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Lake Forest Illinois Trusts and Estates Law Blog

Estate planning and administration not at top of everyone's list

In Illinois and throughout the nation, more people than not fail to execute solid estate plans. In fact, where the whole estate planning and administration process is concerned, only about 42 percent of people have final wills in place. A last will and testament is the most common form of estate planning document with which most people are at least somewhat familiar.

There's no one reason people do not have living wills, powers of attorney or other key documents drafted and executed. Some people simply shy away from the topic of their own mortality. Others keep meaning to get around to executing a plan but always seem to procrastinate. There are also those who simply do not know how to begin the process or how state laws may affect a particular issue.

Estate planning and administration can be a gift to loved ones

In Illinois and elsewhere, the topic of mortality does not make many people's Top 10 lists of favorite conversations. Many people shy away from such topics because they want to focus on living rather than the fact that they are going to die someday. This hesitance often causes procrastination in the area of estate planning and administration.

Surprisingly, many people understand the importance of executing a solid estate plan but fail to do so, simply because they don't like thinking about the time when they will no longer be here. Most of these same people love their families very much and would do just about anything for them if they knew it would help them in some way. This is why experienced estate planning attorneys provide services to help people put their gifts in writing.

Basic tips for selecting a trustee

There may come a point when you realize that creating a trust is the best decision you can make from an estate planning perspective.

Although there is a lot that goes into this process, most people find that they're able to put themselves in a better place sooner rather than later.

Heirs and beneficiaries don't always agree to estate plan results

When an Illinois resident executes an estate plan to distribute his or her assets to various family members or others, documents may be customized to suit individual wishes and long-term goals. For instance, many estate owners include advanced medical directives in their plans because they want or do not want certain types of care and wish to place their instructions in writing in case they become incapacitated and unable to speak for themselves during urgent medical situations. Where heirs and beneficiaries are concerned, problems may arise if one or more parties contest a will.

A final will and testament can also be written according to an estate owner's personal wishes. Sadly, this often leads to family disputes when those standing to inherit property, money or other assets feel they've been given the short end of the stick or have not been given something to which they are legally entitled. Although having a written estate plan often helps prevent such disputes, it is no guarantee because many extenuating circumstances can arise that complicate matters.

What are the big 5 in estate planning and administration?

What if there were a board game that involved guessing the names of important documents often included in Illinois estate plans? Most players of adult age would likely include final wills and testaments in their answers. Beyond that, however, many people are surprisingly unaware of even the most basic types of documents used in the estate planning and administration process.

There are typically five main documents most common in the average estate plan. In addition to a final will, many thorough plans also include living wills, various powers of attorney and revocable living trusts. Although these are the most basic and common types of estate planning documents, there is no law saying any one of them must be included in a particular plan.

Heirs and beneficiaries: Fist fights not the best way to go

Most Illinois parents likely do not expect their children to engage in physical brawls in their front yards when they die. Some may be surprised to learn it may be more of a risk than they realize. According to those who regularly assist heirs and beneficiaries in the probate and estate administration processes, children and other relatives of deceased estate owners often fight over seemingly worthless items.

Highly valuable items like jewels or art collections are sometimes subject to dispute among family members during estate administration. Incidental items, such as knickknacks and other personal belongings also often cause discord, especially among adult children of decedents. Estate owners are advised to put even their least valuable assets into writing to avoid fights over who gets what, among heirs.

Wills and trusts are key to unlocking peace of mind re estates

Many Illinois residents are currently researching ways to protect their families' best interests when they're no longer here to care for them. Parents of young children, especially, may be concerned about who would care for their children if something were to happen to both parents. Such matters can be quite worrisome if one does not know how to access available resources to formulate a solid estate plan. However, with appropriate guidance and key documents, such as wills and trusts, parents can proceed in life confident that their children's future needs will be met.

Wills and trusts are two of the most important documents parents can include in their estate plans. Even younger parents can benefit from doing so; after all, although most people in good general health expect to live through their Golden Years, there is no guarantee this will happen and it's always better to be as prepared as possible for the unexpected. Most people think of property and assets when they think of wills; however, a will can also be used to designate legal guardians for children who will otherwise be placed in situations a probate court decides is best, should parents die without having addressed the issue in writing.

Watch out for these estate planning and administration pitfalls!

Many Illinois residents reach a point in their lives where they begin to think about the lives of their loved ones' lives after they're gone. Such thoughts often lead to the estate planning and administration process, an easily accessible means for asset protection and documentation of final wishes. The process of planning an estate is customizable; however, there are several common mistakes that should be avoided by all estate owners.

Anyone entering the estate planning process has already avoided one of the biggest mistakes of all, namely, not having any type of plan in place when one dies. Since death is inevitable, those who want to ensure that their affairs are handled according to their wishes will want to execute solid plans; otherwise, someone else will determine what becomes of a particular estate. Discussing the estate planning process, working with someone who is knowledgeable and experienced may help alleviate any worries or confusion that may delay the process of getting a plan in writing.

How can you prevent one of your kids from contesting your will?

If you go through the effort of creating a last will, trust or estate plan, you likely do so because you want your final wishes and instructions followed. You may want certain assets to go to certain people, donations to go to a favorite charity or even have pets assigned to the care of trusted family members. You may even want to reduce issues with handling your estate and taxes. However, it's not uncommon for testators to worry about one (or more) of their children contesting their will.

If one person believes that he or she should receive more of the estate than is allocated in the will, that person could ask the probate court to step in. Your estate and all its assets could end up in legal limbo for many months, and all your planning could end up being for nothing. If you have reason to worry about this happening in your family, you can take special steps to prevent unnecessary contestation of your last will and estate plan.

Will Jerry Lewis's will lead to probate litigation?

Actor and comedian Jerry Lewis recently died, leaving many relatives and fans anxious to learn more about his will. That information has since been published and it begs the question whether the contents of the will might lead to probate litigation. It's a highly complex situation and not everyone is happy about Lewis's final instructions. Illinois residents currently facing similar issues may be very interested in the story.

Lewis, who entertained people throughout the nation and world for many decades, apparently signed a final will and testament in 2012, quite some time before he died of heart failure at age 91. In his will, he explicitly stated that he was officially disinheriting all his sons and their descendants. He also states that his entire estate, estimated in value at $50 million, is to be given to his adopted daughter and his widow.

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