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Lake Forest Illinois Trusts and Estates Law Blog

Estate planning: Hot topic after Kobe Bryant's death

NBA fans, coaches, players and families in Illinois and around the globe recently mourned the tragic death of basketball icon Kobe Bryant, who was traveling with his daughter and several others when their helicopter crashed, leaving no survivors on board. Since the tragedy, news headlines have been filled with titles about Bryant's family, including speculation about estate planning. The question of whether the former basketball star had signed a last will and testament, so far, remains unclear.

Bryant was known as being a person who paid attention to detail and diligently kept his personal finances and other important issues in order. This has prompted many people to assume he had a last will and testament in place before he died. Others, however, have noted that Bryant's African-American heritage may place him in a group that is reportedly notorious for not executing estate plans.

Do you worry one family member may challenge your Illinois will?

There is a common saying that one bad apple spoils the bushel. The scientific basis for this statement is the fact that apples give off a ripening hormone. When one apple suddenly spoils, other apples in close proximity may wind up ripening prematurely and rotting as well.

Such a unique scenario may seem far from something with universal applicability, but in reality, that saying can apply to an estate plan or last will. It only requires one selfish heir or beneficiary to challenge your last will or estate plan and throw your carefully considered legacy wishes into chaos.

Estate planning: Are you concerned with wealth transfer issues?

Thinking ahead is a valuable tool regarding wealth preservation. The Illinois estate planning process can help transfer wealth to heirs or beneficiaries in as tax efficient a manner as possible. The Internal Revenue Code is complex and often difficult to understand, and it is subject to ongoing revisions as well. This is why it pays to consult with someone who is well-versed in such issues before determining a best course of action regarding an estate plan.

Passing one's assets to a future generation is a personal process that is unique. There is often no set solution to a particular problem. An estate owner must execute as solid a plan as possible at a given time, then stay on top of it to periodically review the plan and make changes or updates as needed.

How much do your heirs and beneficiaries know about finances?

When an Illinois resident executes an estate plan, there is often a last will and testament included. An estate owner might name heirs and beneficiaries to inherit certain assets after he or she has passed. If those so-named are not at all educated about financial issues, they may feel confused or overwhelmed about the probate process or other issues related to their inheritance.

This is why it pays to educate one's heirs, not only about the general concepts of finances but also regarding the financial affairs of the estate or assets they will inherit. Many people make the mistake of relying on someone else to handle all their financial issues. While this may seem convenient and less stressful at times, it can leave a person at a great loss for knowing what to do at some point, especially if the person who took care of such things is no longer here to do so. 

Avoiding probate can help avoid family disputes

Building a plan to transfer your assets to those you love takes time and attention, especially if you anticipate family conflicts around the process. Unfortunately, transferring property within a family can lead to major disputes, draining away resources while the parties argue. If you have concerns about maintaining peace in your family after you pass away, now is the time to look at some tools you may use to transfer your property and avoid probate.

If you pass away and still possess your property legally, it will probably pass through probate. Probate is the process the courts use to distribute your property after you pass away, but there are ways to avoid it, at least partially. Probate may take more than a year to complete, which may cause significant tensions among beneficiaries. By distributing your property in other ways, your beneficiaries may not have to wait to receive their portion and there is less room for dispute.

Heirs and beneficiaries: What if legal obstacles arise?

Losing a loved one is a sorrowful event many people in Illinois and across the country will experience this year. Thousands of people will learn that they have been named as heirs and beneficiaries in an estate plan. In some situations, the administration of a particular estate will be simple, clear-cut and not especially stressful.

Being an heir is not the same as being a beneficiary. An heir is someone who may be entitled to inherit assets because of his or her relation to the estate owner who has died. A beneficiary, on the other hand, is someone who has been designated (by an estate owner) to receive property or assets through means of a last will and testament or established trust.

Attention, millennials: Stop delaying estate planning

In Illinois and everywhere else, financial analysts predict that more than $60 trillion of wealth will be transferred posthumously within the next 25 years. Many millennials will be among those who inherit some of this wealth. This is reason enough for those in this age group to learn as much as they can about estate planning, and to avoid hesitating in executing their own plans, which appears to be common among them.

Why? There are numerous possible answers to the question. For one, many millennials say they do not want to worry about such things, at least until they have families of their own. Others say they are simply too young and have not acquired "enough" assets to consider an estate plan a high priority. The problem with this mindset is that it seems to assume longevity in life.

Is estate planning one of your 2020 goals?

When a new year unfolds, it is not uncommon for people in Illinois and elsewhere to want to become more organized, get their affairs in order, and set numerous financial or personal goals for themselves and their families. Many people include estate planning as a top priority when they want to devise a system that helps protect their assets and plan for the future. No matter what your current age happens to be, if you're an adult, it is never too soon to develop a strong estate plan.

It is definitely a legal process that many people shy away from or procrastinate about. Some people do not like to think about their own mortality. Others have been given misguided information and, perhaps, believe that estate planning is just something elderly or wealthy people do.

3 mistakes you shouldn't make in your estate plan

Estate plans are meant to protect you and your assets while setting up instructions for who is going to get what after you pass away. Before you get things set up, you must consider your goals and the options available to make them happen.

As you're working through it all, ensure that you haven't made mistakes that could be damaging to you or your beneficiaries. Even though some of these might seem minor, they can be very costly.

Probate litigation: Tom Petty's loved ones at odds

When former rock music icon Tom Petty died of an accidental drug overdose at age 66, it not only sent a ripple of grief among his fans in Illinois and throughout the world, it also sparked contention between his loved ones. The situation prompted probate litigation between his widow and two daughters from a previous marriage. Things recently took a turn for the worse in court when Petty's widow called the actions of his daughters both erratic and abusive.

The daughters, on the other hand, say their father's widow has cost them more than $5 million due to her mismanagement of Petty's estate. Central focus issues in multiple court proceedings between the sisters and their stepmother include intellectual property rights, especially the right to use Petty's name and image. Royalties and artistic creations are also matters of concern.

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