5 Tips For Non-Traditional Families When Creating an Estate Plan

Web Admin - Friday, June 28, 2019
Barrington estate planning lawyer same sex couplesToday’s families come in many forms. In fact, there are fewer “traditional” families than ever in which two opposite-sex parents are married for the first time and have children together. Since divorce is common, and couples often choose to live together and have children without getting married, many families include step-parents and step-children. In addition, the legalization of same-sex marriage has resulted in complex family arrangements involving biological children and adoptive children. Regardless of how a family is configured, it is important to plan for the future and ensure that all family members’ needs will be met. For non-traditional families, it is important to consider the following during the estate planning process:

1. Update your will - Your last will and testament specifies how you want your assets to be distributed to your heirs after your death and any other last wishes. You will want to be sure that your will addresses your partner, your children, your step-children, and any other family members.

2. Create a trust - In addition to your will, a trust can provide more control and flexibility for how you would like your assets to be distributed to your beneficiaries. A living trust can be changed or modified if necessary, and it can also be used to provide for your and your partner’s needs during your life.

3. Use power of attorney - While married spouses have the right to make decisions for each other, this is not always true for unmarried couples. A power of attorney agreement can be used to ensure that partners will be able to make medical or financial decisions for each other if one of them becomes incapacitated.

4. Consider a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement - When you get remarried, your new spouse will typically be entitled to receive half of your estate following your death. A prenup or postnup can ensure that certain assets will be set aside for any children you may have from a previous marriage or relationship.

5. Address plans for retirement - If you have any retirement funds saved in an account such as a 401(k) or IRA, you will want to be sure to name beneficiaries who will receive these funds following your death. You can name your spouse or partner as a beneficiary, as well as any children or step-children.

Contact a Kenilworth Estate Planning Attorney

When creating a comprehensive estate plan, you will want to be sure all of your family members will be provided for. Determining how to do so when you are in a non-traditional family can be a complex matter, and an experienced attorney can help you address issues involving same-sex partners, children from previous marriages, adoptive children, or other family members. Contact our Riverwoods estate planning lawyer today at 847-934-6000 to schedule 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.


3 Reasons Why a Living Trust Is More Beneficial Than Just a Will

Web Admin - Wednesday, January 23, 2019
Des Plaines living trust lawyerIf 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. 

Creditors. 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.

Underage heirs. 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.


The Illinois Will Probate Process: Settling an Estate

Web Admin - Friday, September 21, 2018
Arlington Heights estate planning probate lawyerThe passing of assets from one generation to the next is a long-standing tradition, typically governed by a written will. When a person with a large estate dies, a legal process called probate ensures that the terms of the will are properly carried out. The process of probating a will in Illinois is controlled by the Illinois Probate Act and the rules of the circuit court in the decedent’s county of residence.

When an Illinois Will Must Go Through Probate

An Illinois estate must be probated when its total value exceeds $100,000 (excluding jointly-held properties and accounts with named beneficiaries, which transfer automatically upon death).

The Process to Probate a Will in Illinois

1. Petition for Probate - The first step is to file a Petition for Probate with the circuit court. This petition includes the will itself, the current estimated value of the estate, the names and addresses of heirs, and other information necessary to begin settling the estate. The executor named in the will or their appointed attorney must file this petition within 30 days of the decedent’s death and send copies to all heirs.

2. Hearing to Open Probate - The court will conduct a short hearing to officially validate the will and admit the will to probate. At the hearing, heirs may enter their objections to any part of the petition, such as the validity of the will itself, the person(s) designated to administer the estate, or the person(s) designated to act as personal fiduciaries for any underage or disabled heirs. The court will approve the executor and issue letters testamentary that authorize the executor to act on behalf of the estate.

3. Inventory of Assets - The executor has the responsibility to locate and secure all assets of the estate. A written inventory must be made, listing all bank and investment accounts, real estate, and personal property of significant value. Appraisals may be necessary to establish date of death” values for each piece of real and personal property.

