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Lombard estate planning attorneysThe American Stress Institute has named divorce as the second-most stressful event a person can endure. Ending a marriage is considered even more stressful than losing your job or going to jail. Of course, the emotional toll that comes with ending a serious relationship is a big part of this stress, but the logistics and paperwork required to properly divorce can sometimes be even more stressful. This is one reason A. Traub & Associates is dedicated to helping clients adjust their estate plans after a divorce. In this final post of a four-part series about how divorce will affect your estate plan, we will discuss updating beneficiaries after a divorce.

Estate Planning Housekeeping for Those Getting Divorced

In the last few posts, we discussed updating wills, trusts, and powers of attorney after a divorce. In addition to these tasks, divorcing individuals should make sure to update documents that designate beneficiaries for things like insurance policies, pensions, and retirement plans. If you are like most people, you probably named your spouse as the primary beneficiary of many policies and accounts. Some individuals assume that when a person divorces, these beneficiary designations automatically change. However, this is not the case. If you are getting a divorce and do not want your soon-to-be-ex-spouse to be a beneficiary anymore, you are responsible for making these changes.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersAccording to surveys, only about 40% of Americans have a last will and testament and much fewer have a comprehensive estate plan. There are many reasons why people neglect to plan for their future in this way. Some people are simply unaware of the ways an estate plan can help protect their wishes and decrease the burden on their family. Others assume that they do not have enough assets or make enough money to qualify for estate planning. The reality is that everyone can benefit from planning for the future using estate planning tools.

They Think They Do Not Need a Will If They Are Young and in Good Health

In movies, wills are only written by characters who have just learned that they have a terminal illness or are otherwise planning to die. This is very misleading. One of the worst times to write a will is when you are in bad health. A person should write a last will and testament while they are still cognitively competent to do so. A will written by a person of questionable mental capacity due to old age, dementia, or another illness is very vulnerable to being contested, or formally disputed in court. Furthermore, there is no need to wait until an advanced age to write a will or create a trust which determines how your assets are distributed after your death. The best idea is to create a will while you are young and to simply update it as your life circumstances change.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysFor many, estate planning is similar to doing your taxes. You know you should do it, but you put it off or procrastinate. Estate planning is especially difficult because it forces you to face your own mortality and have what can be uncomfortable conversations with loved ones about a time when you are not around anymore. Creating a comprehensive estate plan is critical to ensuring that your property and assets are distributed according to your wishes and that the end of your life is how you intend it to be.

Unfortunately, only four in 10 American adults have a will or living trust. The other 60 percent will have significantly less control regarding their property and final wishes than those who plan ahead. Luckily, there is no wrong time to start planning for the future, and there are estate planning steps that you can take at each stage of your life.

In Your 40s and 50s

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt is never too soon to start planning for your future. At every age, there is an opportunity to make estate planning decisions and preparations that will benefit you and your family in the future. The most financially successful individuals among us will tell you that it did not happen by accident. It is important to be aware of your financial situation and to be intentional about the way your plan for the future. At every stage of life, there are some estate planning steps that you should take in order to minimize complications or expense in the future.

Over the next few weeks, we will discuss how you can consider the future, no matter how old you are right now.

In Your 20s

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyerA person’s last will and testament is a vitally important document. In it, an individual can record their wishes regarding guardianship of children and the distribution of assets and property. However, there are instances in which the directives set forth in a will are not carried out. If a judge determines that the person signing the will was not of sound mind or was illegally influenced, the court can disregard the will. In these cases, decisions about property and guardianship can become incredibly complicated.

The Person Signing the Will is Not of Sound Mind

Often, as a person ages, they experience changes in cognitive capacity and memory. A will must be written and signed by a person of “sound mind” in order to be considered valid. A person has “testamentary capacity” if he or she fully understands the instructions set out in the will and agrees to them. It can be extremely difficult to prove that the testator was not mentally capable of understanding the will that they signed. Often the strongest evidence of testamentary capacity comes from the people who witnessed the will maker signing the will.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersAs 2017 comes to a close and we venture into 2018, it is important to make sure your estate plan is still accurate and reflects your current wishes. An up-to-date estate plan will offer peace of mind that your family is taken care of and that your final wishes are fulfilled after you have passed. An estate plan also protects your rights and financial interests while you are still living.  

Without an estate plan, a person’s assets are divided according to state laws. This means that a person without a comprehensive estate plan has little say in how their assets are disseminated after they pass away. If you currently have an estate plan in place, the end of the year is a good time to review and modify the plan as needed.   

Review Your Current Estate Plan  

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyThe Illinois Living Will Act states that every citizen has the basic right to control decisions about his or her health care. Unfortunately, however, there may come a point in a person’s life where he or she is not able to make such decisions on the spot. Advance medical directives, including living wills, can be used to document a person’s wishes regarding certain types of medical care in certain situations, removing the burden of making such decisions from family members and loved ones.

