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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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DuPage County estate planning attorney wills and trusts

If you were to ask your children or other family members what you should do about dividing your assets and property upon your death, you would likely get a variety of answers. Some may suggest that you just divide it equally—without offering ways to determine what “equal” means. Others may remind you that you can make any arrangements that you want since it is your property. Of course, chances are also good that the same family members telling you to do whatever you think is best could be the same ones who are offended when they discover that their inheritance is not what they expected it would be. Fortunately, a qualified estate planning lawyer can offer a great deal of insight into planning for the future and, based on previous experience, can even provide advice on how to prepare your family for what is ahead.

Determine Your Priorities

Those who remind you that you have the right to do with your estate what you wish are exactly correct. You certainly have that right. However, it is important to consider how dividing your assets could affect your family and loved ones over the long term. You may decide that you do not really care if family members are upset or offended by your choices since you will be gone, and that too is your right. For many people, the specific property and assets that each heir receives are far less important than maintaining stable, trusting family relationships. Although it is not true in every situation, you may have the power with your estate planning decisions to positively or negatively affect your surviving family. Use it wisely.

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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 estate planning attorney wills and trusts

When a married person decides to develop an estate plan, the person’s spouse will almost always be involved in the process. But, what happens if you are ready to start making a plan for the future and your spouse is not? You know your spouse better than just about anyone else does, so you probably realize that nagging him or her about it will probably not work. Begging or threatening is not likely to be successful either. There are, however, some things you can do to start the estate planning process despite your spouse’s reluctance. In doing so, you might just be able to convince your spouse that there is no time like the present to plan for what lies ahead.

Start On Your Own

Obviously, it would be best for everyone involved if your spouse decided to get on board before you start your estate plan, but if he or she continues to refuse, you should look for the things that you can do by yourself. For example, you can draft a will that addresses the assets that you own and specifies what will happen to them upon your death. If your solely owned assets are substantial, you might consider working with an attorney to create various types of trusts as well. Additionally, you can appoint a power of attorney for health care or property without your spouse’s input.
At this stage, you should also compile a list of your joint accounts and investments. If you outlive your spouse, there is a good chance that you will be responsible for these assets—especially if your partner never makes an estate plan. This will also be helpful to your heirs and loved ones if you and your spouse were to both die within a short period of time.

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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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mistakes-man-upset-planning-failure.jpgThe true purpose of estate planning is to protect your assets and to provide for your family- even after you pass away. Planning for your future now can save your loved ones months of frustration and uncertainty in the future. There exists some misinformation regarding estate planning, and this can lead to mistakes. Those who are not aware of all their estate planning choices and the benefits and drawbacks of each choice may not be informed enough to avoid these common missteps.

Overlooking Living Trusts

Assuming that a last will and testament is the best choice for distributing assets after death is a common oversight. Although a will is more common, a revocable living trust may be the better option for some. A revocable living trust is a legal arrangement created to hold ownership of an individual's assets—similar to a will. However, assets left through a living trust do not have to pass through probate, which is the court system designed to prove the validity of a will. Probate can be lengthy and also makes the content of a will public information. The information contained in living trusts does not have to go through probate and stays private.

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