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Treatment of Same-Sex Spouses and Civil Union Partners Under Illinois Probate Law

Web Admin - Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Rolling Meadows same sex couple estate planning lawyerThe state of Illinois has recognized civil unions of same-sex couples since 2011 and same-sex marriage since 2014. But it was not until 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, that all states were required to allow and recognize same-sex marriages. These changes over the past decade have had a major impact on estate planning for same-sex couples.

Differences Between Illinois’ Civil Union Act and Marriage Fairness Act


The 2011 Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (750 ILCS 75) declares that a party to a civil union “is entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits” that the law of Illinois affords to spouses. This law did not, however, mention children of civil union partners or other family members.

The 2014 Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act (750 ILCS 80) more forcefully declares that its purpose is to provide same-sex and different-sex couples and their children “equal access to the status, benefits, protections, rights, and responsibilities of civil marriage.” It goes on to say that parties to a marriage and their children “shall have all the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law.”   

Conversion of a Civil Union to a Marriage in Illinois


Civil unions were not automatically converted to marriages when the 2014 law was passed. Rather, the Civil Union Act was modified in 2014 to allow the voluntary conversion of a civil union to a marriage at no cost. Through May 2015, a couple could have their civil union redesignated as a marriage just by applying to a county clerk. The effective date of the marriage would be the same as the effective date of the earlier civil union. 

As of June 2015, parties to a preexisting civil union must apply for a marriage certificate and have the marriage solemnized and registered as a marriage. The effective date of that marriage would be the date the marriage was solemnized.

Impact of a Civil Union vs. Marriage on Estate Planning


Spousal inheritance rights are the same in Illinois, whether you are legally in a same-sex civil union, same-sex marriage, or different-sex marriage. Still, if you entered into a civil union, you may want to convert that to a marriage, just to ensure that your relationship is recognized as a legal marriage nationwide and internationally. For example, when partners are citizens of different countries, an actual marriage certificate will generally be needed in order for the spousal relationship to be recognized for immigration purposes. In addition, the same-sex marriage law specifically references “children” and “family” of the couple.

Also, if you entered into a civil union at some point, and the relationship broke up, you should be sure that the civil union was legally dissolved; the process is the same as for the dissolution of a marriage in Illinois. If the civil union was not legally dissolved, or converted to a marriage followed by a divorce, one partner could still claim the right to inherit from the other.

Inheritance and Related Rights of Same-Sex Married Couples Recognized Nationally


Same-sex couples gained numerous inheritance-related benefits as a result of nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, such as:

- The couple no longer has to worry about moving from a state where same-sex marriage was recognized to a state where it was not.

- If one spouse dies without a written will or trust, the other will now automatically inherit under the laws of their state of residence.

- When one spouse dies, the other can claim the marital deduction for federal gift and estate tax purposes.

- When one spouse dies, leaving the other as beneficiary of a qualified retirement account, the surviving spouse can roll over those assets into their personal retirement account, allowing for optimal asset protection and income tax planning. 

- As a living individual in 2018, you can make inter vivos gifts of up to $15,000 per person per year with no tax implications. However, you can gift as much as you want to your spouse. 

- Spouses can make medical decisions for one another without requiring a power of attorney for health care.

Consult a Palatine Same-Sex Marriage Estate Planning Lawyer


Whether you are married to a same-sex or different-sex spouse, particularly if you have children, you should really have an estate plan, including basic documents such as advanced healthcare directives and powers of attorney. Talk to an experienced Schaumburg estate planning attorney at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. We can help you develop a will, trust, and other legal plans that will provide emotional and financial security for you and your family for the long-term. Contact us at 847-934-6000 for a free consultation.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


Sources:
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=3294&ChapterID=59
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=3525&ChapterID=59

Self-Directed IRA Accounts

Web Admin - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

self-directed IRA accounts, Illinois Estate Planning Attorneys

Often times, as real estate and estate planning attorneys, our clients ask us about owning or purchasing property through a self-directed IRA account. Here is a brief synopsis of how a self-directed IRA works.

Self-Directed Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) are like traditional IRAs in that they are designed to allow investments to grow tax free or tax deferred over time. However, self-directed IRAs allow people to make alternative investments. The variety of investment options that are available for a self-directed IRA exceed the investment options of traditional IRA accounts.

How Do I Set Up A Self-Directed IRA Account? 

There are several steps involved in setting up a self-directed IRA account. 

