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Illinois Estate Planning And Probate Legal Blog

Illinois estate planning: Inheriting a home

Individuals writing estate plans have much to think about when it comes to their assets and who should inherit what. Illinois residents who are in the throes of estate planning may be home owners, and leaving real estate to a loved one or loved ones takes some careful planning. There are some important things to know, too, for those who will be inheriting or who have already inherited a home.

The first major decision, when on the receiving end of real estate, is to decide whether to keep the home or to sell it. While the beneficiary is pondering this, it's crucial, if no one is living in the residence, to make sure it looks as though someone is and to make sure the property continues to be insured. If the beneficiary chooses not to move into the home, he or she could always lease the property if it has sentimental value and the person doesn't want to part with it just yet, if ever.

Karl Lagerfeld's death brings up estate planning for pet care

The late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld adored his beloved cat, Choupette. Like many Illinois pet owners, Lagerfeld likely included providing for the welfare of his furry family member in his estate planning. His cat was like a fashion accessory and he rarely went anywhere without her. In fact, the feline has her own Instagram account, does a bit of modeling and has a coffee table book. The fashion icon's death brings up the question of how pet owners should plan for the care of their pets should their pets outlive them.

About 85 million families in the United States have pets that are considered family members. As such, those who plan their estates may wish to give thought to making caregiver and financial arrangements for their pets -- whether they may be cats, dogs, birds, lizards or any other creatures. Gifting a pet to a friend or family member doesn't ensure the animal will be cared for. Those who want to make sure their pets continue to live happy lives should discuss care options with the people they are considering naming as guardians of their pets.

Wealth doesn't lead to increased long term care planning

Most people live in the moment. However, Illinois residents who are getting on in age should take some time to consider long term care planning and what that may mean for their futures. Most people are still active and healthy well into their 50s and 60s and beyond, but planning for old age is a necessity and putting it off may not be the wisest idea, even if there is more than enough money in the bank.

It seems that wealth doesn't lead to increased planning when it comes to people's future health. In fact, a survey of 150 financial advisors in the United States showed that less than a quarter of their clients with high net worths had long term care plans. Many have chosen to use their funds in other areas such as financing children's educations or purchasing properties.

Illinois blended families are a consideration for estate planning

Blended families are a way of life today. Illinois residents who are in second marriages might wish to consider these family members during their estate planning, so no one feels slighted.  But it may not be that easy, since children and stepchildren often don't see eye-to-eye and there may be hard feelings no matter what.

There may be ways around this, though. Perhaps each spouse will choose to leave assets to their natural children and that will be that. However, if one spouse is financially dependent on the other, he or she will inherit the assets of his or her spouse and his or children may have to wait to get their share of the pie. That could mean many years depending upon the surviving spouse's age.

Baby boomers want adult kids to step up estate planning

Most people over the age of 50 want to invest in the futures of their children and grandchildren. But if Illinois residents of this ilk were to peg one thing that irks them about estate planning, it's how little their children pay attention to their own estate plans. Most Baby boomers had legacy building foist onto them from their Greatest Generation parents, and they wish their children would follow suit.

Most Baby boomers are now in their 60s and 70s and they're more concerned than ever with continued legacy building. In fact, a recent study has shown that more than 65 percent of these folks actually want their children and grandchildren to benefit from any wealth they've amassed. But their kids have to step up to the plate to make sure that happens. 

Choosing the right estate planning methods in Illinois

Individuals who want to keep their affairs private may want to think about what kinds of estate plans they're writing. Illinois residents in the throes of estate planning need to know that there are differences between will-based estate plans and those built around trusts. In a nutshell, information included in wills becomes public record once the testator dies. Trusts, on the other hand, remain private.

Instructions in a will usually go through probate and once that happens, everything in it becomes open to public scrutiny. People know who was left what and who was left nothing. Names of everyone in the will can easily be accessed. Anyone who walks into the probate court can have access to the will to see what the testator owned and owed.

Estate planning isn't just for Illinois residents with children

Not all people have children. Illinois residents who don't have kids still need to take the time for estate planning. People still need to stipulate how they would like their assets divided upon their deaths since dying intestate -- or without a will -- can cause all kinds of problems whether there are children in the picture or not.

The spouse of a married person who dies usually inherits assets if there are no children, yet it is still crucial to have estate planning documents in place. Single people without children who die need to make it known who their beneficiaries should be or the assets could end up going to someone the deceased would not have chosen. All estate plans should at least contain wills and powers of attorney.

Estate planning: Keeping documents safe from disaster

With the numbers of disasters happening in the world today -- fires, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes and others -- individuals may be thinking about how to make their important estate documents ready for a possible apocalypse. In the blink of an eye, life can change. Illinois residents may want to make sure than any estate planning they've done reflects unforeseen events. 

Individuals should have a plan for being able to access their estate planning documents should they find themselves in dire straits, where they are either forced out of their homes or lose their houses altogether. Storing all important information safely is a necessity and people should not rely on a computer to do so in case those files are lost. Writing down all passwords and account information and having documents stored properly is crucial. A safety deposit box might meet those needs. 

Long term care planning: Choosing a financially feasible option

It has been said that getting old is not for the faint of heart. It's a fact of life that most Illinois residents face, and aging in good health is a blessing. Long term care planning can go a long way to ensuring good health in senior years; however, plans have to be put into place before they're needed. When people can no longer make decisions for themselves, there must be some sort of documentation that stipulates their wishes.

If seniors would like to stay in their own homes, they need to make that known, but more importantly they need to financially plan for it. Although assisted living has its positives, it can also have a down side, such as the potential for elder abuse. Everything comes with a price tag, whether it's at home care or living in a nursing home where costs can be astronomical -- more than $7,000 a month for a semi-private room and more than $8,000 a month for a private room.

What about dividing assets unequally in estate planning?

Equality seems to be the best course of action for most everything. When it pertains to estate planning, Illinois residents may benefit from knowing that splitting assets equally among their adult children can go a long way to ensure siblings maintain positive relationships when their parents are gone. It has been shown that it doesn't matter if one sibling is in a better financial state than the other, leaving more to one than to another can be seen as unfair, unloving and may create a lot of tension and resentment.

The best course of action for anyone in the throes of estate planning is to communicate openly with his or her adult children. Yes, they are adults, but when it comes to parental approval, there is always a child lurking someone inside an adult. Discussing plans with adult children and getting their input may be a wise idea and help them to feel like they're important in such serious decision-making.