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Lombard estate planning attorneyNo matter what your age, a will can offer numerous benefits as part of a comprehensive estate plan. As the AARP notes, your will serves as a roadmap for stating your intentions, distributing your possessions to beneficiaries, and wrapping up your final affairs. With a will, you maintain control over your assets instead of being subject to Illinois intestacy laws and reduce the potential for disputes among surviving loved ones, saving time and money in the estate administration process.

What you may not know is there are a few objectives you cannot accomplish by creating a will. This can lead to surprises if you expect to achieve certain goals, so it is wise to consult with an estate planning attorney regarding the details. Here is an overview of four things you cannot do through your will.

1. Evade Creditors

If you incurred debts or related legal obligations during your lifetime, you will not be able to get rid of them through your will. Your creditors can still pursue your estate, and in some cases, specific beneficiaries, to obtain payment. The person you name as executor cannot avoid debts, because they will be required to provide notice to creditors and pay verified claims.

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DuPage County estate planning lawyerIf you have already created a will, you should be happy to count yourself among the majority of Americans in certain age groups who have done so as well. According to AARP, almost 70 percent of individuals aged 65 years and older have prepared a will, as have just under 60 percent of people ranging from 50 to 64 years old. Like you, these testators appreciate having more control over their final affairs and the Illinois estate administration process, as well as knowing their assets are better prepared to make it to the hands of their intended beneficiaries.

However, there is much more to estate planning than just a will. Without other critical documents, there could be substantial gaps in your estate plan. As such, it is wise to talk to an estate planning attorney about other arrangements outside of your will, such as:

Health-Related Advance Directives

Some of the most critical estate planning documents provide advantages before your passing. Illinois allows for different kinds of advance directives, which provide instructions on how to handle your health care and medical needs if you become incapacitated. These include:

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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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DuPage County living will attorneyIt is understandably difficult for many people to consider their own end-of-life health care decisions. They may convince themselves that they will have plenty of time to think about such things when the time comes. What if you do not have plenty of time, however? What if, for example, you are suddenly diagnosed with a fast-moving illness or terminal injuries? Being prepared is always the better option, and a power of attorney for health care and a living will can help you stay ahead of life’s unpredictability.

What is a Power of Attorney for Health Care?

While a living will and power of attorney for health care can be used in conjunction with each other, it is important to understand the basic differences between the two. A power of attorney for health care grants an individual or entity of your choosing—known as an agent—the authority to make medical and health-related decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so. This typically applies to situations of mental or physical incapacitation. The power of attorney may include specific directions for the agent regarding your wishes, and any health-related concern you have not specifically addressed will be decided at the discretion of your appointed agent.

What Can I Include in a Living Will?

Compared to a power of attorney, a living will is a bit more specific. The Illinois Living Will Act provides the applicable guidelines for such documents, or declarations, as they are statutorily known. A living will is sometimes called an advance medical directive and is used to outline your wishes regarding “death-delaying procedures” in the event you are suffering from a terminal condition. A declaration would only take effect if you were unable to give directions related to your care.

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Lombard estate plan lawyerEstate planning can be a complex matter, with state and federal laws to consider, but the initial steps do not have to be complicated. In fact, almost anyone can complete an effective estate plan with the right mindset and good advice from an experienced estate planning attorney. While some estates are more complicated than others, there are basic concepts that apply to virtually every situation.

Know Your Assets

From your real estate property, to the remainder of your retirement plan, to your beloved baseball card collection, it is crucial that you know what you own before you start the estate planning process. Start by gathering detailed documents for all of your financial accounts, including bank accounts, savings bonds, and retirement accounts, as well as your real estate, vehicles, and other large assets. Then make a list of family heirlooms and property that may have value. If necessary, have items appraised so that you know how much you are leaving to each of your heirs.