1. The account must be established and funded. Like any IRA, you must sign up for the account with an investment firm or broker. The IRS requires that self-directed IRAs be held by a trustee on behalf of the IRA owner. Once you have signed up with a trustee or custodian, you will need to fund the account with initial capital so that you can make investments with your self-directed IRA account. The self-directed IRA account can be funded with new capital or a transfer from an existing IRA account. 

2. Choose an investment opportunity. You may choose what investment opportunity you would like your self-directed IRA funds to go into. There are many different types of assets that self directed IRAs can be used to invest in, yet there are also certain assets that specifically cannot be invested in by using a self-directed IRA. 

3. Request that the funds be made available from your self-directed IRA to make the investment purchase. Working with your self-directed IRA custodian or trustee, you can request that your self-directed IRA funds be made available to purchase your desired asset. The trustee or custodian will manage the transaction for you. 

4. Manage your self directed IRA investments. Again, by working with your self-directed IRA trustee or custodian, you can manage or sell your self-directed IRA investments. All transactions must be run through your self-directed IRA in order to remain in compliance with the IRS regulations. 

What Can I Own in My Self-Directed IRA Account? 

Self-directed IRAs can include investment options such as: 

- Stocks; 

- Bonds; 

- CDs; 

- Mutual funds; 

- Promissory notes; 

- Real estate; 

- Private mortgages; 

- Tax liens; 

- Precious metals; 

- Private businesses; and 

- Intellectual property. 

There are also several types of assets into which investment is not permitted with a self-directed IRA. Under IRS Code 408(m), prohibited investments include investment in collectibles such as stamps, art, gems, certain types of metals and coins, alcoholic beverages, and certain other tangible personal property. 

If you feel that a self-directed IRA may be helpful with your purchase of investment property or your estate plan, please feel free to contact one of our experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys today. Our firm serves the communities of Crystal Lake, Riverwoods, Kenilworth, South Barrington, Mount Prospect, Palatine, Des Plaines, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, and Arlington Heights. Call 847-934-6000 to speak to a member of our team. 

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.



Source:
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/408

Why Do I Need a Living Trust? Won't My Simple Will Work Just the Same?

Web Admin - Friday, May 20, 2016

Why I Need a Living Trust, Illinois Estate Planning Attorneys When people begin the process of estate planning, they often have several questions about what course of action would be in their best interest, or in the best interests of their surviving family members and loved ones. One frequently asked question asks what the difference is between a simple will and a living trust. 

Is one option a better choice than the other? 

The answer really depends on your particular situation. However, for most typical family situations, a good choice is to use a living trust to transfer your property upon your death. 

When you prepare a will as your sole means of transferring your property upon your death, your will must go through the probate court, which can be complicated and your surviving family members could end up fighting over your will once you are gone. However, using a revocable living trust, which you can prepare while you are still alive, can help your family avoid probate after you pass on. Individuals who are looking to exercise more control over their property may find that a living trust is a useful estate planning tool. One of the estate planning attorneys at our firm can help you prepare a declaration of trust at your convenience.

Five Advantages to Using a Living Trust Over a Will

Below are examples of the advantages of using a living trust over a will. 

1. Property transferred through a living trust will not go through probate. Probate is a long, tedious, and costly process before the probate court where the validity of the will is demonstrated, all debts held by the decedent are paid off, and then the remaining property is distributed to the family members. The more complicated the decedent’s estate is upon his or her death, the more complicated and drawn out probate can be. 

2. Out-of-state property transferred through a living trust can avoid ancillary probate. When property is located out of state, instead of having to go through probate in each state, a living trust can allow for the property of out-of-state property without ancillary, or out-of-state probate. 

3. Getting the opportunity to manage your property during your lifetime. By being the settlor of your own living trust, you retain control over the trust until you decide that you want to hand over the reigns or you die. 

4. Living trusts remain confidential, wills are not. Since probate is a legal proceeding, if your will goes through probate, your will becomes part of the probate court records, which are made available for public inspection.  

5. The successor trustee is able to take over once the principal is disabled which is a huge advantage. The “seamless” transition of control over the trust and the trust corpus upon the disability of the grantor is a huge advantage of the trust over the will.

Getting Legal Help with Living Trusts

If you think that a living trust might be the best estate planning tool for you, please feel free to contact one of our experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys today. Our law firm serves the communities of Crystal Lake, Palatine, Des Plaines, Mount Prospect, Long Grove, Kenilworth, Riverwoods, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, and Arlington Heights. Call 847-934-6000 to speak to a member of our team.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.

