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.
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.
Your “estate” refers to all of the property that a person owns or controls, including:
In Illinois, your estate planning documents should include the following:
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.
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.
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.