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executorEstate 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 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 significant, and with that in mind, 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. He or she may be elderly and/or ill when the time comes for them to assume the role.

Whomever you choose must be able to fulfill all of the duties of the office. These include:

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divorce, DuPage County estate planning lawyerHave you drafted and signed a will that outlines your wishes regarding your property and other concerns in the event that you were to die unexpectedly? If so, you are in a better position than most American adults are. In fact, recent estimates suggest that approximately 60 percent of adults in the United States have no formal estate plan in place—not even a basic will. Having a will is a good thing, of course, but it is important to remember that certain life events can have a dramatic impact on the applicability of your existing estate plan. If you are considering a divorce, you will need to think about how it will affect your estate plan.

Your Ex-Spouse in Your Will

It is common for a married person to name his or her spouse as an heir in his or her will. In fact, many married individuals decide that their entire estate should go to their surviving spouse. Additionally, a person could also appoint his or her spouse to serve as the executor of the estate.

According to the Illinois Probate Act, if you divorce your spouse with a valid will still in place, your will remains valid and enforceable. However, the provisions in your will pertaining to your spouse are revoked automatically once the divorce is finalized. Such provisions include any appointments, nominations, responsibilities, and, intended inheritances. As a practical matter, the law treats the situation as if your spouse passed away before you did.

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myths, Wheaton estate planning lawyerA survey conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) shows that only about 40 percent of Americans have a will, trust, power of attorney, or other estate planning document in place. There are countless reasons that so many adults have neglected to create their estate plan. One reason is that many people do not understand the benefits that estate planning can offer them and their families. Some may only have a vague notion of what estate planning even entails and feel too overwhelmed by legal jargon to research estate planning further. Television and movies have not presented estate planning in a very positive light either. There are many myths and misunderstandings surrounding estate planning which are simply not true.

Myth: I Do Not Need to Worry About Estate Planning Until I am Older

When most people imagine someone writing a will, an image of an elderly or sick person comes to mind. The truth is that waiting until you are older to start formulating estate plans is a poor idea for several reasons. The validity of a will can be questioned if the person writing the will, called the testator, is not of sound mind due to advanced age or cognitive decline.

Secondly, estate planning does not only deal with what happens to a person’s debts and assets after they die. For example, some estate planning instruments can allow you to choose a guardian for your minor children if anything should happen to you and your children’s other parent. While it is unpleasant to think about, accidents happen every day and it is better to be safe rather than sorry.

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special needs, DuPage County estate planning attorneysIt can be terribly challenging to plan for a time when you are not around to care for your loved ones. However, facing this reality by making an estate plan is one of the most selfless actions you can take. This is an especially true if you have a child, sibling, or other close loved one who has a serious disability. If you have been responsible for caring for a loved one who cannot care for himself or herself, you may want to find a way of providing for him or her after you pass away. One way to do just this is through an estate planning tool called a special needs trust.

Planning for the Care of a Loved One with Special Needs

A special needs trust or supplemental needs trust is an estate planning instrument that can be critically important to individuals who have a disabled loved one in their care. This instrument works by allowing the caregiver to place funds in the trust, which can then be used for the future care of their disabled loved one. A special needs trust allows you to put aside money for your loved one without affecting the disabled person’s eligibility for government assistance programs. Special needs trusts can be funded through gifts and inheritances or a lump-sum settlement. Without a special needs trust, money left to your loved one could potential disqualify him or her for certain government aid programs.

Leaving Money to a Loved One Could Increase His or Her Available Assets Too Much

The majority of government-funded aid is distributed to individuals under a certain income level. For example, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and housing subsidies all have income criteria that a person must meet in order to qualify for the financial assistance. If you leave money to your disabled loved one without the appropriate estate planning instrument, it could be counted toward his or her available assets. If the funds are substantial, this money could bump your loved one’s income up to a level which makes him or her ineligible for programs with income or asset limits.

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no-contest, Wheaton estate planning lawyerAre you worried about what will happen to your surviving family members after your death? Maybe in the course of your conversations about your estate plan, you have seen warning signs that your children or other loved ones are not thrilled about your decisions. Or, perhaps you are concerned that one of your family members will be overcome by grief to the point where they cause problems without realizing what they are doing.

If you have such concerns, you may wish to consider adding a no-contest provision to your will. A no-contest provision can help reduce the possibility of your will being challenged after your death.

“In Terrorem” Clauses

A no-contest clause is sometimes known as an “in terrorem” clause. The Latin phrase “in terrorem” translates to “by way of threat.” Put simply, a no-contest provision threatens any heir who files a will contest in an effort to deter fighting between family members after the creator the will dies.

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