Can I Include My Pets in My Estate Plan?

pet trust, Wheaton estate planning attorneyAs you go through the steps of creating an estate plan, you will probably give plenty of consideration to which of your family members will receive a particular asset or a part of your estate. If you have a young grandchild, for example, you could choose to bequeath one of your vehicles to him or her. With children, grandchildren, and other loved ones to consider, many people often overlook their companion animals. Could it be possible to include provisions for a pet dog or cat in your Illinois estate plan? Put simply, the answer is yes, but there are some limitations.

The Basics of a Pet Trust

Under the law in Illinois, you are permitted to make provisions for the care and protection of certain domestic animals through estate planning. In fact, the law explicitly allows for the creation of “trusts for domestic or pet animals”—more commonly known as “pet trusts.” The statute is not precise regarding the species of animals that are eligible to be covered under pet trust, as it simply states that the trust can be set up for the benefit of “one or more designated domestic or pet animals.” Over the years, however, Illinois courts have determined that pet trusts can apply to cats, dogs, and horses, as well as a number of other kinds of animals. Generally, livestock and farm animals are not considered domestic or pet animals.

In setting up your pet trust, you will be required to specify each animal that you wish to have covered. The trust documentation must include the animal’s name, sex, age, species, breed, and any other important details. You should also list any known health or medical conditions so that the individual you choose to manage the trust—known as the trustee—will be better prepared for the future.

Establishing Expectations

It is your right to decide how the assets you have put into a pet trust will be used. With this in mind, you should be sure to be specific about the level and type of care that you wish to be provided for the covered animals. For example, if you expect your trustee to have your beloved dog groomed every other month, you should include such directions in the trust documents.

Choosing a trustee wisely is also important. The person you choose should share your love of animals and be willing to carry out your wishes exactly as you intend.

At your discretion, your pet trust could also provide the trustee with the power to sell or give the animal to a new owner in the right situation. Consider a scenario, for example, in which your selected caregiver has taken in your dog—a friendly animal who loves children. About a year following your death, your granddaughter—who now has two children—asks to adopt your dog, promising to give him a loving home. Your chosen caregiver could only allow the adoption if you have given him or her the permission to do so.

Closing the Pet Trust

An Illinois pet trust can remain in effect only while the covered animals are still living. The trust must be closed upon the death of the last designated pet, or when the chosen caregiver is no longer caring for the last designated pet. Any assets remaining in the trust will then be distributed according to the plan that you established. This means that you must decide in advance what will happen to those funds. Should the caregiver be allowed to keep them? Should the money be given to a local animal rescue organization? The choice is yours, but it is important to include your decision in the trust documents to ensure that your wishes are carried out properly.

Call a Wheaton Estate Planning Lawyer

A pet trust is just one piece of a comprehensive estate plan. If you have questions about pet trusts or other instruments of estate planning, contact an experienced DuPage County wills and trusts attorney at Stock, Carlson, Oldfield & McGrath LLC. Call 630-665-2500 to schedule a confidential consultation and get the guidance you need.

 

Source:

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

Choosing an Executor for Your Estate

executorEstate planning is arguably one of the most important things a person will do during their entire life, and as such, everything matters. The slightest discrepancy may be attacked, and your wishes may not be honored if your estate is not set up and administered properly. Perhaps the most important choice you must make while estate planning is picking your executor, who can ensure that your wishes are carried out as you prefer and act on your behalf.

Responsibilities of an Executor

A person who has been named executor in Illinois has 30 days following the death of the testator in which to either submit the will for probate or refuse the appointment. The responsibility of managing another’s estate is significant, and with that in mind, it is important to pick the right person. The instinct for many is to choose their spouse, but this is not always the best choice, especially if you are of similar ages. He or she may be elderly and/or ill when the time comes for them to assume the role.

