No Children? Do Not Skip the Estate Planning Process

Joliet wills and trusts lawyersPeople who do not have children often assume that their assets will go directly to their spouse, so an estate plan is not needed. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Learn why it is still important that you consider the future of your estate, even when you do not have children, and discover how an experienced wills and trusts lawyer can assist you with the development of your estate plan.

What Happens to Assets When You Do Not Have an Estate Plan?

When someone dies without a valid will or trust in place, their assets typically go to their spouse. Unfortunately, there are situations that could prevent them from obtaining the assets. Examples include an ex-spouse that is still listed as a beneficiary on a retirement plan and probate challenges from extended family members who were not intended beneficiaries.

If the individual does not have a spouse, the courts may assign a trustee to the estate until beneficiaries can be found. If there are multiple beneficiaries, the matter may go to probate. In this instance, the value of the estate may be depleted once it reaches the beneficiaries. Thankfully, both issues can be prevented with a well-crafted estate plan.

How an Estate Plan Protects Your Assets After Death

Rather than allowing your estate to be handled by the courts and the trustees it assigns, you can draft a comprehensive estate plan that outlines your final wishes. Doing this not only helps to eliminate any confusion about where your assets should go, but it also reduces the risk of some of the more common after-death estate issues, and it decreases the chances that your estate will go to probate.

You can also name alternative beneficiaries in your estate plan. This reduces the risk of your assets going to unintended parties if your primary beneficiary passes away before your estate can be distributed. An example of this happening would be if your spouse died shortly after you did. If neither of you had an estate plan, the assets might then go to your spouse's family, rather than your own.

Contact Our DuPage County Wills and Trusts Lawyers

At Stock, Carlson, Oldfield & McGrath, LLC, we work with individuals to help ensure that their wishes are carried after death. Dedicated and experienced, our DuPage County wills and trusts lawyers can assist you in creating a comprehensive estate plan that suits your needs. Schedule a personalized consultation to get started. Call 630-665-2500 today.


Little Things Can Cause the Biggest Headaches in Estate Planning

safe deposit box, headaches in estate planning, Illinois estate planning attorneyCouples who have been married for a long time often fall into a routine regarding how the marital responsibilities are divided. This routine may also apply to financial responsibilities. One spouse may handle all of the investment responsibilities and the other may handle the household financial responsibilities such as monthly bill paying and checkbook balancing. Quite often, however, when one spouse dies unexpectedly and there is no written documentation and record-keeping, it can turn into a nightmare for the surviving spouse.

When a spouse passes, and he or she handled all investments, the surviving spouse may suddenly find him or herself unsure of what or where those investments, as well as other bank accounts, are located. He or she may also have issues gaining access to those accounts.

If a spouse passes, and he or she handled the day-to-day household bills, the surviving spouse may not have any idea what those bills are or even how to access their checking account information. In fact, with more people utilizing online account and bill-paying options, many surviving spouses cannot gain access to those accounts because they do not know the the required passwords.

There are steps, however, that couples can take to ensure that if something should happen to one of them, the other will not be faced with the stress of uncovering the financial unknowns. Gathering the information and putting it in one place is a step couples should take throughout their estate planning process.

To begin, couples should make a list of all accounts and passwords, including bank accounts and investment accounts. Additionally, the names of all stocks and bonds should be included with each investment account. Moreover, it is important to add all bills to this list and include those account numbers and passwords. Couples should update this list at least once each year.

It is also essential for couples to share all financial information with each other so they are both aware of their financial standing. This is especially true for any debts a couple may have. For example, if there is a credit card balance that one spouse does not know about when his or her spouse dies, it may throw the surviving spouse for an emotional loop, even if the balance is not that much.

Finally, it is important to not overlook a safe deposit key. Many couples use safe deposit boxes as a way to protect their valuables. If you choose to utilize a safe deposit box, make sure that the box is in both names. If not, legal ramifications may occur over who has access to that box. Also, both spouses should also know where the key is kept.

As simple as these steps may seem, the process of estate planning may feel daunting and it is easy to overlook the simple issues. Hence, it is important to contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney to ensure that all of the estate planning issues that you and your family need to address are discussed and planned.

Illinois Estate Planning: Reasons Not to Procrastinate

Illinois estate planning, Illinois Estate Planning LawyerMany of us are familiar with the Benjamin Franklin quote, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Yet those two topics—death and taxes—are not ones people generally like to think about. This could be why more than half of us do not have even the most basic of estate planning documents in place. In fact, according to financial planners, there may be several reasons why people put off and delay planning for what truly is the inevitable.

Not Enough Time

Many people say they do not have the time for estate planning, claiming they are just too busy. However, legal advisors and financial planners stress that this is one area that should be a priority and everyone needs to make the time. It is important to figure out who should receive what items of your estate in order to avoid possible fighting among family members when you are gone.

We have all heard stories—or maybe even experienced it in our own families—of how siblings and other relatives can turn on each other over money or other assets. Putting in writing who your beneficiaries are, who the executor of your estate should be, and what your other wishes are can help avoid a family feud.

Difficult to Consider

Another reason people may put off estate planning is because they do not want to think about dying and no longer being here with their loved ones. However, it is much better to address these issues when you are healthy instead of waiting until it is too late. If you have minor children, it is especially important to have a legal document that states who should raise your children should something happen to you. If you do not, then the courts will decide and your child or children could end up with a relative or in a situation that you would not approve of if you were here. Having everything legally in place also ensures that your family will not have to deal with these things when they are struggling with grief over their loss.

Misconceptions and Confusion 

One misconception about estate planning is that it is just for people who are financially well-off. But, this is not true. As mentioned above, if you have minor children, it is critical to have plans in place. There is no financial worth minimum when it comes to having an "estate." If you own anything, it is your estate. This can include a car, a home, furniture, online libraries, and tools—anything that is of any value.

Finally, a common reason for avoiding estate planning is that many people do not really understand what estate planning involves. Although it can be overwhelming to think about, consulting with an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney who can explain and advise you on the best course of action for you to take can help alleviate the confusion over all the legalities involved in the estate planning process. Call 630-665-2500 today.