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no-contest, Wheaton estate planning attorneysWhen a loved one dies, the loss can be very difficult on the surviving friends and family members. The intense emotions of dealing with the loss can often make a grieving family member act in ways that would be otherwise uncharacteristic, leading to serious disputes over a variety of matters. A common point of contention is the deceased person’s will, and serious battles can affect the stability of a family for years to come, if not permanently. In an effort to prevent such issues from tearing apart your family after your death, you may wish to consider including a no-contest clause in your will.

In Terrorem Provisions

A no-contest clause is also known as an in terrorem clause, which is a Latin phrase meaning “by way of threat.” Such a clause may be included in your last will and testament to deter beneficiaries from formally contesting the will. Most no-contest provisions specify that if an heir files a contest to the will, that heir automatically forfeits the portion of the estate intended for him or her. The idea is that, if there is a threat of receiving nothing, or a nominal amount like $10 or $20, a would-be heir is not likely to push for more. It is important to understand that a no-contest clause cannot stop an heir from contesting a will; its only potential impact is to what may happen as a result.

A Challenge Is Possible Anyway

Before deciding to include a no-contest clause in your will, you should meet with an attorney to discuss your particular circumstances. In some cases, the amount intended for specific heirs might not be enough leverage for such a clause to serve as an effective deterrent. For example, if you have a large number of beneficiaries each set to inherit $1,000, an heir might be willing to gamble with that amount to try an obtain a larger inheritance. If the original amount is $100,000, an in terrorem provision may be more effective.

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pet trust, Wheaton estate planning attorneyAs you go through the steps of creating an estate plan, you will probably give plenty of consideration to which of your family members will receive a particular asset or a part of your estate. If you have a young grandchild, for example, you could choose to bequeath one of your vehicles to him or her. With children, grandchildren, and other loved ones to consider, many people often overlook their companion animals. Could it be possible to include provisions for a pet dog or cat in your Illinois estate plan? Put simply, the answer is yes, but there are some limitations.

The Basics of a Pet Trust

Under the law in Illinois, you are permitted to make provisions for the care and protection of certain domestic animals through estate planning. In fact, the law explicitly allows for the creation of “trusts for domestic or pet animals”—more commonly known as “pet trusts.” The statute is not precise regarding the species of animals that are eligible to be covered under pet trust, as it simply states that the trust can be set up for the benefit of “one or more designated domestic or pet animals.” Over the years, however, Illinois courts have determined that pet trusts can apply to cats, dogs, and horses, as well as a number of other kinds of animals. Generally, livestock and farm animals are not considered domestic or pet animals.

In setting up your pet trust, you will be required to specify each animal that you wish to have covered. The trust documentation must include the animal’s name, sex, age, species, breed, and any other important details. You should also list any known health or medical conditions so that the individual you choose to manage the trust—known as the trustee—will be better prepared for the future.

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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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