Although it is a subject that many Americans would rather not think about, eventually our individual lives will end and our loved ones will inevitably be left with burdens, be it emotional, financial, or both. Decades ago, when someone passed away, there were no credit cards, families did not travel as much, and divorce was taboo. Everything that was left behind generally either went to the state or the family members left behind. With the growing complexity of family structure in conjunction with our spending habits, the need has arisen to secure a plan for after we die. Legal documents such as wills, trusts, and other estate planning measures can help protect the future of your loved ones after you pass.
Know the Difference
The best and most direct route of starting the process is to know which option is best for your current circumstances. It may be that none of the options are a completely perfect or it may mean that multiple options will help achieve your goals. No matter the case, it is necessary to understand the each option.
Estate Planning: “Estate planning” is an umbrella term used to describe the preparation of your estate. Your estate is everything that belongs to you. This includes physical items (jewelry, home, vehicle, etc.), but also encompasses the items sometimes not planned for, such as other real estate property, checking and savings accounts, life insurance policies, and investments. Planning of this nature should also delve into what you would like to happen to your children if they are minors or what should happen to you if you are left unable to make decisions for yourself.
Wills: A will is a legal document that explains your wishes of what you would like to happen to your estate should you pass away. Through a legal process known as probate, the wishes of the deceased are met, rather than relying on the courts to determine who gets your estate. A self-proving or testamentary will is the most common type of will. It determines what should happen to your children, and it explains where you would like all your estate to go to after you pass.
Trusts: A trust is another way of dividing up your property should you die. It takes a little more time to set up than a will, but the benefits of a trust and naming a “Beneficiary” are well worth it. During creation of a trust, the estate is transferred to a third party (the “Trustee”) in which upon the event of your determining factor (someone gets married, you pass away, disability, etc.), the estate will then transfer to the person you named as the Beneficiary. Another benefit of trusts is that they do not have to go through the probate process. This ultimately means that the beneficiaries receive the estate much faster, as a probate process can take months or even years. Additional benefits of trusts include:
- If you prepare a revocable living trust, you can alter the terms of the arrangement should it be necessary.
- There is financial security from your heir’s creditors should you set the trust up this way.
- There is more privacy because the probate process, such as in the use of wills, is considered public record.
A Lombard Estate Planning Lawyer Can Help
It is never too early to start thinking about your estate. A will or trust is not just for the wealthy and retired; it is for any adult. If you are interested in discussing the options of estate planning further, it is beneficial for speak with a knowledgeable legal professional. At A. Traub & Associates, we offer a legal environment that stands out above the rest. Call our experienced DuPage County estate planning attorneys at 630-426-0196 to schedule an initial consultation.