Common Estate Planning Myths Debunked

myths, Wheaton estate planning lawyerA survey conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) shows that only about 40 percent of Americans have a will, trust, power of attorney, or other estate planning document in place. There are countless reasons that so many adults have neglected to create their estate plan. One reason is that many people do not understand the benefits that estate planning can offer them and their families. Some may only have a vague notion of what estate planning even entails and feel too overwhelmed by legal jargon to research estate planning further. Television and movies have not presented estate planning in a very positive light either. There are many myths and misunderstandings surrounding estate planning which are simply not true.

Myth: I Do Not Need to Worry About Estate Planning Until I am Older

When most people imagine someone writing a will, an image of an elderly or sick person comes to mind. The truth is that waiting until you are older to start formulating estate plans is a poor idea for several reasons. The validity of a will can be questioned if the person writing the will, called the testator, is not of sound mind due to advanced age or cognitive decline.

Secondly, estate planning does not only deal with what happens to a person’s debts and assets after they die. For example, some estate planning instruments can allow you to choose a guardian for your minor children if anything should happen to you and your children’s other parent. While it is unpleasant to think about, accidents happen every day and it is better to be safe rather than sorry.

Myth: Only Rich People Need Estate Plans

While it is true that higher value estates and estates containing complex assets require more extensive estate planning, the reality is that every adult can benefit from some type of estate planning – regardless of wealth or status. For example, many people have strong beliefs about end-of-life medical care. They do not want to be kept alive via a ventilator or feeding tube if they are in a vegetative state. Others wish to sign a “do not resuscitate” order, or a “DNR,” for personal reasons. Still others wish to dictate exactly what types of death-delaying medical treatment they consent to and what they do not want if they ever become incapacitated. Estate planning allows you to make these types of decisions in advance.

Myth: I Do Not Need to Worry About Estate Planning Because My Loved Ones Can Handle it

Losing a relative or close friend is one of the most heartbreaking life events a person can experience. When an individual does not have any estate plans to dictate what happens to their assets and debt upon passing away, this responsibility falls to their surviving loved ones. This can be a difficult burden for them to bear, especially when they have just experienced a loss. Making decisions about your healthcare and finances in advance saves your family from having to make these decisions on your behalf.

Contact a Wheaton, Illinois Estate Planning Lawyer

If you want to learn more about how estate planning can benefit you and your family, contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney at Stock, Carlson, Oldfield and McGrath LLC. Schedule a confidential consultation by calling 630-665-2500 today.

Sources:

https://www.aarp.org/money/investing/info-2017/half-of-adults-do-not-have-wills.html

https://www.moneycrashers.com/legal-myths-estate-planning-wills-trusts/

Wills and Trusts – Understanding the Difference and Why It Matters

DuPage County wills and trusts lawyersIt can take decades to build wealth, so it only makes sense for guarantors to want a say over how their assets will be distributed upon their death. Wills and estate plans are valuable estate planning tools that can allow you to do just that. There are some distinct differences between these two options, however, and a variety of factors can dictate which option is most appropriate for your situation. Learn more, including how our seasoned estate planning lawyers can help protect your heirs, and your estate, immediately and long into the future. 

What is a Will? 

A will is a written document that explains how a guarantor’s assets should be distributed, upon their death. A guarantor can retract or amend a will at any point in their lifetime, and an update is recommended any time that a guarantor experiences a significant change in their situation (i.e. marriage, divorce, children, etc.). Wills can also be used to name guardians for minor children. 

What is a Living Trust? 

Living trusts are meant to designate control over a guarantor’s assets. You can name yourself, but most guarantors assign a trustee to their estate. The trustee would have the power to manage any assets to which they have been assigned, should you become incapacitated. Living trusts can also  reduce the tax-load of an estate, and it allows heirs to avoid the probate process (in most situations). Another distinct benefit of a living trust is the anonymity that it grants your heirs; under this document, your financial affairs remain a private matter. 

Which Estate Planning Tool is Right for You?

Living trusts allow guarantor’s the most control over their assets, even after death, but they are not appropriate for every situation. Often costly and typically complex, these documents are generally reserved for more complex estate planning situations. Examples include an estate with:

  • A significant tax-load; 
  • Multiple heirs;
  • Minor children that must be supported until they come of age;
  • Children, grandchildren, or other dependents with special needs;
  • Heirs who poorly manage money; and
  • Assets or property that should be maintained or held within the family.

Because no two situations are exactly alike, and the estate planning process is complex and multi-layered, it is advised that guarantors seek skilled legal guidance when determining which estate planning tools are best suited for their needs. Stock, Carlson, Oldfield & McGrath, LLC is the firm to trust. Our experienced Wheaton wills and trusts lawyers offer more than 40 years of estate planning experience. Call 630-665-2500 for your consultation. 

Source:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2117&ChapterID=61

 

 

 

Giving Your Heirs “Lifetime Gifts” Can Benefit You During the Estate Planning Process

Wheaton wills and trusts lawyersIf estate plans were only about money, they would not be so difficult to create. Instead, parties must first come to terms with their own eventual death, and they must consider where and how they would like money to be distributed. Since family matters can be highly complex and sometimes volatile, and the rules for handling assets upon one’s death can vary by type and situation, such decisions regarding inheritances can be more than just difficult. One possible solution is to use “lifetime gifts” as your guide. Learn more in the following sections, including how our seasoned estate planning attorneys can help with drafting your initial estate plan. 

What is a Lifetime Gift?

Lifetime gifts are often used as an estate-planning strategy for reducing federal and state taxes, which means they are most commonly used in estate plans that exceed either the $4 million Illinois state estate tax exemption or the $5.5 million federal estate tax exemption. Each gift, which may equal up to $15,000 in value each year ($30,000 maximum for married couples giving a joint gift), reduces the value of the estate, thereby reducing the amount that heirs will be taxed when they inherit it. Lifetime gifts can do more than simply lower the tax load of one’s estate, however. They can also benefit the guarantor during the estate planning process. 

Using Lifetime Gifts to Aid You in Estate Planning

One of the biggest struggles that guarantors face is deciding how to distribute their wealth among heirs. Some are not even sure if the total value of the estate should be divided equally among children, or if personality and spending habits be considered when deciding how much to give a specific heir? Those who are considering the latter may use lifetime gifting as a part of their estate planning strategy. 

Consider this example: You have two children – one that has always been responsible with money and life decisions, and another that usually spends money frivolously and seems to struggle with making good and healthy life decisions. Perhaps the latter has made attempts to improve things, so you want to leave them an inheritance. Yet, because of their history with money, you are concerned that they will squander whatever you leave to them. A lifetime gift, given to them with conditions, can help you determine how well they might handle an inheritance. You can also give lifetime gifts to extended family members that you may not know very well to determine how they might handle any wealth that you decide to leave them. 

Contact Our Wheaton Estate Planning Attorneys 

Lifetime gifting is just one of many strategies that guarantors can use during the estate planning process. Stock, Carlson, Oldfield & McGrath, LLC can assist you in using it, as well as any others that may serve your needs. Schedule a consultation with our DuPage County wills and trusts lawyers by calling 630-665-2500 today. 

Sources:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=609&ChapterID=8

https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/estate-tax