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

The Importance of Updating Your Will After a Divorce

divorce, DuPage County estate planning lawyerHave you drafted and signed a will that outlines your wishes regarding your property and other concerns in the event that you were to die unexpectedly? If so, you are in a better position than most American adults are. In fact, recent estimates suggest that approximately 60 percent of adults in the United States have no formal estate plan in place—not even a basic will. Having a will is a good thing, of course, but it is important to remember that certain life events can have a dramatic impact on the applicability of your existing estate plan. If you are considering a divorce, you will need to think about how it will affect your estate plan.

Your Ex-Spouse in Your Will

It is common for a married person to name his or her spouse as an heir in his or her will. In fact, many married individuals decide that their entire estate should go to their surviving spouse. Additionally, a person could also appoint his or her spouse to serve as the executor of the estate.

According to the Illinois Probate Act, if you divorce your spouse with a valid will still in place, your will remains valid and enforceable. However, the provisions in your will pertaining to your spouse are revoked automatically once the divorce is finalized. Such provisions include any appointments, nominations, responsibilities, and, intended inheritances. As a practical matter, the law treats the situation as if your spouse passed away before you did.

Making the Changes

Once your divorce is finalized, you will need to update any sections of your will that made reference to your former spouse. You might even wish to do so before the divorce actually finalizes. If you were to die before the divorce decree is issued, the provisions in your will that pertain to your spouse are not revoked because you were not divorced. If you do decide to amend your will prior to your divorce finalizing, remember that you will probably need to make more changes later after the distribution of marital property is complete.

You should also keep in mind that the automatic revocation of provisions only pertains to your spouse. If you have named your stepchildren or in-laws as heirs or fiduciaries, those provisions will remain in effect until you actively change them.

It is possible to keep your ex as an heir or a fiduciary in your will if you choose to do so. For example, you might trust your former spouse with managing your estate, or you may want him or her to have certain assets. In order to do so, you must draft and sign a new version of your will that includes your ex-spouse after the divorce decree is issued.

A Wheaton Wills Attorney Can Help

For more information about how your divorce might affect your will, contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning lawyer. Call 630-665-2500 to schedule a confidential consultation at Stock, Carlson, Oldfield & McGrath LLC today.

 

Source:

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

Keeping Living Wills Current

Illinois living will, DuPage County estate planning lawyerliving will is a document decided before death that prescribes the medical attention you choose in the event that you are unable to do so yourself. According to the Illinois General Assembly, the Living Will Act was passed to ensure that every state resident had the fundamental right to control the decisions related to his or her own medical care. This means that these decisions are not left to chance or to family in the event that sickness or other incapacitating factor makes the person unable to decide for himself.

Proponents of living wills say that these are matters of patient rights—physicians are not able to withhold or withdraw death-delaying procedures if a patient has signed a living will. For a living will to be valid, it needs to be signed by the patient (before he or she experienced the debilitating conditions) in the presence of a witness. The death-delaying procedures can include, but are not limited to:

  • Assisted ventilation; or
  • Intravenous feeding or medication; or
  • Blood transfusions; or
  • Artificial kidney treatments.

Determining a living will before a person becomes sick is essential, as discussing a person's last wishes when he or she is straddled with debilitating disease can be difficult and emotional. According to a recent article in The Guardian, however, a living will can sometimes be a negative thing for physicians. In certain cases, physicians can be backed into providing treatment far after a patient's body has ceased functioning because he or she signed a living will—which is sometimes decades old.

Extreme medical advances in recent decades allow physicians to keep a person alive far past the point of truly living. In the worst-case scenario, a living will can sometimes require physicians to perform harrowing and terrible procedures in order to honor a person's wishes—which perhaps he would no longer have chosen for himself. According to The Guardian, 70 percent of an average person's medical care costs are accumulated in the last six months of his or her life.

Living wills are important for anyone, regardless of medical history or socioeconomic status, because they allow a person to determine what he or she wants for his or her final days. Yet it is imperative that they be updated, reviewed, and revisited often, most beneficially in the presence of a legal professional. If you are ready to draft your living will or interested in learning more, do not go through it alone. Contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney today.