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

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

What the Estate of Prince Can Teach Everyone About the Importance of Wills

Wheaton Illinois estate planning attorneysPrince Rogers Nelson, one of the most beloved pop icons in history, spent his life fighting to maintain creative and legal control over his career. Yet, in the months that followed his death, it became evident that he had not been quite as vigilant when it came to legally documenting what would happen to those assets after he died. In other words, Prince died without a will. As a result, his substantial estate – his alleged vault of unreleased music, his roughly $300 million in various assets – have become a cautionary tale that everyone can learn from.

What Happens in the Absence of a Will?

Prince's estate is being handled by the state. This means that the state appoints an administrator (who may not be a person you would approve of), and your assets will be distributed to the next of kin. This can be problematic for a number of reasons. First, the state must establish who your true heirs are. Second, the distribution to those heirs may not resemble your wishes.

Maybe you wanted some of your estate to go to a special charity, your grandchildren, or a college friend that supported you during a difficult time in your life. Or maybe you did not want any of your estate to go to a brother with an alcohol problem, and wanted it to go to step-children instead.  Without a will, those wishes become a moot point.

Furthermore, your heirs can do whatever they wish with your assets. Family heirlooms, creative property, and more may be lost forever, sold to the highest bidder, or otherwise mishandled. For example, the unreleased music of Prince might never be heard because the heir who inherits it will get to choose what happens to it.

Without a Will, Details of Your Estate Are Public

Another obvious lesson from Prince's death is that the absence of a will makes the details of your estate public. It gets discussed by complete strangers, and your heirs have zero privacy. In contrast, a will can protect them from the prying of the public and ensure that the distribution of your estate remains a private family matter. A will can also protect your heirs – and your assets – from unnecessary and expensive tax obligations.

Craft Your Estate Plan Today

At Stock, Carlson, Oldfield and McGrath LLC, we understand just how important it is that your estate be distributed according to your wishes. We also know that the financial future of your family depends on our ability to craft a creative, effective estate plan. Our skilled Wheaton, Illinois estate planning attorneys respond to your needs with attentive, personalized, high-quality representation for your estate planning needs. Call 630-665-2500 and schedule your confidential consultation to learn more.

Source:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2016/07/13/law-firm-relevant-info-prince-heirs-asked-share-estate/87033094/