family comfort after your death, it will not be considered legally binding on its own. Illinois law requires that a will be written, and it must be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses. This means that you will likely still need a written document that has been kept in a safe place in addition to your video will. Of course, the video could still be used as evidence to prove that you were of sound mind at the time of creating the will, should any of your family members contest the will’s validity. Still, it is important that you speak with your estate planning attorney to determine what (if any) legal value a video will lend to your situation. 

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Lombard estate planning lawyerFor married individuals, estate planning is typically pretty straightforward, as most assets are often allocated to a surviving spouse and/or children. However, statistics show that more people are opting for the single life with no children—either permanently or at least until later in life. This creates some important considerations when determining what to do with your savings and assets in the future.

Should You Wait to Create Your Estate Plan?

It can be tempting to wait to create your estate plan until you are married or older. However, it is important to consider the unexpected. Accidents, health conditions, and other unpredictable incidents can end your life suddenly or place you in a vulnerable medical situation. Because of this, every person over the age of 18 should create and execute appropriate estate documents, including a will, powers of attorney, and an advance medical directive such as a living will.

A large part of the importance stems from the risk of being incapable of making financial or medical decisions. However, you should also consider that, when there is no will or trust, the government takes predetermined paths that eat up valuable assets that could have gone to someone else.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerOut of all the younger people who are considering creating a will, parents are most likely to see the value and importance of this legal document. In addition to knowing where their assets will be going, they want the added security of knowing who will be caring for their children in the instance that they can no longer do so themselves. Of course, this is a very difficult decision to make. The following tips are designed to help you on your journey.

Know the Why Behind Your Will

Sometimes, even the best-intentioned parents can put off making arrangements in advance because they mistakenly assume that the person they want to care for their children will automatically step up and be given these rights. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. When there is no will (or when a guardian is not named in it), anyone can step up for the job, including extended family members that you may not consider suitable. In the event that more than one person comes forward, the judge would consider a variety of factors and then decide who will be given the responsibilities.

Accept That No One Else Will Compare to You

Probably the hardest step in choosing the right guardian for your child or children is to accept that no one will ever do the job quite the same, or as well, as you. There will be things about each person that may cause you to reconsider, but you must remember that the idea is to choose the person you feel will be best suited to responsibly, lovingly, and permanently care for your children. The following are points you may wish to consider:

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Arlington Heights estate planning attorney

A marriage can have a significant impact on your estate plan. Married couples generally create an estate plan together— all or most of the marital assets are typically passed onto the surviving spouse. Only when he or she passes does the estate plan take effect. However, this is not always the case, particularly if one of the spouses has children from a previous marriage, or if there is a large age difference between the spouses. Moreover, if you are in the middle of a separation or a divorce, which can take over one year to finalize in many cases, it can have a significant impact on how you should handle your estate planning. 

How Marriage Impacts Estate Planning

Marriage makes it easier for you to leave assets to your spouse after death. Even if you fail to do any estate planning or create a will, Illinois intestate succession states that a spouse inherits all of the intestate property. If there are children, then the intestate property is split between the spouse and children 50/50.  

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Wheaton family law attorney estate planning

Many of our clients would like the benefits of using a trust but want to retain control over their property while living. For them, a pour-over will might be exactly what they need to accomplish their estate planning goals.

This type of will transfers all remaining assets to a living trust when the testator, or creator of the will, dies. In other words, the will does not identify who will be the beneficiary of each asset. Instead, that information is contained in the trust, and assets are “poured” into the trust when the testator passes away. The successor trustee collects property and then distributes it according to the trust document.

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