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Lake Forest Illinois Trusts and Estates Law Blog

Want to avoid probate litigation? Here's how

Many Illinois families, like others throughout the nation, sometimes find themselves entangled in family discord in the days and weeks that follow a loved one's death. It is not easy to be faced with legal issues surrounding a decedent's final will and testament or other issues regarding inheritance or fiduciary duties. There are several proactive steps one can take to try to avoid probate litigation. 

Estate battles often arise when one or more parties has misread or misunderstood important documents. The best place to start to resolve such problems is to re-read all pertinent documents and to seek clarification of any terminology that is not clearly understood by all those involved. Also, make sure that the most updated version of a will is being referred to, as it is not uncommon for people to modify their wills during their lifetimes but forget to revoke the originals.  

3 major myths about estate planning

Estate planning mistakes can cause enormous problems for your family. They can cause siblings to fight, they can cause you to pay too much in taxes and they can leave everyone in a state of confusion and chaos after you pass away.

In many cases, people make these mistakes because they hear common estate planning myths and do not realize they contain fundamental inaccuracies. These myths lead them astray and cause problems that they could have easily avoided.

Support available for heirs and beneficiaries in Illinois

When an Illinois resident executes an estate plan, he or she may include numerous documents and designate various people to fulfill crucial roles. For instance, children, grandchildren, spouses or others may be named as heirs and beneficiaries. While it sounds simple enough, you might be surprised how common it is for feuds to arise regarding a parent's or other loved one's last will and testament.  

When this happens, a key to successful problem-solving often lies in the type of support provided. Sadly, siblings, close friends and relatives often clash during the probate process. In fact, there are stories of family members who permanently ceased speaking to each other when one or the other received an inheritance thought to be intended for someone else. Sometimes, litigation results in such circumstances, and it can take weeks, months, even years to solve such problems.  

When heirs and beneficiaries question an executor's actions

Many Illinois estate owners have made plans to protect their assets and provide for their loved ones' financial security when the time comes to administer their estates. Written terms are critically important regarding a given estate plan. Equally or, perhaps even more important is making sure that all those who are named as heirs and beneficiaries understand their roles and the terms as they are written.  

A family disagreement has arisen in another state between siblings whose father recently died. One of the man's children was named as executor. Another sibling, however, was named as a co-executor and had reportedly served as the man's caretaker before he passed away. The remaining siblings in the family say that they understood they were to receive a certain amount of inheritance as per a verbal agreement they had with their father.  

Does your sibling use the family business as an ATM?

Your father left the business to you and your sibling when he passed away. You divided up the other assets between the two of you -- the proceeds from selling the family home, the money from the life insurance policy, etc. -- and so you know you both are doing well financially.

That freed you up to run the family business without having to worry about the financial side of things. This doesn't mean you are irresponsible, though. You work hard and you put the money you make back into the company, trying to help it grow. You know how much it meant to your father and how hard he worked, and you want to build on that legacy.

Estate planning and administration: Family discord a big problem

No matter how thorough a plan an Illinois estate owner executes before he or she dies, it is no guarantee that problems will not arise when the time comes to administer the estate. It is logical to assume, however, that a carefully executed and solid plan increases the chances that there will not be many wrinkles in the administration process. Interestingly, many financial advisers, legal counselors and elder law specialists say the biggest problem they often deal with regarding estate planning and administration is family conflict.  

A loved one's death can have implications in many aspects of estate, such as taxes, inheritances or trusts. Family members who play key roles in the estate administration process (such as those who are named as beneficiaries, executors or legal guardians of children) may wish to discuss potential problems ahead of time so no one is caught off-guard by negative surprises when the administration process takes place. If two or more people disagree about a particular estate issue, it is better to reach out for legal support than try to handle it alone.  

Problems re Manson estate heirs and beneficiaries resolved

Baby boomers and older Illinois residents are among those most likely to remember news headlines and horrendous crimes involving Charles Manson. Manson was seen as a prophet among those colloquially known as The Manson Family and had spent the majority of his adult life serving multiple life sentences in prison, for masterminding the murders of a pregnant actress, Sharon Tate, and eight other people in the late 1960s. He was still behind bars when he died in 2017, and his heirs and beneficiaries have been fighting over his remains and his estate, ever since.  

Several men claimed to have legal rights to Manson's remains. Two of those men claimed to be his biological sons. Another man told the court he was Manson's biological grandson, and a fourth man said he was a Manson memorabilia collector and pen pal to Manson. He also said he possessed Manson's final will, which designated him as sole beneficiary.  

Problems arise re Anthony Bourdain's wills and trusts

Food fans in Illinois and the world over were recently shocked and saddened by the news of Culinary TV star Anthony Bourdain's sudden and unexpected death. Sadness was intensified when reports surfaced that he committed suicide. Now, Bourdain's family is back in the news, as questions and complications have arisen regarding his wills and trusts.  

Bourdain was survived by an 11-year-old daughter. His estate plan included monies that had been placed in trust for her. The funds are scheduled to be dispersed as she reaches specified ages. Some estate planning analysts say it is better to give an inheritance in one lump sum as opposed to scheduled trust disbursements. That may not be the most pressing matter regarding Bourdain's estate, however.  

How to ask your parents about the will with the right perspective

It is wise to talk to your loved ones about your will and estate plan. This goes for parents who are making the plan and for children who need to stay in the loop. This conversation, in an ideal world, should be an ongoing one.

Unfortunately, the reality is that most people never talk about it. It feels awkward. It feels forced. In many cases, children feel greedy to even ask.

Include these for thorough estate planning and administration

While most Illinois residents understand that ultimate outcomes can never be predicted with certainty, many people still want to take advantage of all available resources to plan their futures as much as possible. This is especially true where estate planning and administration is concerned. The more thorough an estate plan, the likelier the administration process will unfold without serious complications.  

The estate planning process is highly customizable in that there are no rules regarding what types of documents are included or left out of a particular plan. Of course, certain end goals may require specific documents; however, each person may determine his or her own goals and plan accordingly. There are several key documents that most people with solid estate plans include in their portfolios. 

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