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no-contest, Wheaton estate planning attorneysThere are a number of reasons that a will or other estate planning document may be invalid. If the testator was not of sound mind due to dementia or another health condition when he or she created the will, for example, the will may not represent the testator’s true wishes. If a testator was coerced or tricked into the provisions contained in his or her will, it is also invalid. If a loved one has reason to believe that the directions contained in a deceased person’s will should not be followed, they may contest the will in court. Unfortunately, some beneficiaries may contest a will simply because they do not like the instructions contained within the will. If you are concerned that someone may challenge the validity of your will after you pass away, you may want to consider adding a “no-contest” clause.

Basics of No-Contest Clauses

There is no way to completely prevent your will from being challenged after your death. However, you can discourage beneficiaries from challenging it. A no-contest clause is a provision in a will or trust that establishes certain “penalties” if a beneficiary challenges the validity of the will or trust. For example, perhaps you are worried that one of your children will be unhappy with his or her share of your estate. You worry that he or she will contest the validity of your will in an attempt to have the will thrown out. You could include a no-contest clause that states that if a beneficiary disputes the validity of your will and loses, he or she will lose part or all of the inheritance assigned to him or her. The possibility of losing a significant inheritance can make a beneficiary think twice before challenging your will.

Limitations of an Illinois No-Contest Clause

It is important to note that a no-contest clause cannot guarantee that your will may not be contested. A beneficiary may still choose to challenge the will even at the risk of losing his or her inheritance. If the will is found to be invalid, the directions contained within the will may be disregarded and your estate may instead be distributed according to intestate law. A no-contest clause also does not discourage people who are not named as beneficiaries from challenging the will. The best way to prevent your will from being successfully challenged is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who can ensure the validity of your will.

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executor, DuPage County estate planning attorneysCreating an estate plan is a vital responsibility regardless of your wealth or property. Surprisingly, approximately 60 percent of American adults have not even created a will, let alone any other type of estate planning document. Everyone deserves to decide how their possessions are passed down to heirs, but these decisions are left to state law when a person passes away without any estate planning instruments in place. If you are ready to start making your estate plan, you may be wondering who you should choose as the executor of your will. The executor has many key obligations, so it is important to choose someone who can fulfill these duties.

Completing Your Final Affairs

An executor is the person responsible for finalizing a deceased person’s worldly affairs. Executors, also called personal representatives, have a legal duty to act in good faith and with integrity on behalf of a deceased person. Executors have many responsibilities, including but not limited to:

  • Managing the deceased person's property and belongings until they are distributed to heirs
  • Supervising the distribution of the deceased person’s property as per the directions contained in the will, or if there is no will, according to intestate succession law
  • Filing the will in the local probate court
  • Representing the estate in court
  • Terminating credit cards and notifying the deceased person’s bank of his or her death
  • Contacting the Social Security Administration and other governmental agencies regarding the death
  • Establishing a bank account for incoming funds and bill payment
  • Paying the deceased person’s bills such as mortgage payments, utility bills, and homeowner's insurance premiums using estate funds and
  • Paying the deceased person’s debts and taxes

The person you name as the executor of your estate has a large responsibility, so it is important to choose someone who you think can sufficiently handle executor duties. Many people choose a spouse, sibling, or adult child to be the executor of their will but the executor does not have to be a blood relative.

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contested, DuPage County estate planning lawyersOne of the most critical reasons it is important to work with a lawyer when drafting a will is that a will can be formally challenged, or contested, if it does not meet certain criteria. If a will is successfully challenged, then some or all of the directions for property distribution contained within the will are rejected. Instead, the testator’s property is distributed according to state law. An individual cannot contest a will simply because he or she considers it to be unfair or is unhappy with his or her share of the inheritance. Read on to learn about the grounds or reasons that a person may contest a will in Illinois.

Lack of Testamentary Capacity

“Testamentary capacity” refers to person’s cognitive abilities. A testator must be of sound mind in order to legally approve of the terms contained within his or her will. If a person lacked testamentary capacity when he or she agreed to the will, the will may be considered invalid. If a person suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or another cognitive health issue and wishes to draft an estate plan, he or she should seek legal guidance from an experienced lawyer so that steps can be taken to prevent his or her will from being contested in the future.

