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Lombard estate planning lawyersEvery adult should have some type of estate plan in place. Even just a relatively simple will could provide a great deal of security and direction for surviving loved ones in the event of a tragedy. However, the reality is that more than half of Americans do not have an estate plan of any kind.

While there may be many reasons for this, arguably the most common is procrastination. Most people realize that an estate plan is a good idea, but it is not always something that is a high priority. As a result, people tend to wait until they approaching retirement age to begin the process. Those who wait, unfortunately, often find themselves the unwitting targets of scammers who are simply looking to make money as they prey on the fears and uncertainty of those looking for peace of mind.

What Are Trust Mills?

Estate planning scams can take many forms, and they are not limited to shady-looking, back-alley operations. Fully licensed attorneys have been known to take advantage of estate planning and administration situations in an attempt to collect unnecessary fees. Trust mills are another common source of estate planning scams that you should be aware of.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneyMore than half of Americans do not have any estate planning documents in place at all. Those that do most often have a will and nothing more. However, there are many estate planning instruments above and beyond a last will which can be greatly beneficial. One of these instruments is a trust.

Some people shy away from trusts because they do know exactly how trusts work or how a trust can benefit them and their family. Others assume that only the wealthy require trusts to handle the distribution of assets after their death. Neither of these estate planning myths is true. Read on to learn about the basics of trusts and how a trust may be able to work for you. 

How a Trust Works

In a last will and testament, an individual writes directions for how his or her property should be distributed to heirs upon his or her death. A trust can also address how property is passed down to beneficiaries, but in a different way. A trust establishes an agreement between a testator and a trustee. The testator is the person creating the trust and may also be referred to as a settlor or grantor. The trustee is tasked with managing the settlor’s assets and distributing those assets according to instructions contained in the trust. The trustee is a fiduciary with a legal obligation to follow the terms of the trust and avoid any self-dealing or conflicts of interest in managing assets contained in a trust.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysYour family should not need to worry about your finances and assets after you die. That is why it is so important for you to create an estate plan. Even people of modest means have an estate and multiple options to choose from to ensure that their affairs are in order when the time comes. Two popular options are wills and living trusts. Understanding the difference between the two can help you decide which one is your best option.

A Last Will and Testament

A will is a legally binding written document that dictates how your property and assets will be distributed when you die. You can modify your will at any point during your lifetime, which means that the terms are not set in stone at the time of writing them. You can use a will to name a guardian of minor children in the event of your death, decide how debts and taxes will be paid, and name an executor of your estate.

Living Trusts

A living trust is a legal entity that is created to hold and own property. A trust is managed by a trustee, which is usually the owner, at least during his or her lifetime. The owner is also usually the beneficiary while they are alive. A trust usually names a successor trustee who will take over the management of the trust when the owner dies. Your assets can be dispersed to named beneficiaries when you die, and you will be able to maintain privacy regarding how these affairs are handled.

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Lombard living trusts attorneyWhen you are beginning to prepare an estate plan, it is important to remember that you are not just planning for the time after your death. An estate plan is necessary for more than just the rich—though that designation can be quite misleading. An estate plan is an outline set up by anyone—including those in lower- and middle-class income sectors—that determines what will happen to one’s assets and property. For those who may tend toward the higher end of the socioeconomic spectrum, it may be in your best interest to establish a living trust, which is a tool that can be used to manage your assets while you are still alive. Among other benefits, living trusts can useful in protecting certain assets and maintaining eligibility for government financial aid programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Two Types of Living Trusts

There are two main types of living trusts: irrevocable and revocable. The vast majority of living trusts are revocable, meaning that they can be amended or revoked at any time by the creator. When you create a living trust, the assets you select are transferred to the trust and ownership is in the trust’s name rather than in the name of an individual. Your designated trustee then administers the trust, meaning that the trustee makes decisions for the leveraging, sale, or gift of any assets in the trust. Most people name themselves the trustee of their own living trusts, meaning that there is essentially no difference in the way that one administers his or her own assets—only that they are now technically owned under the umbrella of the trust.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyIn Part 1 of this series of posts, we talked at length about how a divorce could impact the provisions and enforceability of a person’s will. A will, in many cases, is just one component of a comprehensive estate plan, which means that there are other estate planning instruments that could be affected by a divorce. For example, you may have established one or more trusts to protect and transfer your property to your chosen beneficiaries. The types of trusts that you have set up will determine how they are affected by your divorce.

Revocable Trusts

Illinois law provides that any provisions, appointments, or nominations made regarding a person’s spouse in the person’s will are automatically revoked when a judgment of divorce is issued. The law is similar in regard to trusts but with some important differences. The differences are caused by the nature of certain kinds of trusts and the rules that apply to them.

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