Taking the time to plan your estate is a very important, but often overlooked, legal process. These are just a few illustrations of why every adult needs an estate plan of some type, even if the estate is small:
• Parent of a young child dies suddenly with no will. Several accounts and the family house are titled solely in the decease parent’s name. Under Illinois law, the minor child now owns one half of the house and one half of these bank accounts. Surviving spouse desperately needs but cannot access these assets and a court supervised minor’s guardianship is required to monitor all expenditures. At age 18 the child receives the balance of these assets and several new “friends” appear to help spend mom and dad’s money. A simple will and trust would have avoided this.
• Husband and wife entrepreneurs built a successful business but died without having an estate plan in place. Business succession issues ended up in messy probate court and much of their assets were subject to 40% State and Federal Taxes. A Living Trust would have avoided this.
• Mom suffers from dementia and has no power of attorney designation in place. Bank won’t allow adult children access to mom’s assets to pay for the care that she needs. An adult guardianship must be opened in probate court which requires a judge to approve where mom lives, who takes care of her, and every expenditure made for mom. A power of attorney for property would have avoided this.
• Widower has a modest estate with a home in Chicago and a small cottage in Michigan. He dies with a will, but no trust. His family is forced to pay lawyers for probate in both states. A simple trust or Transfer on Death Instrument would have avoided this.
• Grandpa had a will prepared many years ago leaving everything to his children. In the interim, one of his sons died leaving behind a daughter receiving State assistance for a serious and ongoing medical condition. Upon Grandpa’s death the deceased son’s share of grandpa’s estate goes to the State to reimburse the granddaughter’s medical expenses paid by the State. A special needs trust would have avoided this.
• Grad student is involved in a serious automobile accident rendering her unconscious for several weeks. With no power of attorney for health care in place, the family must hire a lawyer to open a disabled person’s estate in probate to make the necessary decisions regarding her care and treatment. A power of attorney for health care would have avoided this.
• Single mom of two children died suddenly without naming a guardian in a will. Several family members claimed that the deceased mom wanted each to care for the surviving children. Expensive guardian dispute is battled out in probate court and decided by a judge unfamiliar with mom’s wishes. A simple will naming a guardian would have avoided this.
We can develop and administer these documents for you, whether the plan is as simple as a will, living will and medical and general powers of attorney, or a sophisticated structure. We have the expertise to help you determine and address your estate planning needs. Let us know how we can help.