Common Questions

Below are some common questions concerning Estate Planning. Please select a question that you want to know more about:

What happens if I die without an Estate Plan?

No one really dies without an estate plan. We all have an estate plan, which is provided by statute. Illinois intestacy statutes mandate how and to whom our assets are to be distributed when we die without estate plan. Illinois has set out a standardized line of succession that determines what relatives receive a portion of your estate. If you are married with children, your estate does not necessarily pass directly to your spouse. A portion may pass directly to your children which will require opening Guardianships on their behalf with the court.

Additionally, if minor children are left without a surviving parent, the court will be forced to appoint a Guardian for the minor children, without considering the wishes of the parents. The intestacy statute does not contemplate that a descendent may have wanted to make distributions to one relative more than another. Nor does the statute allow for any types of donations to charity. In fact, the statute rarely encompasses the true wishes of the decedent; in fact, it often imposes significant restrictions on the heirs and on the estate.

Additionally, Illinois legislation requires that the administrator of an intestate estate file a bond with a surety. This is a device to safeguard the assets of the estate from dissipation by the administrator. The practical effect of the bond requirement is the addition of another significant cost to the large amount of administration expenses incurred by the estate. Overall, a person without an Estate Plan will impose significant hardships on those that they care about and can severely dissipate the legacy they intended to leave for them.

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What is the difference between Intestate and Testate?

Intestate is a legal term that means that an individual has died without a will. Testate is the term used to describe a person estate who has a validly drafted will upon his or her death.

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What is a Trust?

A trust is an estate planning device into which property is transferred to be managed by a fiduciary, or commonly known as a “trustee”, for the benefit of an individual, or more commonly known as a “beneficiary”. The settlor or creator of the trust states in the trust how, when and for whom the trust’s assets are to be distributed. The settlor assigns these fiduciary duties upon the trustee. The trust ends and is dissolved if the assets are completely depleted or if all of the terms in the trust have been satisfied. One common form of a trust used in estate planning is a Revocable Living Trust, as described above.

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If I put my property into a Revocable Living Trust will I still be able to control my property and sell it?

Property in a Revocable Living Trust remains under the full and complete control of the settlor. The property may be sold, gifted, transferred, etc. There are no restrictions placed upon it or upon the owner. Furthermore, the trust is completely revocable up to the time of death.

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How long will it take to plan my estate?

Most Estate Plans can be formed and executed in two to three meetings with the attorney and be completed within one to two weeks. If a trust is involved, additional time may be required to transfer assets to the trust as necessary.

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At what age do I want to begin planning my estate?

Everyone who has any property or assets should have some type of Estate Plan. Anyone with minor children should strongly consider planning their estate and designating a Guardian for their children. Powers of Attorney for Health or Property can be especially useful in a medical emergency or in the case of an unexpected disability.

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