4. Payment of Debts and Taxes - The executor must notify all creditors of the decedent and pay outstanding bills, including property taxes and any other expenses necessary to protect the assets of the estate. The estate must remain open for at least six months to ensure that all creditors are identified and paid. The executor must also file final state and federal tax returns for the decedent.

5. Petition for Distribution of the Estate - Upon conclusion of the prior steps, the executor must provide an accounting of their work on the estate, including all receipts and disbursements. The executor will then ask the court for permission to distribute the remainder of the estate according to the terms of the will. (When there is no question that the estate contains more than sufficient funds to pay off all debts, some distribution of assets may occur before the final accounting.) 

Consult a Palatine Estate Planning Lawyer

Ensure that your hard-earned assets are distributed to your heirs according to your wishes. An experienced Barrington estate planning attorney at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC can help you develop an estate plan that will meet your specific goals and, after your death, ensure that your will is probated efficiently. Contact us at 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.


Important Considerations When Drafting Your Will

Web Admin - Thursday, April 23, 2015

drafting your will in Illinois, Palatine estate planning lawyerThe passing away of Chicago Cubs’ legend Ernie Banks was a sad day for baseball fans everywhere. Unfortunately, his death sparked a controversy within his own family after his longtime caretaker claimed that he had executed a will. Recently, a court upheld the validity of the will. Here, we focus on some of the reasons why this occurred and the steps all individuals should take to best protect their will from a challenge.

Banks’ Will

Following the death of Banks, his widow claimed that he did not have a will. However, his caretaker came forward and claimed that Banks had created and signed a will three months prior to his death. The will gave all of his assets to the caretaker. Banks’ widow argued that he was not of sound mind and that the caretaker coerced him into executing the will. In order to prove the validity of the will, two paralegals testified that they witnessed Banks sign it. Further, the paralegals testified that Banks appeared fine and even mentioned during the notarization that he was not leaving anything to his family. The court ruled that the will was valid, though an appeal is likely.

Executing Valid Wills

A person who executes a will is known as the testator. For a will to be valid under Illinois law, it must be in writing and signed by the testator. Further, the signing of the will must be witnessed by two people and it must be notarized. Additionally, the testator must be of “sound mind and memory” at the time the will is created and signed. At the signing, a testator may want to document that he or she has the mental capacity to execute the will. This may include obtaining the opinion of a doctor that establishes the testator’s capacity.

It is important for the testator to state clearly his or her wishes as to the disposition of the property. The testator may want to include his or her reasoning for the way in which their assets will be distributed. In the case of Banks’ will, he affirmatively stated he was leaving all of his assets with his caretaker. Further, he included a statement that he intentionally was leaving nothing to his family. This was an important provision because it made clear that an omission had not occurred. In other words, it signaled that Banks had not simply forgotten about his family.

Many people find it difficult to discuss end of life situations. However, this can be helpful in ensuring that there will not be any challenges to a testator’s will after the testator dies. Speaking with the people included, and those excluded who may have an expectation to be included, in the will can help make sure there are no surprises when the testator dies. If Banks had disclosed to his widow the existence of his will and they had had a discussion regarding it and the reasons he was not leaving her anything, her challenge would have been even less likely to succeed.

If you would like more information or help creating your will, you should speak with an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney. Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC proudly represents clients throughout the northwest suburbs, including Inverness, Palatine, and Long Grove.

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.

New Illinois Law Affects Gifts to Caregivers

Web Admin - Thursday, November 13, 2014

Illinois caregiver probate, Schaumburg probate lawyerDrafting a will is an important step towards ensuring that a person's final wishes can be accurately carried out. However, there have been recent cases of elderly testators succumbing to the undue influence of caregivers or other people close to them, and altering their wills in ways that they would not ordinarily want to. In order to better protect the interests of people drafting wills and other documents to memorialize their last wishes, Illinois has passed a new law that alters the way that courts treat gifts to caregivers if someone contests the validity of the document.