Source:
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2117

2016 Changes to the Illinois Power of Attorney Act

Web Admin - Monday, March 14, 2016

Illinois Power of Attorney Act, Illinois Estate Planning Attorneys The Illinois Power of Attorney Act saw a handful of small, but important changes as of January 1, 2016. These changes help make the health care power of attorney short form easier to use, and gives principals (i.e., the person who executes the power of attorney) more control over what their agents can have access to during their life and after. If you are interested in preparing and executing a health care power of attorney, you can contact an estate planning lawyer today for professional assistance throughout each step of the process. 

What Changes Have Occurred to the Health Care POA Form?

Several significant changes to the Illinois Power of Attorney Act concerning health care power of attorneys include:

- The Option to Allow an Agent Access to the Principal’s Medical Records. The health care power of attorney short form has been updated and now includes a checkbox option that indicates that an agent is authorized, as of the date of the execution of the form, to have access to the medical records of the principal. Access to the principal’s medical records allows the agent to make well informed decisions about the principal’s health care.

- Decisional Capacity Has Been Defined. The changes to the Act and the power of attorney short form adopts the definition of “decisional capacity” from the Illinois Health Care Surrogate Act. “Decisional capacity” is the ability to understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of a decision that is being made concerning medical treatment or choosing to forego life-sustaining care and having the ability to reach and communicate an informed decision on the matter as determined by the attending physician. The change to the Illinois Power of Attorney Act places the attending physician into a position to make judgement calls regarding whether a principal has decisional capacity. 

- The Agent Can Pursue Applications for Government Benefits After the Death of the Principal. When a health care agent files for government benefits on behalf of the principal, but the principal dies and no administrator or executor was appointed for the principal’s estate, under the changes to the Illinois Power of Attorney Act, the health care agent can continue to pursue those government benefit applications. As a general rule, a power of attorney terminates with the death of the principal. However, the changes in the Power of Attorney Act now allow for this government benefits application exception. 

- Who Can Be a Witness for a Health Care Power of Attorney Has Been Updated. When a principal signs a power of attorney, another individual must also sign the power of attorney as a witness to the principal’s signature. The Illinois Power of Attorney Act is very specific as to which licensed professionals are not permitted to be a witness, which excludes the principal’s attending physician, physician assistant, advanced practice nurse, podiatric physician, dentist, optometrist, or mental health service provider. “Mental health service provider” has been changed to “psychologist,” as of January 1. 

If you would like assistance preparing and executing a health care power of attorney, or have any other estate planning needs, please feel free to contact one of our experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys today. Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC serves the communities of Crystal Lake, Palatine, Des Plaines, Inverness, Palatine, Schaumburg Riverwoods, Kenilworth, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, and Arlington Heights. Call 847-934-6000 to speak to a member of our team.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.




Source: 

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2111&ChapterID=60


When Can a Trustee Be Held Personally Liable for Acts Done While Acting As a Trustee?

Web Admin - Tuesday, February 23, 2016

trustee held personally liable, Illinois Trust AttorneysAs a trustee, you are responsible for managing the trust and working with the beneficiaries. You have a fiduciary duty, or a legal obligation, to act solely in the interest of the beneficiaries by fulfilling the instructions of the trust as the trustor has required. A trustee must be respectful and careful, loyal, and impartial when serving as the trustee, and cannot take advantage of his or her trusted position to self-deal or glean benefits for him or herself from the trust. Developing a full understanding of what the legal obligations are as a trustee can be confusing, especially if you have limited legal experience dealing with trusts. An experienced estate planning and trusts lawyer at can assist you. 

A Breach of Fiduciary Duty Opens Trustees Up To Personal Liability

Trustees can be held personally liable for acts, or failures to act, as a trustee when the trustee does not carefully and diligently adhere to the trustee’s duties. When a trustee commits a breach of his or her fiduciary duty, the trustee opens him or herself up to liability for his or her actions taken while acting as the trustee. Examples where a trustee can be held personally liable for acts done while acting as a trustee include the following:

- A trustee may be held personally liable if there is a conflict of interest biasing the trustee’s judgment when it comes to the interests of the trust. Self-dealing, or making decisions or investments using the trust’s funds that in some way benefit the trustee either directly or indirectly will expose the trustee to liability;

- A trustee can be held personally liable for any interest and/or penalties that accrue for taxes filings that are made late. Liability exists because filing the appropriate tax forms on behalf of the trust is a responsibility that lies with the trustee. 

