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

 

Estate Planning Basics: Choosing a Suitable Guardian for Your Children

Wheaton wills and trusts lawyersOf all the things that a parent must do, creating an estate plan that names a guardian for their children is, by far, one of the most difficult. That is because it not only requires the parent to consider the possibility of their death, it also requires the them to determine who may be willing, able, and best-suited to raise their child in their absence. Learn more about choosing a guardian to raise your children if a tragedy occurs, and discover how a seasoned estate planning lawyer can assist you with the process. 

Why Choosing a Guardian is Important 

Although most people know that life is unpredictable, they often want to avoid considering their own mortality – and that includes drafting estate planning documents like wills and guardianship papers. Other people simply get lost in their day-to-day lives and simply put off estate planning until “tomorrow.” Regardless of the reason for their delay, parents are highly encouraged to consider the potentially devastating consequences for their children. 

If a tragedy occurs and no will is in place, minor children and disabled adult children may be sent into the foster care system until a guardianship can be named. What is more, the courts typically allow any family member to bid for guardianship of the surviving children of a deceased parent – and that can include people who do not align with your values, religion, or parenting style. From there, the courts will make a determination, and they may use factors that seem irrelevant to you (i.e. annual income, age and overall health of the potential guardian, etc.). In short, parents who do not have a will are leaving the future of their children up to chance. 

Choosing a Guardian – Starting the Process

Only you can truly determine who may be best capable of loving and raising your children in the way that you envision. Perhaps you already have someone in mind, but you may also be struggling with the decision because there are multiple parties that would be suitable. If you are in the latter group, some of the following considerations may help you in making your decision:

  • Who might parent most like you?
  • How important is it that the guardian practice the same religion as you?
  • Are there potential guardians that share your values?
  • Is the potential guardian financially stable enough to care for your child?
  • Is the guardian capable of giving your child the love and attention they deserve?
  • Is the potential guardian mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy enough to care for your children?
  • Is there anything about the guardian that might negatively impact your child?

Keep in mind that you can choose alternate guardians, in the event that the guardian you choose is unable to care for your children upon your death. You can even create a succession plan if the first-chosen guardian passes away after taking guardianship of your children. 

At Stock, Carlson, Oldfield & McGrath, LLC, we understand that guardianship is a serious matter, as the possibility of your untimely death, and we can help you prepare for it all. Seasoned and committed to protecting the interest of your heirs and surviving family, we can help you consider all the potential scenarios and possibilities in your Illinois estate plan. Start by scheduling a personalized consultation with our Wheaton estate planning lawyers. Call 630-665-2500 today. 

Source:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizfrazierpeck/2017/11/28/how-to-choose-the-right-guardian-for-your-child/#12171b753d61