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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 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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DuPage County estate planning attorneysHome health aides, private duty nurses, and other paid caregivers can make a tremendous impact on the lives of the elderly or disabled individuals in their care. From helping with medical needs to transporting patients to and from doctors’ appointments to simply providing companionship, these caregivers are a valuable source of support. For many people, these caregivers are more like family members than hired help. If you have a special, non-related caregiver who goes above and beyond to make your life better, you may be considering leaving him or her an inheritance. Special laws dictate rules regarding inheritance to non-related caregivers in Illinois, so it is important to discuss your inheritance plans with an estate planning attorney to make sure your wishes will be followed.

Illinois Law Regarding Inheritance Left to Non-Related Caregivers

Unfortunately, elder financial abuse is a major problem in Illinois and throughout the United States. Some caregivers will use deceit or psychological manipulation to influence an elderly or disabled person into changing their estate plans so the plans benefit the caregiver. Because of the prevalence of elder financial abuse, Illinois lawmakers recently amended the Illinois Probate Act of 1975 to include special rules regarding inheritances left to non-relative caregivers. According to the law, a property transfer of more than $20,000 is automatically presumed to be fraudulent during any challenges to a will or trust. This means that if you leave your caregiver property valued at more than $20,000 and someone disputes the validity of your will or trust in court, it is possible that your caregiver will not receive this inheritance.

What to Do If You Wish to Leave a Large Inheritance to a Non-Family Caregiver

You worked hard to accumulate the assets you own and you deserve to choose who those assets are passed down to upon your death. If you have decided that you would like to include your caregiver in your estate plans, speak to a lawyer. Your attorney will be able to help you transfer your property to the caregiver in a way that does not cause unnecessary legal problems in the future. Once you have made your estate plans, it may be a good idea to share these plans with your family. It is less likely that your plans will be contested if your surviving loved ones are not surprised by the contents of your will or other estate planning documents upon your death.

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyFor most people, the primary goal of estate planning is make sure that their wishes are carried out regarding their assets and property upon their death. Wills, trusts, and other instruments can help you do so, but the real challenge, in many cases, is figuring out exactly what you want for the future of your estate. An estate planning attorney cannot make such decisions for you, but we can give you some things to think about in making your choices.

Include a Variety of Heirs

Too often, people make the mistake of naming their spouse as the sole beneficiary of their estate. What if he or she outlives you? What will happen your estate plan then? You may also be tempted to leave everything you own to one of your children. As you develop your will, you must remember that you are looking toward the future, and the future is always full of uncertainty. If you choose a single beneficiary and something happens to him or her, the disposition of your estate could depend on that person’s estate planning decisions instead of your own.

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inheritance, prenuptial agreement, Illinois Family Law AttorneyWhile many may view prenuptial agreements as necessary only for the rich and famous who stand to lose millions in divorce, the reality is much different. In fact, many marriage and financial experts recommend such agreements for all couples, especially those entering a second or subsequent marriage. In addition to outlining what is to happen with marital property in the event of death or divorce, can also be used to identify your own personal assets prior to marriage and establish a plan for their disposition as well.

Heirlooms and Inheritances

Consider a fairly specific, but not terribly uncommon scenario: For several generations, your family has passed down an item of both physical and sentimental value to the oldest child. This item previously belonged to your father, to his mother before him, and to her father before her. You inherited the asset prior to your marriage and long before you ever had children. Since the heirloom is an inheritance, and since it was acquired before marriage, it is not considered marital property by law. However, a prenuptial agreement can help you solidify the item’s status as personal property, retaining your ability to pass it down to your oldest child regardless of the state of your marriage.

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