Estate Planning, or what is commonly known as the creation of a will or family trust, is a vital asset to any Illinois family. Nearly every parent recognizes the importance of a proper plan to care for their family in their absence. However, as family life becomes ever busier, and we struggle with work, after school schedules, financial planning, retirement planning and more, we often neglect our estate plan.
Neglecting your estate plan can have dire consequences. Please consider these five reasons to prioritize your estate plan:
1. Protecting your children. As part of your estate plan, you will designate guardians for your children in the event of your death. Without these designations, should you and your spouse pass away, the courts will decide who raises your children after your death. This could result in children being raised by an undesirable family member. In extreme cases, children could become wards of the state.
2. Ensuring your property is distributed properly. If you lack a will or a trust identifying what individuals are to receive from your estate, whether it is money, real estate or other assets, the courts will distribute your property to specified family members based upon statute. This could have disastrous consequences for surviving spouses who might only receive 50% of your assets in an intestate estate. In addition, persons outside of your statutory heirs would be prevented from inheriting a dime.
3. Identifying the assets that pass outside of your estate. As part of an overall estate plan, you will need to identify retirement accounts, investments, life insurance policies and even real estate that might pass outside of your estate plan upon your death to ensure your spouse and children are protected. Depending on how beneficiary designations were created or title is held to a property, changes might be necessary to ensure your spouse and children have rights to these assets upon your death.
4. Avoiding a fractured family. Estate plans will ensure a clean and organized process to distribute your property after death. This includes not only the distribution of your assets, but identifying executors and trustees to direct the distribution of your estate. Provisions can also be established to discourage any legal challenge to your will or trust. While these protections cannot ensure against family squabbles over your assets, they will provide a framework for your wishes and a deterrent.
5. Taxes and other costs. Estate planning is key to avoiding large tax burdens as well as the costs and delays associated with probate court. A proper plan will reduce tax burdens while eliminating needless and expensive court oversight of your probate estate. This will ensure that your estate is made available to your heirs in a timely manner.
The attorneys at Griffin | Williams LLP are well versed in the intricacies of estate planning in Illinois and stand ready to assist our clients in the planning and creation of their estate documents.