- A trustee could be held financially liable for losses on stock diversifications on behalf of the trust, or a failure to diversify, if losses are substantial. The trustee has an obligation to serve in the best interests of the trust beneficiaries, and failing to diversify when stocks are concentrated in a single company can lead to a significant loss in value of the trust. 

- A trustee can be held liable for commingling personal finances and the trust finances, especially in situations where the trustee is a family member to the beneficiaries. A trustee can avoid the appearance of impropriety by maintaining clear and thorough accounting records of the finances of the trust, and clear documentation regarding his or her personal finances. 

Speak with an Illinois Estate Planning Lawyer Today

If you have concerns that your trustee is in breach of his or her fiduciary duties, or if you are a trustee with concerns about a course of action for the trust you manage, please feel free to contact one of our experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys today. Our firm serves the communities of Inverness, Palatine, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Long Grove, Kenilworth, Riverwoods, Barrington, South Barrington, and Mount Prospect.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


Source: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2129&ChapterID=61




VA Benefits and the Transfer of Assets to an Irrevocable Trust

Web Admin - Friday, November 27, 2015

VA benefits and irrevocable trust, Illinois employment lawThe Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides our nation’s veterans with important benefits after they have been discharged from service. In order to qualify for those benefits, veterans must meet certain requirements. For some veterans, it may be necessary to transfer assets into an irrevocable trust to lower his or her net worth. 

Qualifying for Pension 

The Veterans Pension benefit is a tax-free, monetary benefit for low-income veterans. In order to qualify, the following requirements must be met: 

1. Veteran must be 65 years of age or older or permanently and totally disabled;

2. He or he must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable;

3. He or she must have served, which generally involves a minimum period of active duty service, one day of which was during wartime;

4. Net worth must not be considered too substantial; and

5. Countable family income must be below the yearly limit as set by law. 

Veterans who are concerned about their level of net worth may consider forming an irrevocable trust. By creating an irrevocable trust, net worth can be reduced in order to qualify for the Veterans Pension. The VA does not assess a penalty for transferring assets as long as that transfer occurs prior to filing a claim or notifying the VA of an intent to file a claim. The determination of net worth is subjective—the VA has discretion in determining whether a veteran’s assets are too large to qualify for the Veterans Pension. 

An irrevocable trust can be used to hold assets that are provided by a veteran in order to reduce net worth. Importantly, a veteran claiming benefits (as well as his or her spouse) cannot be an income or principal beneficiary of the trust established in order to obtain VA benefits. This is because the VA requires that the rights to property and income from that property be actually relinquished to be considered a reduction of net worth. 

A second issue relates to whether to form the trust as a grantor trust or a non-grantor trust. The VA compares income reported to it with Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) income records through a process called Income Verification Match (IVM). Due to the nature of a grantor trust, there may be a discrepancy between income reported to the VA and income that appears with IRS filings. 

Under a grantor trust, all items within the trust are taxed to the grantor on his or her personal income tax return. Ordinarily, the grantor is the person who funds the trust, which, in this case, is the veteran claiming benefits. The VA may assume that the tax reported on the veteran’s tax return is based on income of the veteran, which may lead to lower (or complete denial of) benefits. Therefore, a non-grantor trust, in which the trust is responsible for any tax, is likely more desirable, in an attempt to avoid this potential issue. 

Forming a Trust 

If you would like more information on the formation of a trust, reach out to a skilled Illinois estate planning attorney today. Our firm proudly helps individuals in the communities of Inverness, Schaumburg, Palatine, Arlington Heights, Kenilworth, Long Grove, Riverwoods, Barrington, South Barrington, and Mount Prospect. We look forward to hearing from you. 

About the Author:

Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.



Source:
http://www.benefits.va.gov/pension/







Changes to the Illinois Health Care Power of Attorney

Web Admin - Friday, January 23, 2015

healthcare power of attorney in Illinois, Palatine estate planning attorneysHealth care powers of attorney are some of the most serious estate planning decisions that people will have to make throughout the course of their lives. Most estate planning decisions relate to structuring assets and ensuring that children and relatives are properly cared for. Health care powers of attorney are different. They are legal documents that allow people to determine how they want their loved ones to make health care decisions on their behalf in the case that they are unable to themselves. These sorts of documents are regulated by the state, and the Illinois legislature recently updated the law that governs health care powers of attorney used in the state, adding new notice requirements and changing the calculus for end of life decision making.

