Areas of Practice
Estate planning is about a lot more than just who will receive your assets.
Estate planning is the process by which we work together to ensure that your assets will managed and distributed in accordance with your wishes in case of your incapacity or death. Through proper estate planning, we can prepare your estate to pass as efficiently as possible to your loved ones, minimize or eliminate estate and gift taxes and protect your assets and your beneficiaries’ inheritances.
A standard estate plan typically consists of a Will, Revocable Living Trust, Property Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of Attorney. Advanced planning may include the use of an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT), Gift Trust or family entity such as a Family Limited Partnership (FLP) or Family Limited Liability Company (FLLC).
It is important to clearly understand the costs and benefits of your estate planning options so that we can determine the best estate plan for you and your family together.
Estate planning can vary greatly based on family and financial situations, such as the following:
- planning for same-sex couples
- previous marriages
- children from prior relationships
- citizenship of spouses
- special needs of beneficiaries
- spendthrift concerns
- creditor, divorce or substance-abuse issues
It is important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who specializes in this complex area of law and can recognize and explain issues that may arise.
Why is estate planning necessary?
In Illinois, if you have assets in excess of $100,000 or any real estate outside of a Trust or other ownership instrument, your estate will be subject to probate at your death. Furthermore, proper estate planning can help you reduce estate tax liability by utilizing the Federal and State estate tax exemptions to the fullest extent possible. If you have a taxable estate, failure to plan could cost your loved ones nearly half of your taxable estate. A Revocable Living Trust will also allow you to establish a distribution pattern for your children rather than allowing the State, which distributes all assets at age 18, to do so. You may also use a Trust to include or exclude any individuals from receiving property from your estate and protect your assets from creditors of yourself, your spouse or your descendants.
But do I need estate planning?
Everyone over the age of 18 can benefit from some form of estate planning. Individuals over the age of 18 should understand how their assets would be distributed under state law and should take the responsible step of appointing agents to act in case of their incapacity. Depending on the type and amount of assets you own, further planning may benefit you. For those who have the desire to control the distribution of their assets after death, proper estate planning will help you provide a distribution pattern for assets to your children and grandchildren, avoid the costly process of probate and minimize the effects of the Federal estate tax and State death tax.
I already have a Will. Is that enough?
A Will does not avoid probate, nor does it allow you to fully utilize the Federal and State estate tax exemptions. While a Will is the document that most people associate with estate planning, it does not help you achieve the goals that have been discussed above. Proper estate planning does include the use of a Will, but often as an ancillary document rather than the primary planning tool.
I had an estate plan established a few years ago. Is it still adequate for my needs?
An estate plan should be reviewed every year or so, but there are several life events that should trigger a review of your estate plan. These events include (a) marriage or divorce, (b) the birth of a child or grandchild, (c) a serious illness or mental or physical disability of yourself or a family member, (d) a significant change in your financial situation, (e) receipt of a large inheritance and (f) a change in your employment situation, such as starting a new business or retirement. Additionally, State and Federal laws change frequently. In recent years, the Federal estate tax exemption amount has changed drastically on an annual basis. It is therefore recommended that you follow up with a qualified attorney to discuss whether changes to your existing estate plan are necessary. For a detailed explanation of when to review your estate planning documents, please see Reviewing Your Existing Estate Planning Documents. If you require a review of your existing documents, please contact me to discuss the review process.