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Wheaton wills and trusts lawyersIf estate plans were only about money, they would not be so difficult to create. Instead, parties must first come to terms with their own eventual death, and they must consider where and how they would like money to be distributed. Since family matters can be highly complex and sometimes volatile, and the rules for handling assets upon one’s death can vary by type and situation, such decisions regarding inheritances can be more than just difficult. One possible solution is to use “lifetime gifts” as your guide. Learn more in the following sections, including how our seasoned estate planning attorneys can help with drafting your initial estate plan. 

What is a Lifetime Gift?

Lifetime gifts are often used as an estate-planning strategy for reducing federal and state taxes, which means they are most commonly used in estate plans that exceed either the $4 million Illinois state estate tax exemption or the $5.5 million federal estate tax exemption. Each gift, which may equal up to $15,000 in value each year ($30,000 maximum for married couples giving a joint gift), reduces the value of the estate, thereby reducing the amount that heirs will be taxed when they inherit it. Lifetime gifts can do more than simply lower the tax load of one’s estate, however. They can also benefit the guarantor during the estate planning process. 

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Wheaton will and trust attorneysWhen creating an estate plan, most people ensure their children and spouse are covered. Sadly, few people consider how their death could impact their furry family members. In fact, statistics indicate that only about 18 percent of pet owners have considered making provisions for their pet in their will. This oversight, which may be partially attributed to the fact that not everyone knows you can estate plan for a pet, often results in a poor outcome for beloved animals. Learn how you can prevent such a fate for your family pet using a pet trust or comprehensive estate plan, and discover how a seasoned estate planning lawyer can assist you with the estate planning process. 

Why Include Your Pet in an Estate Plan? 

In most states (including Illinois), pets are considered property. That means, if a pet owner dies, the animal is distributed like any other asset. Unfortunately, because a pet holds no financial benefit for the inheriting heir, it may be abandoned, surrendered, or neglected due to a lack of funds or desire to care for the animal. An estate plan can reduce the risk of such an issue occurring - and not just because the guarantor usually speaks with the inheriting party to ensure there is a desire to care for the pet, but because it often allows the pet owner to set up a fund that ensures the pet is well cared for, long after they are gone. Pet owners can also elect to set up alternate or subsequent guardians for their pet, just in case something should happen to the primary heir of the animal, such as a death, the birth of a child, or the development of allergies. 

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Wheaton will and trust lawyersPeople may put off estate planning for a variety of reasons. Most are born out of estate planning myths - assumptions that simply are not true. Learn why estate planning is an important task for everyone, regardless of their situation, and discover how a seasoned estate planning lawyer can assist you with the process in the following sections. 

“Only the Rich Need an Estate Plan”

Perhaps one of the biggest estate planning misconceptions is that the process is only for the extremely wealthy. While, yes, a comprehensive estate plan is important for reducing the tax load of the wealthy, even those with moderate to small estates can benefit from the process. Often, people do not know their true value. They may have assets that they have forgotten about, or their savings and retirement accounts may have accrued more interest than expected. If the individual has children, this alone facilitates the creation of a will, as it is important that families ensure their children end up with the guardian or guardians they feel to be the most suitable. 

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DuPage County wills and trusts lawyerWhile those who are married or have kids typically have a built-in plan, should anything happen to them, singles rarely have this option. As such, they may find themselves incapacitated or ill with no one to protect their interests. Even worse, if they pass away, their entire life’s earnings could be lost. Thankfully, there are ways that single people can protect themselves from such a fate. Learn more, and discover how a seasoned will an trust lawyer can assist with the process. 

Examining the Role and Responsibilities of a Proxy or Trust

A trust or proxy is someone who makes medical, financial, or estate decisions for an incapacitated or deceased party. Used by single and married people alike, this person must be appointed by the individual in question ahead of time, and their roles and responsibilities must be clearly outlined. These may include:

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Illinois estate planning lawyerIn a world where people are increasingly reliant upon the internet for their personal, financial, and business needs, do-it-yourself estate planning may seem like the fastest, easiest, and least expensive option for drafting a will or trust. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Do-it-yourself estate planning options can rarely accommodate the unique needs of individuals, and they can leave the surviving family susceptible to all sorts of complications. Learn more about the risks that one may assume under a DIY estate plan, and discover how the assistance of a seasoned estate planning lawyer can reduce the risk of probate issues for your loved ones.

Overlooking Potential Issues

In a DIY estate plan, individuals usually rely on the prompts of a computer. If they respond incorrectly, do not understand the verbiage of a specific question, or if the computer fails to ask the appropriate questions, there could be potential issues in the future. As an example, consider the estate plan in which one names only primary beneficiaries. If something happens to the named parties and a successor or contingent was not named, the estate could go to probate.

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