New Notice Requirements

One of the biggest changes that the update made was a complete revision of the notice that precedes the actual health care power of attorney form. The new form breaks the notice provision down into nine headings that have questions beneath them. These headings include:

  • - What Are the Things I Want My Health Care Agent to Know?
  • - What Kind of Decisions Can My Agent Make?
  • - Whom Should I Choose to Be My Health Care Agent?
  • - What If My Agent Is Not Available or Not Willing to Make Health Care Decisions for Me?
  • - Will Happen If I Do Not Choose a Health Care Agent?
  • - What If There Is No One Available Whom I Trust to Be My Agent?
  • - What Do I Do With This Form Once I Complete It?
  • - What If I Change My Mind?
  • - What If I Do Not Want to Use This Form?

Each of these sections include questions and answers that allow the power of attorney form to be filled out in different blocks.

Changes to End of Life Decision-Making

The law also made some important changes in the way that it frames end-of-life decisions. The biggest change in this manner is the fact that the new power of attorney form now distinguishes quality of life from quantity of life. Essentially the new form provides a check box for people to decide whether it is more important for them to have a life they can live fully or whether they would be willing to extend their lives for a hope at making a recovery. The goal of this new distinction is to help people better express what sorts of values their health care should be trying to accomplish.

Estate planning is a complex field that covers everything from health care decisions to future tax liabilities. If you have questions about this new health care power of attorney or some other aspect of estate planning, contact an Illinois estate planning lawyer today. The law firm of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC serves clients in many northwest suburban locations, such as Long Grove, Riverwoods, Palatine, Arlington Heights, and Barrington.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.

'Tis the Season... for Gift Taxes

Web Admin - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Illinois gift tax, Arlington Heights estate planning attorneyOnce again, it is that time of year, the time when families get together to exchange gifts, and spend quality time together. During this season, people do not ordinarily consider their taxes. After all, the middle of winter is almost as far away from April 15th as someone can get. Nevertheless, the gifts people give during this time of year can have a long-term impact on their tax situation thanks to the gift tax. Gift giving during a person's life is often a good way for someone to avoid estate taxes, so careful planning around this time of year can leave someone's family in a much better financial position.

What Gift Givers Should Know

Gift givers are the ones most on the hook for understanding the tax law when dealing with gifts. The most important thing for gift givers to understand is the fact that they are working under two separate but related gift giving limits. The first limit is known as the annual gift tax exclusion. This is the amount per year that any gift giver may give to any single person. The IRS has set that exclusion at $14,000 for both 2014 and 2015. If a person goes over that limit, then he or she must file a gift tax return. However, this does not necessarily mean that he or she must pay any taxes on the gift.

Filing a gift tax return triggers the second limit that gift givers are working under, the lifetime exemption. The lifetime exemption is the total amount of money that gift givers are allowed to give away over their yearly exemption before they start to owe taxes. The current lifetime exemption is $5.34 million. This means that if a person gives away $20,000 to a single person in a single year, then he or she must subtract $6,000 from his or her lifetime exemption. This is especially important because the lifetime exemption never resets and applies to estate taxes as well. For example, if a person gives away enough during his or her lifetime that he or she has used up $2.34 million of his or her lifetime exemption, then only the first $3 million of his or her estate's distributions are tax free. The rest may be subject to a tax rate of up to 40 percent.

What Receivers Should Know

Gift receivers have a much simpler set of rules to work under. Ordinarily, the gift giver pays the gift tax, and the receiver does not have to worry. If the person giving the gift does not pay the tax, then the IRS may come after the receiver, but usually people giving money in excess of the annual exclusion can also cover the gift tax. Additionally, people receiving five or six figure sums from foreign sources may also have to report that.

Tax day may come but once a year, but tax planning is a year round problem. If you have questions about how best to manage your estate, contact an Arlington Heights estate planning attorney today. The law firm of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC serves clients in many northwest suburbs including Palatine, Schaumburg, Barrington, Inverness, Mount Prospect, Long Grove, Kenilworth, Riverwood, and South Barrington.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.

Avoiding Life Insurance Loopholes

Web Admin - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

life insurance loopholes, Illinois life insurance lawyerThe insurance industry is known for having incredibly complex contracts, and life insurance is no exception to this rule. As you might expect, the reason for this is money. According to statistics from the Insurance Information Institute, life insurance is a multi-billion dollar industry, and the companies want to keep it that way. 

