Not Updating Your Estate Plan After a Divorce Can Put Your Heirs at Risk

Illinois wills and trusts attorneysIf you have an estate plan in place, congratulations! You are already doing better than most Americans. Estate planning documents are not evergreen, however. Instead, the guarantor must review them regularly and update them whenever a significant change occurs. Perhaps the most overlooked (and potentially devastating) issue is that of divorce. Learn more about how not updating your estate plan after a divorce can put your heirs at risk, and discover how our seasoned Wheaton wills and trusts lawyers can help set things right again. 

Divorce and Your Estate Planning Documents

During a divorce, marital assets are divided and then distributed, which can drastically affect the value of your estate. As such, the exact details of your will or trust may change. There may be less to distribute to your heirs, or perhaps some specific assets went to your ex-spouse. In either case, your estate plan must be updated to reflect these changes in your net worth. Furthermore, you must practice due diligence to ensure that an oversight does not occur. For example, your divorce decree may state that your spouse is no longer entitled to any of your retirement pension plan, but if you do not change the designated beneficiary and you pass away unexpectedly, the money could still go to your ex-spouse, rather than the intended heirs. 

Updating Your Estate Plan After an Illinois Divorce

People often put off updating their estate plan after a divorce – perhaps because they have a new lease on life and do not fear being affected by the potential consequences of doing so. Yet, every day, tragic and unexpected events occur. Protect your heirs from mishaps by ensuring you update your estate plan as soon as your divorce has been finalized. Areas to focus your attention include:

Your healthcare proxy. While there are some divorced parties who may trust their ex-spouse to continue acting as their healthcare proxy, this is a pretty rare occurrence. Ensure that someone you care about and trust is put in charge of your medical decisions, should an accident occur, by taking the time to name a new healthcare proxy in your estate plan;

Your power of attorney. Just as you may not trust your ex-spouse to make decisions regarding your life, you may not want to trust them with your finances after a divorce has occurred. 

Your designated beneficiaries. While, in most cases, your will or living trust will dictate how assets are distributed upon your death, certain assets, such as pension plans and retirement accounts, cannot be overruled by an estate plan. Instead, the policy goes to the named beneficiary. Avoid wrongful disbursement by ensuring you update your beneficiaries. 

Guardianship of any minor children. While, usually, children will go to the other parent if one passes away, there are scenarios in which this option may not be appropriate (i.e. abuse or neglect). Furthermore, there is always the chance that you and your ex-spouse’s deaths will occur in-tandem. If this happens, the courts may struggle to determine who has rightful guardianship over your children (this could be especially true if your spouse has also named possible guardians in their own estate plan). Whatever your scenario, protect your children by ensuring that guardianship is considered and updated accordingly after your divorce. Also, be sure to update the trustee if you have a trust account for your children. 

How Our Wheaton Estate Planning Lawyers Can Help 

For most people, divorce signifies the start of a happier, more fulfilled life. The last thing you want to worry about is the possibility of your death. Stock, Carlson, Oldfield & McGrath, LLC can help. Backed by more than 40 years of legal experience, our DuPage County wills and trusts lawyers can examine your documents and assist you in making whatever changes are necessary. Call 630-665-2500 to schedule your consultation today. 

Source:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinefletcher/2019/01/08/9-things-you-need-to-know-about-estate-planning-after-divorce/#67dcac783e31

 

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

 

 

 

Estate Planning for Your Pet – What Pet Owners Should Know Before Writing Their Will

Wheaton will and trust attorneysWhen creating an estate plan, most people ensure their children and spouse are covered. Sadly, few people consider how their death could impact their furry family members. In fact, statistics indicate that only about 18 percent of pet owners have considered making provisions for their pet in their will. This oversight, which may be partially attributed to the fact that not everyone knows you can estate plan for a pet, often results in a poor outcome for beloved animals. Learn how you can prevent such a fate for your family pet using a pet trust or comprehensive estate plan, and discover how a seasoned estate planning lawyer can assist you with the estate planning process. 

Why Include Your Pet in an Estate Plan? 

In most states (including Illinois), pets are considered property. That means, if a pet owner dies, the animal is distributed like any other asset. Unfortunately, because a pet holds no financial benefit for the inheriting heir, it may be abandoned, surrendered, or neglected due to a lack of funds or desire to care for the animal. An estate plan can reduce the risk of such an issue occurring – and not just because the guarantor usually speaks with the inheriting party to ensure there is a desire to care for the pet, but because it often allows the pet owner to set up a fund that ensures the pet is well cared for, long after they are gone. Pet owners can also elect to set up alternate or subsequent guardians for their pet, just in case something should happen to the primary heir of the animal, such as a death, the birth of a child, or the development of allergies. 

How to Estate Plan for Your Pet

Creating an estate plan for an animal is a lot like making provisions for a child, but there are many special conditions and limitations that must be considered. For example, pet owners may be able to find a life insurance policy that can be left to the pet heir to ensure proper care of the animal, but these can be both difficult to find and costly – especially for older pet owners. Alternatively, the pet owner can set up a trust for the animal that covers the expected cost of vet bills, food, and grooming for the life of the pet. In either case, it is critical to ensure that the person receiving the money is interested not just in inheriting the funds, but also caring for the animal for the rest of its natural life. As such, it is highly recommended that pet owners take the time to discuss their wishes and desires with a potential pet heir to ensure they are both willing and able to accept the responsibility that comes with caring for a beloved pet. 

Contact Our Seasoned DuPage County Estate Planning Lawyers

At Stock, Carlson, Oldfield & McGrath, LLC, we prioritize the wishes and desires of our clients. Seasoned and experienced, our Wheaton estate planning attorneys can help you develop a comprehensive estate plan that covers all your family members – even the furry ones. Schedule a personalized consultation by calling 630-665-2500 today. 

Source:

https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/estate-planning-pets-why-you-should-do-it