Dupage County Lawyers
 

Estate Planning

PLAN WISELY FOR THE FUTURE.

No one wants to think about death, but if you want your wishes to be carried out after you are gone and ensure that your family is provided for and spared unnecessary expense, it makes sense to do some planning now. In addition, you should have plans as to what you want if you become incapacitated and may not be able to communicate what medical treatments you do or do not want.

Illinois has an estate tax on the wealthiest families with more than $4 million of assets, but estate planning is not just for the rich.  People of modest means benefit from pre-planning to ensure that property will be distributed promptly and according to personal wishes. If you die without having a valid will or trust, then your assets will be divided in keeping with Illinois “intestacy laws.” In Illinois, this usually means your spouse gets at least half and your children split the remainder. Otherwise, your estate is divided among your nearest living relatives, and if you have no living relatives, the state will take your property.

If you do not wish this to happen or if you have a special situation, such as a child you wish to disinherit, you need to have a will or trust that states your wishes.

In addition, you should be aware that if you want to leave your surviving spouse less than one third of your estate, the spouse can challenge your will.  If this is the case, you should seek the help of an attorney and have a prenuptial agreement created in the event of a second marriage.

The experienced and compassionate Illinois estate planning attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., always focus on our clients’ needs and feelings and understand that every client’s personal, family and economic goals are unique.  We work with you to organize your assets, identify your goals, and make sure your planning documents are done correctly to give you the peace of mind that you have done right by yourself and your loved ones.  We offer a free initial consultation at our office locations in Woodridge and Chicago.

What Does “Estate” Mean?

            Your “estate” refers to all of the property that a person owns or controls, including:

  • Real property and the things attached to it (houses, buildings, barns, etc.)
  • Personal property (vehicles, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, cash, furniture, jewelry, collectibles, etc.)
  • Businesses and business interests (inventory, tools, equipment, accounts receivable, etc.)
  • Life insurance and annuity contracts, pension benefits, IRAs, etc.
  • Debts and obligations owed to others
  • All claims you have that others owe you.

What Documents Do You Need in Illinois?

In Illinois, your estate planning documents should include the following:

  • A will — that states where and to whom you wish to leave your assets.  It names your executor (the person chosen to carry out the distribution of an estate, including filing tax returns, paying bills and representing the estate in court).
  • A durable power of attorney for finances – a person designated to take care of your finances if you become incapacitated and are unable to make financial decisions.
  • A living will (called a declaration in Illinois) — to spell out your end-of-life wishes, including whether you want your life prolonged artificially in the event of a terminal illness or permanently unconscious condition.
  • A durable power of attorney for health care – this names someone to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated and unable to make health care decisions. This document goes further than a living will and may be used in conjunction with one.

You may also want to consider a living trust (a trust you create while you’re alive) or other methods to avoid probate.  Probate is a court proceeding which gives your executor authority to pay your bills and transfer your assets, but it can be expensive and time-consuming. Illinois does not use the Uniform Probate Code to simplify the probate process, so a living trust avoids Illinois’s complex probate process. However, if your estate is under $100,000 and does not include real estate, state statutes allow your heirs to file a small-estate affidavit to claim your estate without probate.

If you make a living trust, you still need a will to provide a backup plan for any property that is not in your trust.  The also will allows you to name someone to inherit property that is not part of your trust. If you don’t have a will, any property that isn’t transferred by your living trust or other method will go to your closest relatives as determined by Illinois state law.

What if Circumstances Change?

If you have made an estate plan and your circumstances change such due to the divorce or death of a primary beneficiary, it is important your estate plan be updated. If you do not update, your assets could be distributed in ways that you neither expect nor want, including to your ex-spouse.

To make sure your estate plan reflects your current life and wishes, your best bet is to revoke your will and make a new one naming new beneficiaries, new Powers of Attorney, and new beneficiaries for life insurance policies, pension plans, etc.  If your ex-spouse was executor, you need to name a new executor as well. If you have young children, you should name a guardian in case of death of your spouse, and if you feel strongly that your divorced spouse should not have custody of your children, write down your reasons in a letter and attach it to your will.

Contact Us to Ensure Your Plan is Legally Binding

A will is nothing more than a piece of paper if not correctly drafted, which is why seeking a lawyer’s advice is critical. The seasoned attorneys at Wolfe & Stec handle all Illinois estate planning cases with sensitivity, respect, and discretion.

At Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., we made our reputation one client at a time, and we put every ounce of our ability into every case. There is no charge for the first consultation, and we are happy to schedule appointments at our office.

Take no chances by planning your estate correctly. Call us today for your free consultation at 630-305-0222 or contact our team online.

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