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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 attorneysWhen most people think about the concept of estate planning, they tend to think about money and “things.” Of course, there is nothing wrong with this thought, as estate planning does require a person to decide which beneficiaries will receive what property when the person dies. Property and debt considerations, however, are only part of the estate planning equation, especially if you have children who are under the age of 18. With the help of a qualified attorney, your estate plan can include your wishes regarding how your children will be cared for if something happens to you.

Guardianship Considerations

It is not easy to even ask the question, but what would happen to your children if you were, all of a sudden, out of the picture? Your spouse would most likely take on additional responsibilities for your children if you are married, but what if you are single or divorced? Or worse, what if you and your spouse were to die in the same tragic accident? Unfortunately, the realities of life are often extremely cruel.

If your children were suddenly left without any surviving parents, the court would be responsible for appointing someone to the role of guardian. In most situations, the court would choose a close family member, such as a grandparent, uncle, aunt, or someone else with whom your children already have a relationship. The court would do everything possible to make a decision based on serving the best interests of the children. However, you know your own family better than any lawyer or judge ever could, which means that you are in the best position to make such decisions for your children.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysThe very idea of estate planning can be frightening for many people, as it is not easy to confront the realization that nobody lives forever. Drafting an estate plan that includes a will, trusts, and other documents requires you to look past the end of your own life. While the difficulties associated with estate planning are understandable, it is critical to have an estate plan. If you were to die without a will or other estate plans, most of your property would probably be subject to the intestate succession laws of Illinois.

What Does “Intestate” Mean?

A particular asset is deemed to be “intestate” if there is no direction specified for how the asset will be disposed of following the owner’s death. Jointly owned property is not usually intestate because the ownership of the joint property will generally transfer to the other owner or owners. Likewise, an investment account that has named beneficiaries or a transfer-on-death clause is not an intestate asset. The named beneficiaries will receive the funds in that account when you die. However, if you are the sole owner of an asset and you have not established legally enforceable instructions on handling the asset upon your death, the asset will be treated as intestate property.

Intestate Succession Laws

The laws governing intestate succession in Illinois are contained in the Illinois Probate Act. Intestate property allocation will depend on your specific circumstances, including your surviving spouse, any children, and other family members. Intestate succession can become extremely complicated, however, as the law provides for a wide variety of possible situations.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneyWhile some people have the good fortune of being born into a family with significant wealth that was amassed several generations ago, most others work extremely hard to accumulate the assets and holdings that comprise their estate. As far as your estate is concerned, you have likely put in many hours and made responsible decisions to earn what you currently own. With this in mind, you have every right to decide what will be done with your property after your death.

It is important to remember that while you do have the right to make estate planning choices for yourself, decisions such as these will affect others. The choices you make in your estate plan will almost certainly impact your loved ones and close family members. That impact could be negative, positive, or neutral, depending on your unique circumstances and how you manage them.

Avoiding Unfounded Assumptions

A recent study conducted by Fidelity Investments found that an alarming number of aging individuals are not on the same page with their adult children when it comes to the topic of estate management. For example, Fidelity discovered that adult children tend to believe that their parents’ estates are worth far less than they actually—about $280,000 less on average. Additionally, the study found that nine out of ten parents plant to presume that one of their children will serve as executor of their estate. More than 25 percent of adult children, however, had no idea about their parents’ expectations.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysWhen the average person thinks about the concept of estate planning, they tend to think about wills, trust funds, inheritances, and other methods for passing assets down to the next generation. While these images are not really incorrect, they do not tell the whole estate planning story. In fact, there are many good reasons to create an estate plan that have almost nothing to do with possessions or money.  With this in mind, estate planning is an important consideration for any family, regardless of their wealth or overall net worth.

Reason 1: Privacy Considerations

Unless you plan ahead, Illinois law will likely require your estate to go through probate. Probate is the legal process through which an estate is settled when there are no alternative plans for doing so, and the process can be unpredictable, time-consuming, and cumbersome. You should also know that probate proceedings are usually matters of public record, which means that your affairs are available to be reviewed by the public at large. Through estate planning, you can minimize the effects of probate or even avoid it completely, thereby keeping your family’s personal matters private.

Reason 2: Minor Children

If something were to happen to you tomorrow, who would care for your children? If you answered, “My spouse,” let’s take the hypothetical situation a step further. If something were to happen to you AND your spouse tomorrow, who would care for your children? While you might have an idea regarding which family members might step up to help, it is important to have plans for your children’s care recorded in your estate plan.

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