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Illinois Estate Planning And Probate Legal Blog

Long term care planning necessary for unforseen events

Many have said that getting older is a privilege. But advancing age may come with the need for extra care and that costs money. The need for long term care planning for Illinois residents has never been more crucial since more than half of those aged 65 or older will have long term care costs. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Aging show that men will need help in old age for more than two years, while that number is nearly four years for women.

Nursing home costs are escalating and the cost of a private room is now more than $100,000 annually. For those who choose in-home care, a health care aide is more than $50,000 a year. Although Medicare does help somewhat, it will not usually cover custodial expenses, which could mean that a retiree's savings could be wiped out pretty quickly. Such people may end up on Medicaid, which could pay for up to half of nursing home or custodial care, but it's usually not enough.

Why estate planning should include intangible assets

It is not easy to know what type of legal and financial protections may be necessary for a person in the future. This is one reason why estate planning can be complicated for some Illinois adults. When drafting estate plans and getting important documents executed, a person will find it helpful to think beyond his or her money and health care wishes and also consider digital assets.

Although not a physical asset, a person's digital life is important, and sometimes it is also quite valuable. It is important to include these types of assets when estate planning. It is beneficial to consider what steps may be necessary to fully protect online accounts and other digital aspects of a person's life. Without including these things in an estate plan, complications for loved ones could arise in the future.

Estate planning for unmarried, child-free Illinois residents

More and more individuals are choosing never to marry or to settle down. That doesn't mean they don't spend many happy years doing the things they enjoy, having solid careers and building fulfilling lives. Such Illinois residents should still consider giving thought to estate planning. Having one's personal affairs in order is essential whether one is married or not or whether one has children or not.

Most unmarried individuals have family members who would become beneficiaries of their estates. People still need to have estate planning documents -- like wills, powers of attorney and health care proxies -- in place. If family members are thousands of miles away, some of these duties might be entrusted to honest, reliable and trustworthy friends. In any case, estate planning documents should be updated as life circumstances change.

Trusts: What do trustees in Illinois actually do?

Most individuals understand what a trust is even though they might not completely understand the dynamics of various trusts, but what about a trustee? What exactly is the role of a trustee in Illinois when it comes to administering trusts? Essentially, a trustee can be a person or an organization holding the legal title of one or more assets for another person, known as the beneficiary. Specifically, a trustee's role is indicative of the type of trust and what is included in that trust.

Assets in the trust must be kept safe and under the trustee's control. Trustees must have an understanding of the dynamics of the trust so that they can fulfill their duties, which include keeping beneficiaries abreast of any accounts and taxes. They are makers of decisions regarding the trusts they administer and are beholden to make the best decisions possible on behalf of beneficiaries. 

Safeguarding long term care planning documents

Taking the time to plan for unforeseen future events also means keeping the documents safe upon which those plans are written. Illinois residents who have taken the time for long term care planning should have those documents well-organized and in a safe place accessible for when the time comes. Not having documents at the ready could create a nightmare situation for the person who has written them and for their family members. 

Long term care planning documents could include the wishes of the person writing such plans and may provide instructions for individual care depending on health issues and needs. A care plan is a written document that records the outcome of the care planning process which includes communication with the parties involved such as family members and health care practitioners. Such a plan can be reviewed as life changes or when health changes. Some experts suggest a plan should be reviewed yearly.

The usefulness of flexibility in trusts

There is more to building a complete estate plan than simply writing a will and putting it on a shelf for years. Illinois residents may welcome the flexibility that trusts can provide in their estate plans. But these trusts should be built to be flexible so that they can change as life circumstances change and tax laws change over the years. 

There are three issues about which individuals should be concerned when it comes to trusts in an estate plan: trustee discretion, decanting and a trust protector. Discretionary trusts essentially spell out when, if and how beneficiaries will get their funds. Rules a trustee must follow can be built right into the trust. The trustee for a discretionary trust has the authority to decide if, how much and when to distribute assets to the beneficiaries of the trust. 

Long term care planning: Separation may be better than divorce

Couples who are thinking about divorce have many things to ponder. One of those may be how divorcing could affect long term care planning efforts. Illinois couples who are 55 years of age of older and who are contemplating divorce may do better separating instead of ending things formally when it comes to having enough financially for care as they continue to age. 

This is especially true for couples who don't have health care coverage. People are living longer these days, and divorce could seriously eat away at a person's savings – savings which would have been used for long term care. Women are particularly affected since many who have left marriages too early may still be too young to access a spouse's retirement or disability benefits. If a former spouse has died, access to those funds is only an option if the couple was married for 10 or more years at the time of their divorce.

Estate planning and foreign assets

With the world getting technologically smaller, more people are investing in foreign markets. When it comes to estate planning in Illinois, residents who do have foreign assets need to be aware of how to handle them in their estate plans. Whether it's owning a castle in Europe, a vineyard in the foreign sun or high-end sports cars overseas, global assets need to be structured in such a way as to offset paying the highest taxes possible.

Getting help from an expert like a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor is probably a wise move before buying that foreign villa in the sun. All assets should be declared in an estate plan and that includes foreign interests. Keeping them hidden may only cause grief for beneficiaries and estate administrators when the time comes.

How trusts can be beneficial to estate planning

Many people believe that a trust is a trust is a trust. But that's not really so. There are differences in various trusts -- as an Illinois lawyer would be able to explain; however, a living trust may be just the ticket for some individuals to consider when they're doing their estate planning. A living trust is called living since its inception is during the life of the grantor. Such trusts can either be revocable or irrevocable and as the names imply, one can be changed, while the other can't be.

Living trusts can help to reduce estate taxes -- just one of the reasons for their popularity. They can also help parents to control how much money grown children get and offer protection for minor children. Payments of assets can be staggered or offered in a lump sum -- that's up to the grantor. Trusts also avoid the probate process  if fed by a grantor's assets consistently over a lifetime. 

Estate planning: When Illinois residents have chronic illnesses

When people are dealing with a chronic illness -- or a beloved family member is -- there are things that should be discussed even when discussing them can be delicate. Life is unpredictable in the best of circumstances, but for Illinois residents who live with chronic illness, it may be even more so. But having a talk about estate planning may be one of the most important talks in these instances. 

Estate planning should reflect a chronic illness. Currently, more than 130 million Americans are living with some sort of illness that affects them daily and the older people get, the more likely they are to become sufferers. If a chronic illness affects a person's understanding and cognitive behavior any current estate planning documents should likely reflect those changes. For instance, if a person is diagnosed with dementia, changes should be made to an estate plan while he or she still has the mental capacity to do so.