Are you confident your wishes will be carried out upon your death? While not a pleasant subject, this question is one that is important to answer. In order to ensure that your family is cared for and that you control what happens to your estate, you must act now. In addition, you should have plans in place which state your wishes if you become incapacitated and are unable to communicate what medical treatments you do or do not want.
While Illinois has an estate tax on the wealthiest families — those with more than $4 million in assets — estate planning is not just for the rich. People of modest means benefit from pre-planning to ensure that their property will be distributed promptly and according to their personal wishes.
If you die without having a valid will or trust, then your assets will be divided in keeping with the state’s “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. In those cases where no living relatives exist, the state will take your property.
The experienced and compassionate Woodridge 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 situations are unique. We work with you to organize your assets, identify your goals, and make sure your planning documents are created correctly, providing 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.
One of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself and your loved ones is a thoughtfully created and executed estate plan. The peace of mind these documents provide is considerable; they allow you to make important decisions with a clear mind and take the pressure off your loved ones in times of distress.
Your estate planning documents can:
Our estate planning attorneys in Woodridge can help you determine exactly which documents you need and the best way to structure them.
The critical key to ensuring your family is cared for and your wishes are abided by is having the correct documents in place. Your Woodridge estate planning lawyer can work with you to identify exactly what you need. In Illinois, the following documents are important:
Additionally, you may wish to consider preparing a living trust (a trust you create while you’re alive) or other methods to avoid probate. Probate is a court proceeding that 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.
In some cases, it is wise to create a trust, which designates a person (a “trustee”) to hold legal title to the property for another person (the “beneficiary”). There are two types of trusts — living and irrevocable.
Just as it sounds, a living trust is created while you are alive. In most cases, you are named the trustee, and you retain control over all property held in the trust. When you die, the beneficiaries named in your will inherit the property.
A living trust does not replace a will. You still need a will. Your will provides a backup plan for any property that is not in your trust. It also allows you to name someone to inherit property that is not part of your trust.
On the other hand, irrevocable trusts require giving up ownership and control of trust property and cannot be revoked or changed after they are signed. They are used to achieve specific goals, like reducing taxes.
Finally, you may also name a trust as beneficiary for some accounts, such as 401k, pension, IRA, Roth IRA, and insurance.
The right choices for you may be very different from those of other family members or friends. Contact our Wolfe & Stec estate planning attorneys at 630-305-0222 to determine what is best for your specific circumstances.
Estate planning is a process during which a host of questions arise. Because each individual creates a plan tailored to their personal needs, the answers to many of these questions tend to be specific. That said, we have shared some of the most common general questions below, along with our answers to them.
Your “estate” refers to all of the property that you own or control, including:
The term executor is used to identify the individual chosen to carry out the distribution of your estate, including filing tax returns, paying bills, and representing the estate in court.
Your signed documents should be kept in a safe place, like a fireproof box in your home or a safe deposit box in your bank. Make sure you let those important to you know where to find them.
A trustee is an individual you name to manage the assets in your trust. In a living trust, you can serve as the first trustee. You would name additional trustees in the document to manage your affairs upon your disability or death.
Yes, in general, you can. In fact, these documents are meant to be reviewed every three to five years to ensure that life’s changes are incorporated. Issues that would result in your needing to make changes include divorce, death of a spouse, death of a primary beneficiary, change in who you wish you have as your beneficiaries, and the acquisition or disposition of property, etc.
If you want to make changes, you should 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. This ensures that your documents accurately reflect your wishes.
If you have gotten divorced and your ex-spouse was the executor, you need to name a new executor as well.
Finally, 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. 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.
Yes, Illinois Law states that you must have two individuals sign with you as witnesses to your will. This means they must watch you sign your will and sign it as well in your presence.
Yes! Prior to signing your documents, you should have conversations with the individuals you name as your executor, trustee, personal representative (for financial and health decisions), and guardians of your minor children. All of these roles come with a host of responsibilities; you want to ensure those you select are willing to accept them. Don’t simply assume they will agree.
We hope the answers shared above are helpful. You likely have many other questions about your particular situation. Reach out to us to schedule a meeting where we can address your specific concerns.
Even under the best of circumstances, disagreements can happen. When someone challenges a will or estate plan because they feel they were not treated fairly, they may file a lawsuit called estate litigation. This situation is often unpleasant and stressful; cases may drag on, become contentious, and drain the estate of funds.
Reasons for challenges may include:
Whether you wish to challenge or defend the will or trust, our Woodridge estate lawyers can help with litigation. Contact us today for more information.
Our team has decades of experience helping individuals and families in Illinois plan for their future. When choosing a Woodridge estate planning firm you want to believe that those with whom you work can meet all of your needs. When you choose Wolfe & Stec, you can rest assured that your estate planning attorney will have:
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 we made our reputation one client at a time, and we put every ounce of our ability into every case. Take no chances — plan your estate correctly. Call us today for your free consultation at 630-305-0222, or contact our team online.