If you wish to leave a legacy to your children or other beneficiaries after your death, it is imperative that you have an estate plan
that will ensure prompt and accurate distribution of your assets. Many people think that writing a will is the best way to do this. However, while a will is important, putting your assets into a revocable living trust can provide several additional benefits.
Avoid the Illinois Probate Process
In order to distribute assets according to the terms of a will, the will must go through the probate process. This involves filing various court documents required by law to establish the value of each asset and to re-title each asset from the deceased’s name to the recipient’s name. This can be a long, drawn-out process.
Secure Adult Heirs’ Immediate Access to the Estate
One of probate’s
most serious drawbacks is the freezing of assets. Specifically, any assets that are held solely in the name of the deceased are frozen upon their death. Imagine a married couple who amassed several large investment and retirement accounts and multiple pieces of real estate during their lifetime. Upon the death of both spouses, their children cannot touch any of the assets until a probate court judge approves the will and appoints a Personal Representative to handle the estate. Leaving large investment accounts without active management can be risky.
By comparison, imagine that all of the couple’s assets had been placed in a living trust, meaning that the assets are titled in the name of the trust rather than in the name of any individual. Upon the death of the trust-maker, their designated successor has immediate access to the assets of the trust.
Secure Assets for the Long-Term Benefit of the Family
Imagine our married couple has three children and has a will. Upon the death of both spouses and probate action, the assets of the estate must be divided amongst the named heirs. Assuming the estate is to be divided equally among the three children, the inherited assets are now at risk to creditors, bankruptcy, a lawsuit, or a divorce.
If the married couple had all of their assets in a trust, ownership of those assets can remain titled in the name of the trust indefinitely. Because the assets are not titled in the individual children’s names, the assets are protected from creditors, even if one child files for bankruptcy or gets divorced. The beneficiaries named in the trust will have access to the assets in accordance with the directions specified in the trust documents.
Heirs with disabilities.
Upon the death of the spouses, one child (or an objective third party such as a bank) could be named as the successor trustee with directions to manage the trust in a certain way. This approach can be used to ensure that the use of the assets is prioritized in some way, such as to meet the basic needs of a child or grandchild with a disability. Keeping the assets in the trust can also serve to protect the right of a disabled heir to receive needs-based government benefits.
Keeping the trust open with a successor trustee can also be beneficial for heirs who have not yet reached adulthood. When a will leaves assets to a minor, the probate court must appoint a conservator to manage the minor’s assets. Once our fictional married couple has died, there is no telling who that conservator might be and what decisions they might make. In contrast, assets left in a trust can be managed according to specific directions written into the trust. Thus, the maker of the trust can dictate when and for what purposes a youthful (or even as-yet unborn) heir can access their inheritance.
Consult a Palatine Revocable Living Trust Lawyer
A well-thought-out living trust can give you greater peace of mind and benefit your heirs in the long run. To discuss options for writing or updating a living trust, call an experienced Schaumburg living trust attorney
at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. We have prepared living trusts for many high-asset families with complex issues of inheritance. To set up a free initial consultation, call 847-934-6000.
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.