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/

How a Special Needs Trust Can Benefit You and Your Family

special needs, DuPage County estate planning attorneysIt can be terribly challenging to plan for a time when you are not around to care for your loved ones. However, facing this reality by making an estate plan is one of the most selfless actions you can take. This is an especially true if you have a child, sibling, or other close loved one who has a serious disability. If you have been responsible for caring for a loved one who cannot care for himself or herself, you may want to find a way of providing for him or her after you pass away. One way to do just this is through an estate planning tool called a special needs trust.

Planning for the Care of a Loved One with Special Needs

A special needs trust or supplemental needs trust is an estate planning instrument that can be critically important to individuals who have a disabled loved one in their care. This instrument works by allowing the caregiver to place funds in the trust, which can then be used for the future care of their disabled loved one. A special needs trust allows you to put aside money for your loved one without affecting the disabled person’s eligibility for government assistance programs. Special needs trusts can be funded through gifts and inheritances or a lump-sum settlement. Without a special needs trust, money left to your loved one could potential disqualify him or her for certain government aid programs.

Leaving Money to a Loved One Could Increase His or Her Available Assets Too Much

The majority of government-funded aid is distributed to individuals under a certain income level. For example, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and housing subsidies all have income criteria that a person must meet in order to qualify for the financial assistance. If you leave money to your disabled loved one without the appropriate estate planning instrument, it could be counted toward his or her available assets. If the funds are substantial, this money could bump your loved one’s income up to a level which makes him or her ineligible for programs with income or asset limits.

A properly-drafted special needs trust helps you ensure that your disabled loved one will receive the funds he or she needs in a way that does not jeopardize participation in other government assistance programs. Ideally, a special needs trust will help your disabled family member enjoy a high quality of life even after you have passed away.

Contact a Wheaton, Illinois Estate Planning Attorney for Help

Drafting a special needs trust or other estate planning instrument can be quite complex. For quality legal assistance from a knowledgeable DuPage County estate planning lawyer, contact Stock, Carlson, Oldfield and McGrath LLC. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-665-2500 today.

 

Sources:

http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publishing/rpte_ereport/te_lewis.authcheckdam.pdf

http://www.americanbar.org/newsletter/publications/law_trends_news_practice_area_e_newsletter_home/0501_estate_financialplanning.html

When to Consider Contesting a Will

contest, Wheaton estate planning attorneyIf you have recently experienced the death of a loved one, it is understandable that you may have needed some time for things to get back to normal, especially if you had a close relationship with the person who died. Unfortunately, when the person’s will is presented for probate, there is the possibility of new problems. What happens, for example, if you discover that your loved one has made some unexpected changes or decisions regarding his or her will? In such a situation, you may have the option of contesting the will, but there are some considerations to address before you file.

Disagreement Is Not Enough

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that in any situation involving a will or the transfer of a decedent’s assets, it is practically guaranteed that someone will feel slighted or left out altogether. That someone may have expected to receive a particular part of the deceased person’s estate only to learn that the expectations were never written into the will. While you might be disappointed or hurt by how your loved one decided to distribute his or her property, hurt feelings are not grounds for contesting a will.

Grounds for a Will Contest

Under the law in Illinois, there are several situations in which challenging a will would be appropriate. These include:

  • The will was not executed properly: In Illinois, two separate people must witness the signing of the will. Named beneficiaries cannot be witnesses;
  • Lack of testamentary capacity: If your loved one was not of sound mind or otherwise did not understand the terms and implications of his or her decisions, the will could be invalidated;
  • Undue influence: Estate planning decisions are extremely personal and should be made voluntarily. If another person—including a family member or caregiver—pressured or coerced your loved one into making changes or writing a new will, the resulting document could be set aside by the court;
  • Fraud: During the process of estate planning, there are often many documents that must be signed and executed, many of which are prepared by another person. If your loved one, for example, signed the will believing it to be a different document—such as a medical directive—the court could decide that the will was procured through fraud.

In order for your will contest to be successful, you will need to prove your allegations. Doing so can be extremely difficult, but it may the only way for you to ensure that your loved one’s estate is handled as he or she intended.

Call a Wheaton Will Contest Attorney

Filing a will contest can have a dramatic effect on your family dynamics, so it is not a decision to made lightly. Before you take action, contact a DuPage County estate planning lawyer at Stock, Carlson, Oldfield & McGrath LLC today. Call 630-665-2500 for a confidential consultation, and get the help you need.

 

Sources:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs5.asp?ActID=2104&ChapterID=60

https://www.thebalance.com/what-are-the-grounds-for-contesting-a-will-3505208