Fox Valley Estate Planning Blog

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Anyone who is thinking about estate planning thinks (or should be thinking) about probate. Probate is the term that generally describes the administration of an estate of a deceased person. Probate is also the process for administrating the estate of a deceased person that is established in the State Probate Act.  That process is handled through the court system. Probate is not the only way to handle an estate. It is the default process – the process that will apply unless you take steps to avoid probate. Avoiding probate is often a primary goal in doing estate planning. In this…
Most people help their children when their children need help, even when they are adults. Sometimes that means making “loans” to them. You should think about how to handle gifts or loans to children in a Will or Trust. Your family will thank you for it! Imagine that your son’s car breaks down, and he needs a car to get to work. Student loan debt and the cost of living puts your daughter behind on rent. Your child’s young family struggling to make ends meet can’t make the mortgage payment. You naturally want to step in to help out. Parents…
Trusts are very robust and handy estate planning tools. If you are not familiar with trusts, perhaps you should read some articles that explain what trusts are (See Trusts Compared to Corporations; The Benefits of Living Trusts; and Avoiding Probate is a Matter of Trust) Even if you are familiar with trusts, the difference between revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts may remain a mystery. Both kinds of trusts, however, are considered “living trusts”; in other words, they are trusts created by a person who is alive (though all trusts become irrevocable when the grantor dies). Revocable trusts…
Trusts are very robust and handy estate planning tools. If you are not familiar with trusts, perhaps you should read some articles that explain what trusts are (See Trusts Compared to Corporations; The Benefits of Living Trusts; and Avoiding Probate is a Matter of Trust) Even if you are familiar with trusts, the difference between revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts may remain a mystery. In this article, I will explain the difference between revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts and the circumstances in which a person might want to use one or the other. Revocable Trusts Revocable trusts are much more…
Some significant changes affecting trusts have come to Illinois with the New Year. Effective January 1, 2020, the Illinois Trust Code replaced the Illinois Trusts and Trustees Act. One of the biggest areas of change involves the duty of a trustee to provide an accounting. One of the hallmarks of the fiduciary duty that applies to the trustees of a trust (and to other fiduciaries) is the duty to provide an accounting. This has always been the case. The new Illinois Trust Code changes the scope of that duty, however, in a number of significant ways. The changes include: 1)…
It’s no secret that having a family isn’t cheap. Expenses increase with each addition, and things you never thought were needed in your home suddenly become a necessity. The moment you realize you’re about to become a parent, you can start planning for the financial changes that will come with the new addition to your household. Take a Look at Your Finances You should look at your financial situation in two steps: How much more is this new life going to cost? An online calculator can help you figure out those expenses so you can create a new budget for…
I’ve seen it time and time again. A client comes in who has added a son, or a daughter, or a grandchild, or a niece or nephew, or someone else to the client’s bank account… or that is the client’s plan. It seems like a good idea. It gives another person access to the bank account for the payment of bills and other obligations. If anything happens to the account holder, the other person added to the account can take over the payment of bills and obligations, so they don’t go into default. It’s so simple to do. It’s easy.…
Fear of Estate Planning, as in doing a Will or Trust (or both) is a common malady. Everyone knows they should do something, but few people know exactly what that something is they should be doing. Fear of the unknown often keeps people from doing what they know they should do. That “something” we should begin doing starts with learning what we don’t know so that we know what we should be doing. There is no enemy to fear here but fear itself (to paraphrase a former president). Once you begin to chart a course into the unknown territory of…
If you are getting together with your family members this holiday season it may not seem like a great time to talk about dying, but actually it is! Hollywood has combined death and holidays for years. Well, truth be told, Dickens started it. A Christmas Carol is a look at the world without Scrooge, and the effect he had on people’s lives. But Dickens isn’t the only one. “It’s a Wonderful Life” focuses on George Bailey – and how his family and town would have fared without him. You may not want to think about the world without you in…
A new law takes effect on January 1, 2019, in Illinois, protecting visitation rights for the family members of elderly adults. Before this new law takes effect, guardians have effectively had the unilateral authority over visitation privileges and could prohibit, without recourse, family members and others from visiting with their elderly loved ones in another family member’s care. I have witnessed the unfairness of a family member taking control of a parent to the exclusion of other siblings. This new law will provide a remedy for the excluded family members. It will prevent guardians and caretakers from unilaterally and arbitrarily…
The Illinois Power of Attorney Act was recently amended. The Act requires an agent to maintain an accounting of everything the agent does with the assets and the funds over which the agent has control, and the new amendment puts some teeth in that requirement. In a previous blog piece, A Word of Warning About Powers of Attorney, I cautioned that, “Powers of Attorney are a very useful tool, but they can be abused in the wrong hands. Powers of Attorney can also cause some very difficult issues to address for the agent who isn’t aware of or careful…
In 2003, experts estimate that an estimated 37 million individuals will need some form of long-term care by 2050.[1] According to the AARP, approximately 65% of seniors will need some form of long-term care during their lives;[2] of those, 35% will enter a nursing home at some point.[3] Whether it is home health agencies, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospice, residential care communities, or adult day service centers, an individual can spend up to $10,000.00 per month for their care. In Illinois, the median cost for a private room in a nursing home was $8,121.00 per month…
When people die leaving debts, other obligations and property and funds to be distributed to the rightful beneficiaries, the default mechanism for handling those things is called probate. Probate is the process of handling the estate of someone who has died. This includes paying all of the debts and final bills, satisfying any lingering obligations, and identifying the property and other assets of the decedent so that the net assets can be distributed to the rightful beneficiaries. The rightful beneficiaries are the heirs of the decedent (if there is no will) or the legatees of the decedent (if there is…
Anyone who is contemplating a divorce, is in the process of obtaining a divorce, or is recently divorced should think about estate planning. If you are still married, your spouse is considered your heir. So, an untimely death before your divorce is finalized will result in your spouse receiving some or all of your estate. If you are recently divorced, your ex-spouse may still receive a portion of your estate unless you make changes to direct the assets of your estate where you want them to go. Probably not to your ex-spouse. If you are thinking about a divorce, going…
Estate planning is something that is very easy to put off. Most of us do it, sometimes for a very long time. Some of us until it is too late. Estate planning is also something that keeps us awake at night with questions like: What will happen to my children if I die? That question is what estate planning is all about. We plan our estates to provide for our loved ones. We provide for them by the assets that we leave them, but we also provide for them in planning out our estates so that they don’t have to…
One of the most common questions that people ask about lawyers is: How do I find the best lawyer? If you need a lawyer, for whatever reason, that is the right question to start your search. Choosing a lawyer should involve as much thought as buying a car. Lawyers are not cheap; people don’t choose lawyers for insignificant reasons; so choosing a lawyer should be done with care and thought. As with any significant decision, you should begin by doing your due diligence. While car purchases are often made on impulse, the better approach is to do your homework before…