Those who advocate for living wills say that such instruments are crucial in protecting a patient’s rights. Living wills, in particular, address which types of death-delaying procedures the patient wishes to receive—or not receive—if he or she is ever diagnosed with a terminal condition and is unable to communicate his or her wishes at the time. A terminal condition is one that is incurable and will ultimately result in the patient’s death. Death delaying procedures are defined as treatments that will only serve to postpone the moment of death and commonly include:

  • Assisted ventilation and the application of artificial respirators;
  • Intravenous medication and nutrition;
  • Whole blood transfusions; and
  • Artificial kidney treatments, including dialysis.

A living will cannot direct medical personnel to withhold food or water to allow death to occur from starvation or dehydration.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysDo you have a signed and executed will or any other elements of an estate plan in place? If so, you are already ahead of more than half of American adults.

Next question: Have you had in-depth discussions about estate planning with your children and other important family members? If so, you and your family are well prepared for unexpected surprises—assuming your estate plan addresses all or most of the details that are significant to you and your loved ones.

Final question: Would your children agree that you have had the necessary conversations and do they know where to find important documents, passwords, and account information? Unfortunately, serious disconnects in communication are all too common when it comes to estate planning.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersIf you have taken the time to create a will or any other instrument of estate planning, you are already better off than more than half of American adults. When drafting a will, most people consider most of their physical belongings along with investments or savings kept in the bank or at other financial institutions. Digital assets, however, often go overlooked, as many people do not even remember that they exist when they sit down to develop their estate plans. Some may not even know what digital assets are.

What Are Digital Assets?

Do you have a library of e-books from Amazon? What about a collection of songs from iTunes or apps from Google Play? These are some of the most common examples of digital assets. With the advancement of online technology, there are more types of digital assets today than ever before. In addition to e-books, programs, and music, digital assets also include pictures, data, visual designs, artwork, and online accounts for gaming, entertainment, and social media. If you have even one these types of assets—and since you are reading a blog right now, you probably do—it is important to develop a plan for dealing with them after your death.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersEstate planning is arguably one of the most important things a person will do during their entire life, and as such, everything matters. The slightest discrepancy may be attacked, and your wishes may not be honored if your estate is not set up and administered properly. Perhaps the most important choice you must make while estate planning is picking your executor, who can ensure that your wishes are carried out as you prefer and act on your behalf.

Responsibilities of an Executor

A person who has been named an executor in Illinois has 30 days following the death of the testator in which to either submit the will for probate or refuse the appointment. The responsibility of managing another’s estate is a heavy one, and, as such, it is important to pick the right person. The instinct for many is to choose their spouse, but this is not always the best choice, especially if you are of similar ages and he or she may be older and/or ill when the time comes for them to assume the role. Who you choose must be able to fulfill all of the duties of the executor including:

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Lombard estate planning lawyerFor most couples, divorce is a difficult, time-consuming, and often expensive process. The considerations that accompany a divorce can seem almost endless, from determining who will keep which assets, how parental responsibilities will be divided, and whether spousal support is necessary. In the back of your mind, you probably realize that, at some point, you will need to update your will and other estate planning documents to address the property and obligations allocated to you during the divorce. But what if something were to happen to you before your divorce is finalized?

Your Estate Plan After Divorce

According to Illinois law, a divorce judgment will make certain changes to most estate planning documents in the event that a person dies before amending his or her estate plan. For example, if you named your spouse as the executor of your estate in your will and you pass away after your divorce has been finalized, the will shall be treated as if your spouse died before you. The same is true if your will left property to your former spouse, as well as if you appointed your spouse to be your power of attorney.

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyersAs you look toward the future, you may realize that there could be a time when you are limited in your decision-making abilities. It may become impossible for you to express your wishes regarding your finances, property, and even your own medical care. To prepare for such a possibility, Illinois law allows you to select an individual to serve as your power of attorney for these types of decisions. Your power of attorney will have the authority to make decisions on your behalf if and when you are no longer able to do so.

The Right Person

The individual that you choose to serve as your power of attorney must be capable of handling his or her assigned responsibilities. This means that he or she should:

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DuPage County estate planning lawyerAs you look forward to the future, you will need to make some important decisions about the disposition of your property and the care of your dependents. These are the considerations that most people think of when they hear the term “estate planning.” Estate planning, however, also gives you the ability to make advance decisions for your own medical care and treatment so that in the event that you are disabled or otherwise incapacitated, there will be no doubt regarding your wishes.

Your Living Will

A living will is one example of an estate planning document that can be used to formally record your desires regarding the medical care you wish to receive—or not receive—in specific situations. It is a type of advance medical directive that can be used to give instructions to your medical providers as well as to any person you have appointed to make medical decisions on your behalf, such as a power of attorney.

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