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Lombard estate planning attorneyMany people do not realize it, but taking steps to prevent identity theft is an important part of estate planning. Sadly, more and more criminals are taking advantage of grieving families by stealing the identities of deceased individuals. An identity thief can use a deceased person’s name and personal information to obtain and use credit cards that are in the deceased person’s name, apply for loans, falsify tax returns, and more. If your loved one’s identity is stolen after they pass away, you will be burdened with resolving the issue with law enforcement and financial institutions. Follow these steps to minimize the chances of your loved one’s identity being stolen after they pass away.

Tip #1: Notify Interested Financial Companies of the Death

When a loved one dies, it is usually up to the executor of the estate to contact financial institutions and close accounts. It is important to do this as soon as possible. Unscrupulous individuals can take advantage of the window of time between when an individual dies and when the decedent’s finances are settled. Contact every bank that your loved one had an account with and notify them that your loved one has passed away. You should notify the banks even if the deceased person’s spouse or another person is still listed on the accounts. You will also need to notify any lenders, mortgage companies, or investment companies your loved one had business with.

Tip #2: Close Credit Cards and Contact the Major Credit Bureaus

You will need to compile a list of all of your loved one’s credit card accounts so that you can close them. Looking through their purse or wallet can give you some information, but a better idea may be to request a copy of their credit report. You should also continue to monitor their credit report for suspicious activity. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will eventually notify the credit bureaus of your loved one’s passing but doing so yourself may expedite the process and help prevent an identity thief from opening a new line of credit under your loved one’s name. Sometimes a funeral director will contact the SSA on behalf of a family, but contacting the SSA, as well as the Internal Revenue Service, is ultimately the surviving family member’s responsibility.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysPreparing a will is, for many people, the cornerstone of estate planning. For some, a will can be enough to cover much of their estate, while others may require additional planning instruments to meet their needs when they are gone. Regardless of the size of your estate, choosing an individual to oversee the execution of your will is one of the most important determinations that you will have to make during the estate planning process. A person or entity tasked with such responsibility is called an executor in Illinois—sometimes known as a personal representative in other states—and should be worthy of the trust that you have placed in him or her to protect your assets and property.

Duties of the Executor

An executor may be a financial institution, trust company, or other entity, but in most situations, it is an individual person, often a friend or family member. Upon your death, your executor will be responsible for:

  • Locating and compiling your assets, if you have not already done so;
  • Notifying creditors, and satisfying outstanding debts or other obligations with funds from your estate;
  • Manage all assets during the process of probate;
  • Distribute property to surviving spouse and dependents, as required by law; and
  • Distribute remaining property to beneficiaries named in the will, or as required by law.

If your estate is valued at less than $100,000, Illinois law permits your executor to close the estate without court involvement. Estates that exceed a value of $100,000 must be handled through probate court unless other estate planning steps have been taken to avoid the probate process legally.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneysIt is hard to believe, but the winter holiday season is just about upon us once again. While Thanksgiving evolved as a celebration of the harvest and is, therefore, a fall holiday, it is also seen by many as the first of the winter holidays that also include Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s. For the next month or so, families throughout the country will be getting together to eat, drink, and honor traditions that stretch back for many generations.

If your family will be getting together during the holidays, you might consider taking advantage of the opportunity to discuss your estate plans. Obviously, talking about what will happen after your death might not be the most comfortable discussion ever, but having the conversation now could go a long way toward preventing disputes and family infighting later.

Things to Talk About

This estate planning discussion does not need to last for many hours, nor does it need to be terribly detailed. The main goal is to let your loved ones know that you have created an estate plan and that the plan includes several important decisions. It is up to you to decide who should be included in the discussion, but most experts agree that your spouse and all of your children should be present, if at all possible.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt seems that our reliance on computers and the internet grows stronger every day. If you are like most people, you probably use email, text messages, and social media to keep up with friends and family. You may pay your bills online, use your phone to deposit checks, and have loads of photographs stored on electronic devices.

Have you ever thought about what will happen to your digital life after you pass away? It is becoming increasingly important to include directions about digital assets in estate plans. Failing to account for these items in your will and other estate plans can cause your surviving loved ones unnecessary stress and expense.

Take Inventory of Your Digital Assets

It can be overwhelming to consider how your digital assets should be managed after you are no longer able to do so yourself. To get started, take inventory of all of your important accounts and files. Make a list of any:

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DuPage County trusts attorneysWouldn’t it be nice if every individual was fiscally responsible and able to make good decisions about money? Of course it would be, but, sadly, that is the world we live in. In reality, countless people have a tough time with their finances and establishing healthy spending habits. For people like this, money tends to burn a hole in their pocket, so to speak, and is often spent in frivolous ways—at least according to their family members and friends.

This issue is frequently relevant in the realm of estate planning, as those who are creating an estate plan may have concerns about leaving a large inheritance to a child, grandchild, or another heir who has shown to be bad with money. They worry that the assets that they have worked hard to accumulate will be gone quickly, but they fear that potential family in-fighting that could result from cutting the would-be heir out of the estate plan entirely. If you are facing such a dilemma, you might consider using an incentive trust.

What Is an Incentive Trust?

By definition, an incentive trust is a trust arrangement through which you—the creator—can set conditions on how the assets of the trust will be distributed. Your conditions could be set to reward “good” behavior or to discourage behavior that you feel to be destructive or negative. For example, you could set up an incentive trust so that the trust’s assets will only be distributed to your named beneficiary after he or she graduates from high school and starts college. You could even increase the disbursement from the trust when the beneficiary completes his or her degree program.

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