Presumptively Void Transfers

In the event that someone legally challenges a bequest to a caregiver of more than $20,000, the court will apply a “rebuttable presumption” that the transfer is void. A void transfer would not go through and would instead be redistributed under other provisions of estate law. However, not all large gifts to caregivers would be void under the law. The law instructs the court to use a rebuttable presumption, which means that the caregiver is allowed to argue that the transfer was valid and should go through normally.

What the presumption does, essentially, is forces the caregiver to fight an uphill battle if he or she wants to claim the money. The caregiver would need to show by “clear and convincing evidence,” a higher than normal standard, “that the transfer was not the product of fraud, duress, or undue influence.” The caregiver also has another option to demonstrate the validity of the will. If the caregiver can show that the gift's size is no greater than it would have been before he or she became the caregiver, then he or she can overcome the presumption.

When the Law Applies

The law contains a variety of cutouts and definitions that make it more clear when the law does or does not apply. For instance, the law provides an exception for family members who act as caregivers. They will not have to face the presumption of voidness, though they do still need to deal with ordinary issues of fraud and duress. The law also sets out a definition of the types of documents that the rule applies to, which the law refers to as transfer instruments. According to the law, a transfer instrument is a document designed to cause a transfer of assets on or after the date of the transferor's death. These instruments can be wills, trusts, or contracts, among a variety of other types of legal documents.

If you believe that a family member's will was improperly tampered with by a caregiver, seek the help of a dedicated Schaumburg, Illinois probate attorney today. Our firm can help you learn about the options you have to make sure that your family member's final wishes are carried out properly. We assist clients in Inverness, Palatine, Arlington Heights, and throughout the Chicagoland suburbs.

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.

Five Advantages of Living Trusts Over Wills

Web Admin - Friday, January 03, 2014

By Jay Andrew
JAA@DGAALAW.COM / (847) 934-6000

When preparing for the disposition of their property after they pass on, many people often find themselves questioning what wills and living trusts are and which document would better suit their needs. Wills, governed by the Probate Act of 1975, are legal documents that a person prepares prior to their death, which specifies how the rest of the family should distribute their property and handle the other affairs. Living trusts, which are controlled by the Trusts and Trustees Act, are legal devices that allow a person of the creator’s choosing, the trustee, to handle the disposition of their property. While everyone’s situation comes with unique considerations, living trusts may provide various advantages over wills. Five of the most important advantages include:

1. Living trusts can help your family avoid dealing with long, draw-out probate proceedings. Courts use probate proceedings to tie up a person’s loose ends, distribute their property, and generally enact their will. If you use a living trust, rather than moving through the court system, the trustee can distribute the property in accordance with the trust. This means that your family will not need to bring themselves to the courthouse and deal with the fees and hassle that come along with probate proceedings.

2. Living trusts also provide more privacy than wills do. While both wills and living trusts remain private throughout your life, the probate court will look at the will after you pass on, even if there are no formal probate proceedings. That means that the will becomes a matter of public record. On the other hand, your relatives will not need to file the trust with the court, so it can stay between them.

3. Living trusts also stand a better chance of surviving a legal challenge after your death, making it more likely that your final plans will be enacted to your specifications. The extra strength from a living trust comes from your ability to keep an active eye on it during your life. Because you would stay involved with the trust’s management during your life, relatives would find it harder to prove that you were not of sound mind when making the plan.

4. Living trusts make leaving property to minor children simpler too. Because minors cannot own most property, the trustee whom you choose can manage it for them, whereas a court appointee would likely handle the management if you chose to pass the property on with a will.

5. Living trusts have further benefits in the event that you become incapacitated while alive. Ordinarily, such circumstances would require relatives to petition the court for control of your affairs, and then the court would appoint a person to manage them. With a living trust, you can appoint a successor trustee to take over management in the event that you become incapacitated.

Decisions about testamentary dispositions can be complicated and involve multiple areas of law. If you are in the process of making such decisions, contact a Palatine estate planning lawyer today. We serve many areas in the northwest suburbs including Arlington Heights, Crystal Lake and Barrington.

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