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Why Just Having a Will is Not Enough

 Posted on December 14, 2013 in Probate

Everyone knows that they must get a will before it is too late. Those who know better know that a will alone is simply not enough.  It is true that having a proper will is an important tool in preparing for death, but it is only one in a set of tools that an estate-planning attorney has.

The estate-planning attorney uses these tools to achieve their clients' objectives. This is especially important for larger estates that may have several overarching interests.

One goal may be privacy. If a will goes through probate pursuant to the Illinois Probate Act, it will be a public document, allowing anyone to have access to it. This could create conflict in cases when a family member was left out of the will or gets a smaller portion of the estate.

One goal may be continuity. For example, if most of the assets are tied up in a business or some other venture that one may want to continue after their death, they leave sufficient assets to a trust, which would avoid probate and use the trust funds to continue the business.  The trust then would pay any income that it earns from its investment to the family members until a specific event occurs, e.g., the children turn a certain age.

Yet another goal may be tax planning. The U.S. has some daunting penalties if one's estate qualifies for the so-called death tax. If taxes are a concern, planning should begin well in advance. One can make intervivo gifts (gifts while one is alive) which may reduce the size of the estate. They can also create irrevocable trust, which is a good way of having some control of the funds while keeping the trust res out of the estate.

If done correctly, estate planning can ensure an efficient distribution of assets after death. If you have questions, contact an experienced Illinois probate attorney who can help you determine the best course of action.

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