One of the ways that life insurance companies do this is by fighting against paying valid claims. Money they do not have to pay out is money that they can ultimately keep for themselves, and even just delaying the payments can be profitable for them. Life insurance companies have two main tools for insurance claim disputes, policy cancellations and policy exclusions.

Policy Cancellation

A policy cancellation is exactly what it sounds like. The insurance company cancels a claimant's policy in order to avoid paying out a claim. This is a particular problem during the first two years of the policy's life, which is known as the contestability period. During this period, the insurance company may examine the policy looking for misrepresentations or omissions, and then cancel the policy if they find any. They even have the option of doing this after a person has already made a claim, and they are allowed to cancel regardless of whether the omitted information has anything to do with the actual cause of death.

A similar issue, but one that can last beyond the contestability period, is the material misrepresentation clause. This clause allows the insurer to cancel the policy at any time if they discover a lie or omission that would have caused them to not issue the policy in the first place. However, even people with perfectly accurate applications are not safe from having their claims contested.

Exclusions

In cases where the person's application cannot be contested, insurance companies may still attempt to avoid paying out for claims based on policy exclusions. These exclusions are specific events or actions that the insurance company has excepted from the policy. There are a variety of different policy exclusions that insurers may use, and they vary from policy to policy, but they may include:

- Dangerous activities like skydiving;
- Suicide;
- Alcohol and drug use; and
- Illegal activities.

The exact limits of these exclusions can depend on the precise policy language. For instance, some policies’ exclusions for alcohol and drug use exclude only illegal substances, while others exclude legal ones too. This can be especially complicated because some policies require the substance to be the cause of the death, while others only need the substance to be in the person's system at the time of death.

Life insurance contracts are complicated legal documents, and the insurance company is going to have a lawyer on their side. If you want to even the odds, contact a Palatine life insurance attorney today. Our firm assists people in insurance disputes all over the northwest suburbs, including in towns like Inverness, Deer Park, Barrington, Arlington Heights, Schaumburg, Des Plaines, Rolling Meadows, Crystal Lake, and Buffalo Grove.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Homestead Rights in Illinois

Web Admin - Thursday, October 23, 2014

homestead rights in Illinois, Palatine estate planning lawyerWhile there are many well known government programs and policies designed to provide relief during difficult economic times, there are other laws people can take advantage of that are less commonly talked about. One of these laws is known as “homestead rights.” Homestead rights are a protection provided by Illinois law that provide certain immunities from debt collection efforts by creditors. However, these immunities are not absolute, so it is important for people exercising their homestead rights to understand the exact limitations of those rights.

What Homestead Rights Are

Homestead rights are a statutory protection against creditors designed to help people avoid becoming homeless because of changing economic circumstances. The rights allow the debtor to exempt $15,000 worth of real estate from the collection efforts of creditors or their agents. Additionally, if a married couple owns the home, then they can pool their homestead rights together to protect the same house. This gives them an exemption of $30,000. This exemption also survives the death or desertion of a spouse. The exemption can also be passed down to the children of the married couple, at least until the youngest child turns 18.

Illinois' homestead laws are also slightly different than the laws in some other states. Many states choose to restrict the amount of acreage that a person can use the homestead exemption on in addition to capping the total value of the property. Illinois has no such acreage cap. This means that the size of the property is irrelevant to the homestead rights, and that it is purely an issue of how much the land is worth.

What Homestead Rights Do Not Protect

Notably, homestead rights do not provide absolute protection against every type of creditor. For instance, the state legislature wrote an exception into the protection for the purposes of state taxes, so if the creditor is the state of Illinois then the exemption does not apply. Similarly, homestead rights are created by state law, which federal law can supersede, so they provide no protection against the federal government's collecting taxes either. The rights also do not function in many circumstances where the money owed is related to the property itself. A person who uses the house as collateral for a mortgage does not get protection if their home is being foreclosed. Additionally, if the person owes money to contractors for doing work on the home, then the homestead rights do not apply to those debts. Further, the homestead rights can be signed away in writing, which would also remove their protection.

If you have questions about your homestead rights or some other property interest, talk to an experienced Palatine, Illinois estate planning attorney today. Our firm helps clients in many northwest suburban towns including Barrington, Long Grove, and Arlington Heights.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


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