Determine Who Will Inherit From Your Estate

There are many ways to determine how your assets are distributed upon your death. For example, you could lay out detailed terms of inheritance in your will, or you could establish trusts that give you greater control of the distribution and allow your assets to bypass the probate process. It is also important to determine how you will prioritize your spouse, children, grandchildren, other relatives and friends, and possibly charitable or community organizations. How you distribute your assets is up to you; just make sure you have a plan, because it can save you both time and money when meeting with your attorney.

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Lombard IL estate planning attorneyEstate planning can be simple, but most often, it is a bit more complex than most people realize. Regardless of your situation, the best way to ensure your wishes are known and followed after your death is to have the proper documents in place by creating a will and appropriate trusts with the help of a skilled estate planning attorney. It also helps to know some of the most common mistakes made by those creating estate plans, including:

Failing to Plan at All

The statistics are alarming: more than half of all Americans do not have an existing will. Unfortunately, if you die without an estate plan, your assets will be divided according to the intestate succession laws of Illinois. Not only is it highly unlikely that this will happen according to your wishes, but the process of probate can end up chipping away at—and potentially decimating—the assets you have left behind.

Another concerning matter is that, if you should die without a will and have minor children, there is no guarantee as to who will assume responsibility for their guardianship until they become adults. Avoid this common mistake, and take the first steps in creating an estate plan today.

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Lombard IL living trust attorneyMany people associate estate planning with death, and as a result, they often miss out on a truly valuable instrument of asset protection and financial management during their lifetime. A great place to begin learning about and utilizing estate planning is what is known as a “living trust.” This estate planning resource can allow you greater control over the transfer of your assets to your loved ones when the time is right through a mechanism that bypasses the time and expense of probate. To begin benefitting from estate planning, whether through a living trust, a will, or other tools, work with an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney.

Functions of a Living Trust

Unlike a will or a testamentary trust, which become effective only upon your death, a living trust can become effective while you are living. For many, a primary reason to create a living trust is to protect assets from the probate process. This form of lawful asset protection is accomplished when legal ownership of the assets is transferred from you—the “grantor”—to the trust under the control of a “trustee.” The trustee holds the assets in trust for those you who have selected to benefit from them—the “beneficiaries”.

Importantly, the law even allows you to be named as the trustee of your own living trust, which permits you to retain full control of the assets held in the trust during your lifetime. You have the ability to add or remove assets, modify the terms of the trust, or revoke the trust as you see fit. It is also important to name a successor trustee who will take over management of the trust assets in the event of your death or incapacitation. After your death, the assets can then be distributed to your named beneficiaries according to your wishes.

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DuPage County contested will attorneyIt can be traumatic when the loss of a loved one is coupled with shock and surprise over a will that transfers the estate’s assets in a way that appears inconsistent with the intentions of the deceased testator. If you are dealing with such a scenario in the wake of the loss of your parent, spouse, child, or another close relative, you may have the option to formally contest the validity of the will in question. In doing so, you should work closely with an experienced Illinois wills and trusts attorney.

 A Will Must Comply With Applicable State Laws to be Valid

Wills and trusts are serious business. As such, a will must comply with all formalities imposed by state law in order to be regarded as valid. For example, Illinois law requires that a will must be signed by the person whose estate it concerns, who is known as the “testator”. In addition, the testator’s signing of the will must occur in the presence and hearing of two valid witnesses. In most cases, in order to be a valid witness of a will, a person must not be a beneficiary of the will. If you have reason to believe that the will was not created in accordance with these requirements, you may have grounds to contest it.

The Drafting and Execution of a Will Must Be Free from Undue Influence and Fraud

In addition to signature and witness requirements imposed by Illinois state law, the drafting and signing of a will must be free from undue influence and fraud. Undue influence exists when a testator is subjected to extreme pressure or severe duress to the extent that free will is suppressed. When mental or physical capacity diminishes with age, a testator may be particularly vulnerable to undue influence exerted by individuals lacking scruples.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyMany people assume that estate planning is for the rich or for those nearing the end of their life. Is this really true, though? Does everyone need to create an estate plan, or is it just for certain people? Is there a correct time to start? Or are these just common misconceptions that get in the way of planning for the future? At our firm, we are here to help you better understand the purpose, intent, and timing of estate planning, and why you should consider creating one, regardless of your income level.

