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DuPage County estate planning attorneyIf you have already developed an estate plan, congratulations! You are already a step ahead of more than half of American adults. However, it is also important to understand that estate planning is not a “set it and forget it” undertaking—to borrow a phrase from a well-known infomercial. You need to review your plan on regular basis to make sure that it is still ready to meet your evolving needs. In addition, there are certain situations or life changes that may require you to update or make changes to your estate plan.

Getting Married or Divorced

When you get married, your new spouse does not automatically become a beneficiary in your existing estate plan. He or she will only inherit a portion of your estate if you update your plan. On the other hand, a divorce will nullify any provisions in your will that pertain to your ex-spouse, but only once the divorce is finalized. You will need to choose a new beneficiary to receive the portion of the estate once meant for your spouse.

Keep in mind that you will need to update your named beneficiaries on retirement accounts and other investments. A divorce will not automatically revoke your ex’s status as beneficiary for those type of assets.

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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 estate planning attorneyWhen married people create an estate plan, both parties are generally involved. What can you do, though, if you want to get serious about planning your estate and your spouse is still reluctant to get on board? Nagging certainly will not do the trick, nor will threatening or begging. Still, there are some ways that you may be able to ensure your heirs do not get shortchanged. It may be helpful to learn a few strategies for dealing with a spouse who seems hesitant to get on board.

Do What You Can On Your Own

While it is best to have your spouse on your side before you create an estate plan, you may not ever be able to persuade them. This does not mean you cannot create an estate plan. In fact, there are strategies that you can use on your own to ensure your assets go to the right people and charities. Assets that are yours—solely yours—can be drafted into an estate plan, regardless of whether or not your spouse participates. Further, you can ensure you have named your power or attorney for health or financial decisions just in case you ever become incapacitated.

You should also ensure you have a complete log of any joint accounts, should you outlive your spouse and end up becoming the executor of their estate. This can help you avoid any last-minute confusion and may even expedite certain issues, even if they failed to create their own estate plan. Further, if you and your spouse should pass away together, your other heirs will still have the information they need to manage your joint assets.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysDuring probate, the formal vetting process all wills must go through, heirs who believe a will is invalid can challenge that will in court. For example, if a relative worries that his elderly grandmother was coerced into agreeing to her will, he can contest that will. The court will examine the evidence and make a decision to either enforce the will or start from scratch and distribute the deceased person’s property according to state law. Wills can also be contested for dishonest reasons. For example, an heir who is unsatisfied with his or her inheritance may contest the will simply in an attempt to receive a greater inheritance. If you wish to make your will much less susceptible to being contested in court, a no-contest clause may be right for you.  

What Exactly is a No-Contest Clause?

A no-contest clause, often called a terrorem provision, is a set of directions written into a will or trust which addresses potential contests. The Latin phrase “In terrorem” literally translates to “about fear.” It is called this because the provision includes a penalty for anyone who tries and fails to contest the will during probate. If a disgruntled heir challenges the will without justification, that heir may be penalized. In this way, a no-contest clause can help discourage heirs or beneficiaries from challenging a will or trust.

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Lombard estate planning attorneySome people are just born rich. They are fortunate to be part of a family with wealth going back several generations. Others manage the impossible and win the Powerball jackpot, becoming enormously wealthy virtually overnight. Most people, however, work very hard throughout their lives to accumulate the assets and property that make up their estate. You have probably made sound financial decisions and put in the hours to earn what you have, so when it comes time to decide what will happen to your assets upon your death, you have the right to do so.

Keep in mind, however, that while the right to make decisions about your estate is yours and yours alone, such decisions are not made in a vacuum. The choices you make are likely to have an effect on your family members and loved ones. Whether that effect is positive, negative, or neutral depends on your circumstances and how you handle them.

Eliminating Assumptions

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