Whomever you choose must be able to fulfill all of the duties of the office. These include:

  • Informing the relevant authorities and your creditors of your passing, and in some instances, your family;
  • Paying any outstanding debts incurred in your lifetime by you or your estate;
  • Ensuring your spouse’s or family’s well-being until the estate is settled (i.e. paying rent or mortgage payments, bills, etc.);
  • Paying estate taxes;
  • Hiring the right attorney to help probate the estate; and
  • Dealing with any questions or concerns of putative beneficiaries during the process.

Generally speaking, an executor has a fiduciary duty to act appropriately toward all involved parties while safeguarding the assets of the estate.

Who Can Serve as Executor?

An executor has responsibilities that may last years and be quite complex in nature. Illinois, like many other states, does have restrictions on who may serve, though there are not as many as there are elsewhere. To serve as an executor, a person must be over the age of 18, a U.S. resident (not necessarily a citizen), and they must not have been judged to be incapacitated in any way by a court. They must also be free of any condition that would require guardianship.

It is recommended that you choose an executor who lives near you, but it is not absolutely required. However, you should be aware that if you do choose an out-of-state executor, they may be asked to post a bond by the probate court, so as to increase the chances of their successful oversight of the estate.

A Wheaton Wills and Trusts Attorney Can Help

If you are confused or conflicted about who to choose as your executor, you are not alone. The best solution for most is to consult an experienced estate planning attorney. Contact one of our knowledgeable DuPage County estate planning lawyers to discuss your situation today. Call 630-665-2500 and schedule a confidential consultation at Stock, Carlson, Oldfield & McGrath LLC.

 

Sources:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=2104&ChapterID=60&SeqStart=7200000&SeqEnd=9400000

http://ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/documents/075500050K6-13.htm

Construction Defects: Understanding Your Purchase Contract

construction defectBefore construction began on your new home, a purchase contract was established between you and the builder. The agreement specified the expectations for the construction of the home, closing of the purchase, and likely included plans or detailed specifications to be followed during the building process. What happens, however, if the builder fails to meet the terms of the contact or the home is found to have construction defects? While you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the builder, it important to first examine your contractual agreement, as it may potentially limit your available courses of action.

Implied Warranty of Habitability

As a purchaser of new construction, you generally have the right to expect that the construction will be completed in compliance within industry standards. Illinois courts have established over time an Implied Warranty of Habitability that offers a level of protection to new home purchasers who find latent defects in the home’s construction and have no other legal recourse. The scope of the implied warranty, however, is fairly narrow and applies only to defects that make the home reasonably unsuited for its intended use.

Express Warranty Offered by the Builder

Your contract may be accompanied by a clearly-defined guarantee of workmanship and materials known as an express warranty. As a condition of this type of warranty, you may be asked to waive your rights under the Implied Warranty of Habitability. In its place, an express warranty can clearly specify all of the terms and conditions of the builder’s potential liability. It may include specific types of covered construction defects, non-covered defects, your responsibilities for maintenance, and the procedures for filing a claim. Additionally, an express warranty typically limits the timeframe in which the purchaser’s rights are guaranteed, often one year.

Binding Arbitration Requirement

It is important to read your contract and express warranty carefully and to have them reviewed by your attorney prior to agreeing to their terms. Either document may include a clause waiving your right to file suit in a jurisdictional court. Instead, if the builder fails remedy a construction defect claim made under your warranty, you may only take your case before an arbitrator. An arbitrator is a third party with industry expertise hired to resolve disputes between purchasers and builders, and is often named by the builder in the contract or express warranty. By signing such a document, you agree that the arbitrator’s decision will be binding and that avenues of additional recourse will not be available.

A DuPage County Real Estate Lawyer Can Help with Your Purchase Contract

If you considering a new construction purchase or have questions about filing a construction defect claim, contact an experienced real estate attorney in Wheaton. Our knowledgeable team can help you review contracts, negotiate terms, ensure your rights are protected throughout the process. Call 630-665-2500 for a confidential consultation today.

 

Sources:

https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/directories/construction_industry_knowledge_base/meetings/2015-annual/an15-wg-paper.pdf

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Binding+arbitration