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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt is not easy to think about what will happen to your personal belonging and financial assets after your death. However, the process of estate planning can be an important part of providing your surviving family members with the security and peace of mind that they deserve.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for families to become fractured and split by disagreements over the estate of a deceased loved one. Such disputes can lead to many years of bitterness between family members who were once close. In some cases, a family member might feel so left out that he or she files a challenge to the decedent’s will. While there is no way to fully guarantee that one of your family members will not contest your will, there are few things you can do to reduce the possibility of such action.

1.  Make Your Plan Early

Many will contests are filed on the basis that the testator—the person who wrote the will—did not have the mental clarity needed to execute a will. The longer you wait to write a will, the more likely it is that your advancing age, decreasing health, and other considerations might be used as “reasons” for contesting your will. Draft and execute your will long before your mental state could reasonably be questioned, and work closely with a qualified estate planning lawyer.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysThere are many reasons and situations that require an update to your estate plan. Divorce is one of the most common and potentially catastrophic situations. Unfortunately, it is also easy to overlook or forget. There are many loose ends to tie up once the divorce process is complete, and with more to manage, estate planning can easily slip through the cracks. Unfortunately, if something does happen to you before you have made changes to your estate plan, assets may not go to the people and places you had hoped. Do not let this happen to you. Learn what and when you should update in an estate plan after divorce.

Changing Your Beneficiaries

If you have a 401K, IRA, or other retirement plan, the beneficiary listed on your policy should be checked upon completion of the divorce. Of course, you may have to split some of your savings with your former spouse, but the remaining amount should go to you. If you do not want the remainder to go to your ex upon your passing, and he or she is listed as the current beneficiary, it is important that you change this in your policy. Alternatively, if you wish your spouse to be listed as a trustee for your children, ensure the policy and your other estate planning documents reflect this wish.

Updating Your Powers of Attorney

If you are like most people, you probably have your spouse listed as your power of attorney (the person that acts and makes decisions for you in the event of incapacitation). Now, it is possible to keep your spouse as your power of attorney, but few divorces end quite that amicably. Instead, you might want to consider naming a close friend, a sibling, a parent, or an adult child. Make sure they are someone you can trust to carry out your wishes.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysHave you ever sat down with a member of your family and helped him or her apply for government-funded assistance programs? If so, you have probably seen firsthand that many of these programs have eligibility criteria that often include limits on income and owned assets. These requirements, in most cases, were established in order to ensure that those with the greatest need were served by these programs. However, the limits have also created unintended consequences for many people.

Such is often the case when an individual who receives benefits through Social Security, Medicaid, or other income-based programs is named as an heir in someone else’s will. It turns out that even a one-time transfer of property—which is generally what happens in inheritance situations—could have an effect on the heir’s eligibility to continue receiving benefits on which he or she may rely.

Understanding Government Aid Programs

Government assistance programs are virtually everywhere in today’s world, but many of them have been around for decades. Some even trace back to the “New Deal” measures of the 1930s, which were originally designed to help Americans who were most devastated by the Great Depression. As anyone who pays attention to politics can attest, government benefit programs are topics of constant debate and controversy, as legislators rarely agree on the future or the funding of such programs. Very few people, however, deny that these benefit sources are useful for those who are truly in need of medical care and financial help.

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will-estate-planning-probate-law.jpgThere are many misunderstandings about wills and estate planning in general. People incorrectly assume that they do not need to worry about estate planning until they have retired or that only the rich need a last will and testament. The reality is that having a will is beneficial to people of all ages and lifestyles. Passing away without a will means that strangers will decide how your property and wealth is managed and distributed to heirs instead of you. Although it can be difficult to make decisions about what will happen after you die, creating an estate plan put you in control of the assets you worked so hard to earn. The following are the most compelling reasons to stop procrastinating and get started on your will today.

Choosing a Guardian for Children if You Pass Away

If you are a parent of minor children, have you ever considered what would happen to your children if you passed away suddenly? Even a family with two parents can be struck by an unexpected tragedy which leaves the children parentless. A will allows you to name a legal guardian or guardians for your children if the worst happens. Parents who pass away and did not name a legal guardian for their children leave that decision up the court.

Determining How Your Assets Are Divided

Creating a last will and testament allows you to choose how your property and assets are divided among heirs. How your estate is distributed should be a personal decision – not one decided by strangers or impersonal state laws. If you do not create a will, when you pass away, your property and debt will be distributed according to Illinois law. This could mean that loved ones will not receive the inheritance you intended for them to receive and other heirs may be given these assets instead.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyMost people recognize the importance of having an estate plan in place just in case something unexpected happens. Depending on the size and nature of your estate, a comprehensive estate plan may include a will, various types of trusts, powers of attorney, a living will, and more. Sometimes, however, the unexpected “something” can take the form of a divorce. A divorce can dramatically impact your existing estate plan, so if your marriage will soon be ending, you will need to review and amend nearly every element of your estate plan.

Over the next couple blog posts, we will highlight several types of estate planning tools and how they might be affected by your divorce.

Your Will

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