Undue Influence

In order for a will to be valid, the testator must have freely and voluntarily agreed to the terms contained within the will. If the testator was coerced, tricked, or manipulated into agreeing to the provisions in his or her will, the will is not valid. Undue influence is often a concern when a particular person has virtually unlimited access to an aging or ill testator.

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living will, DuPage County estate planning lawyersA living will is a type of advance health care directive that allows a person to make decisions ahead of time about their wishes regarding medical treatments and end of life care. It is not a pleasant thought to have, but have you ever wondered what would happen if you were incapacitated and could not express your wishes regarding the type of medical care you do and do not want to undergo? For example, if a serious car accident leaves you in a permanent vegetative state, would you want to be kept alive via a ventilator? It can be very emotionally taxing to make the decisions contained in a living will, however, doing so means that your surviving loved ones will not have to make these decisions on your behalf.

A Living Will Lets You Make Decisions About Your Future Medical Care

In a living will, you describe the medical treatments you do and do not want to receive if you become incapacitated and cannot specify this information yourself. Medical treatments commonly discussed in a living will include dialysis, mechanical ventilation, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), tube feeding, antibiotics and antiviral medications, and palliative care. You will also be able to dictate if you would want to be allowed to spend your last days at home. Many people have strong feelings about organ, tissue, or body donation. In your living will, you can specify that you only wish to be kept on life-sustaining machines for the purposes of organ donation. If you wish to donate your body to a university or other donation program, you will also be able to specify this in your living will, as well as in other estate planning documents.

Your Loved Ones Will Not Be Burdened With Making Your Medical Decisions

Extensive legal battles can result from family members that disagree about an incapacitated loved one’s medical care. Many people remember the events surrounding the death of Terri Schiavo in 2005. The young woman had suffered severe brain damage and was not expected to ever recover from a persistent vegetative state. Her husband wanted her feeding tube removed so that she could pass away, but her parents fought aggressively to keep her alive. Disagreements like these can be avoided when an individual has a living will. Instead of family members having to guess what type of end-of-life care you would have wanted, they will be able to follow your directions.

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holidays, Wheaton estate planning attorneysIt is hard to believe that the winter holiday season is here again already. By this time next week, you may be getting ready to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner with your family, loved ones, and friends. A few weeks later, many families will get together to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, the upcoming New Year. If your family members live in various parts of the country, the winter holidays could be the only time during the year that your entire family is able to be together. Therefore, I might also be the only chance you have to talk about important subjects such as estate planning.

Prepare for the Conversation

It can certainly be difficult to start a discussion about your estate plans. In fact, even just thinking about estate planning can be uncomfortable because doing so requires confronting your eventual death. The conversation, however, is too important to skip completely. There is no need for your estate plan discussion to take many hours, nor does it need to prevent your family from enjoying the holidays. You can control the situation and keep the tone light and positive, but you will need to do a few things in advance, such as:

  • Talk to certain people before everyone else is involved. It not the best idea to surprise your children or family members in front of everybody during the holidays by asking them to take on estate-related responsibilities. If you want your daughter to be your executor, for example, speak to her about it in private beforehand. When everyone is together, you can let them know that your daughter has agreed to take on the role.
  • Make a brief outline. If you do not have any set direction, your estate planning discussion could go on for a very long time—to the point where it takes over the whole holiday experience. To prevent this, make a short list of the key things that you want to talk about. Then, stick to the list! Other related topics will almost certainly be brought up, but do your best to limit tangents.
  • Cover the big things. The holiday discussion is probably not the place to spend time on the minor details. It really does not matter who is going to keep your bedroom television. What does matter is where your important documents are kept and how your plan accounts for the possibility of mental or physical incapacitation.
  • Let your family speak, not decide. Feedback from your family regarding your estate plan can certainly be helpful, but in the end, the decisions are yours to make. Some of your plans might not be open to debate, and that is fine, but tell your loved ones that. On other subjects, you might invite thoughts and ideas that could contribute to your ultimate decision.

Contact a Wheaton Estate Planning Attorney

If you are in the process of creating an estate plan, or if you would like to get started on one, contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning lawyer. Call 630-665-2500 to schedule an initial consultation at Stock, Carlson & Asso. LLC today.

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