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Probate litigation: Early planning can help avoid disputes

Many Illinois households include a family member with Alzheimer's or other neurodegenerative disease. Mental incapacitation impedes a person's ability to validly sign estate planning documents. Several celebrity families have become entangled in probate litigation over such issues after their loved ones' deaths.

In some cases, like that of former country music superstar Glenn Campbell, early planning sometimes secures the validity of a particular estate plan. In 2007, years before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Campbell signed estate planning documents that disinherited three of his children. At age 81, in 2017, the "Rhinestone Cowboy" singer died of complications from his illness.

His children challenged their disinheritance but later dropped the case because their father had signed the documents while he was of sound mind. Former actor Gene Wilder's estate plan is another example of the benefits of early planning. Designating powers of attorney and signing wills or trusts ahead of time helps protect assets and provide for loved ones. Wilder's loved ones were able to avoid legal disputes when he succumbed to complications of Alzheimer's disease.

An Illinois estate owner who wants to help his or her heirs and beneficiaries avoid probate litigation can consult an experienced probate law attorney to seek guidance and support in executing a solid estate plan. An attorney is a great asset because he or she can not only assist in devising a plan but can remain on hand to periodically review and update a plan as needed. Estate taxes and other complex issues can also be addressed and planned for, as necessary.

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