Not Just for the Rich

Despite the misconception surrounding estate planning, the process is not just for those that have a lot of money, property, or assets to leave behind. In fact, even those with relatively few assets can benefit from estate planning. There may be family heirlooms or sentimental items that your children or other heirs want. You may have final expenses, and you will almost certainly need someone you trust to close out your bank accounts, social media accounts, or other personal accounts. Additionally, if you have young children, it is important that you name a guardian for them to ensure they are raised by someone you trust.

No Time Like the Present

Waiting around to complete your estate plan is not a good idea. After all, tomorrow is not guaranteed, and the unexpected could literally occur at any time. Regardless of your age—be it 18 or 86—you should consider creating an estate plan now. While you are of sound mind, you can and should make decisions about whom should take care of your final matters, get your personal items, take guardianship of your children, and make medical decisions for you in the event that you become incapacitated in the future.

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DuPage County estate planning attorney

In the state of Illinois, couples and life partners currently have more options for how they can legally define their relationship than ever before. Same-sex marriage has been recognized throughout the state since 2014 and across the country since 2015. While some couples may wish to have the legal recognition of marriage, others may not. This may be the case in a variety of relationships, regardless of the partners’ genders. What couples who do not wish to marry must understand is that “common law marriage” is not recognized by the state of Illinois. This distinction has a serious impact on the need that unmarried couples in Illinois have for estate planning.

What Is Common Law Marriage?

“Common law marriage” is the term that generally defines the status of two people who agree to marry and live together but have not actually taken the legal steps required to procure a marriage license and register their union with the state. Each state sets its own guidelines for recognizing common law marriages. In Illinois, there is no recognition of such unions. Regardless of how long a couple has been together, Illinois probate law essentially treats unmarried partners as strangers to one another. Neither party is presumed to have any rights to the other’s property upon his or her death.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysYou have worked hard to earn the property that you currently own so it is understandable that you would want to have control over who inherits this property upon your death. Disinheritance refers to the act of purposely excluding someone from your will in particular or your estate plans in general. There are many different reasons that a person may choose to disinherit an heir. He or she may have ended his or her relationship with the heir due to abuse or conflict, have concerns about how the heir would spend inheritance funds, or simply believe that the heir is financially secure enough to miss out on an inheritance. Whatever your reasons for disinheriting an heir, doing so can sometimes prove to be a challenging legal process. For help understanding Illinois inheritance laws, drafting a last will and testament, or developing other estate plans, contact an experienced estate planning lawyer.

Disinheriting a Spouse

Through an estate plan, an individual can leave his or her property to anyone or any organization he or she chooses. However, Illinois law does not typically permit a person to disinherit his or her spouse through a will without the spouse’s consent. If a last will and testament does disinherit a spouse, the surviving spouse may be able to “renounce” the will formally. Presuming the renunciation is successful, he or she would then be entitled to a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate. If the deceased person has children, the surviving spouse may be entitled to one-third of the estate. If there are not any surviving children, the spouse may be entitled to one-half of the estate.

It is important to note, however, that an individual’s right to renounce his or her spouse’s will does not extend to living trusts or certain other estate planning documents. It should also be noted that if there is a situation in which the terms of a will conflict with the terms of a prenuptial agreement, the prenuptial agreement takes precedence.

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Illinois State Bar Association DuPage County Bar Association Northwest Suburban Bar Association American Inns of Court DuPage Association of Woman Lawyers National Association of Woman Business Owners Illinois Association Criminal Defense Lawyers DuPage County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
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