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East Alton Estate Planning Law Blog

A special needs trust can protect your child

When most people make plans, their first thoughts often include finding the most convenient and comfortable way to accomplish their goals. For example, planning a vacation may mean finding the quickest route and searching for hotels with pools or other amenities.

As a parent of a special needs child, you have all these concerns. However, you also have the over-arching responsibility to ensure your child's safety and well-being. Any plans you make for your future are entwined with the needs of your child. This is why you may be facing an additional challenge when it comes to estate planning.

Valid wills must comply with state laws

Like many, you may have specific ideas about what should happen to your property once you pass away. Perhaps you have a special niece to whom you would like to leave your grandmother's ring or a close friend who has always admired your car. As intimidating as it may seem, creating an estate plan is the only way to ensure those people receive your gifts. Without a will, the state of Illinois will determine how to divide your assets, and it may be nothing close to your wishes.

Sitting down and writing out your final wishes may seem the most expedient and affordable way to accomplish your goals. However, to reduce the chances that your survivors will misunderstand, alter or dispute your will, there are certain rules to follow to make your last wishes valid.

Estate planning doesn't end when you execute your documents

Not many people here in Illinois and elsewhere take the time to create an estate plan, so if you have, you are well ahead of them. However, if you simply put your documents in a secure place and never look at them again, you are doing yourself, and your loved ones, a disservice.

More than likely, your life has changed since you completed your estate plan. The question is whether any of those changes require you to make modifications, changes or adjustments to your plan.

Trust administration takes a considerable amount of work

Many people use trusts as part of their estate plans because they can add layers of protection for assets, help prevent assets from going through probate and have terms regarding the usage of the assets. Still, trusts need someone in charge of their administration, and your loved one may have named you as a trustee.

In many cases, trustmakers will name themselves as trustees on revocable trusts, but successor trustees are needed to take over after the trustmakers' deaths. If a loved one named you as a successor trustee, you have many responsibilities ahead of you.

Calculating your estate's net worth can help with estate planning

The idea of creating your estate plan may have you understandably intimidated. After all, creating this type of plan involves making decisions regarding essentially every aspect of your life, including your current affairs, possible future scenarios and events after your death. Anyone would feel overwhelmed by such decisions. Fortunately, you do not have to consider all of those affairs at once.

It may benefit you to start small when beginning your estate planning process. You can and should update or modify your plan whenever you see fit and on a regular basis. Therefore, if you do not have answers for certain questions now, you can add them later. For now, you may want to consider your estate's net worth.

The dangers of using incentive trusts

When you leave your money and assets to your loved ones, you may want to inspire them to do something in their lives that you believe would make it better for them in the long run. Perhaps during your life, those same individuals failed to take your advice and experience to heart.

Now that you have the means to do so, you may want to tie an inheritance to the completion of some task that you think will improve the lives of your loved ones. If that is the case, you may create an "incentive" trust, which puts conditions on whether a beneficiary receives distributions from it.

Controlling your future health care starts today

You understand that estate planning gives you the opportunity to put plans in place that will benefit you well into the future. When you think of an estate plan, you may think of a will or perhaps a trust – tools you can use to transfer assets and protect your beneficiaries. You may not know you can also address certain aspects of your health care in your estate plan as well.

There are certain documents you can draft that will allow you to outline the types of care you may want in the future in case you are unable to speak for yourself. Through a power of attorney and a living will, you can make your wishes known. Not only does this give you control over what happens to your body, it can spare your Illinois family and other loved ones from having to make complex decisions on your behalf.

Which type of trust is right for your estate plan?

Illinois readers understand that developing an estate plan is a smart step for individuals and families of all needs and income levels. What you may need as part of your plan depends on the details of your individual situation, but you may find it beneficial for you to consider a trust. This specific estate planning tool may provide certain protections you need to meet your objectives. 

A will is the foundation of a good estate plan, but in many cases, it may not be sufficient to help you do exactly what you want with your assets and money. A trust is different than a will as it allows you to set aside money for a specific purpose, such as charitable giving. As you develop your estate plan, it is useful to consider all of your options.

Are you hesitant to start estate planning?

Your surviving family may see your estate plan as a direct line of communication with you after your passing. As a result, it would be in your best interests, and the best interests of your family, to make sure that you create a comprehensive plan that fully expresses your wishes. Fortunately, you have many options for creating such a plan.

If you feel hesitant about starting the process, you are not alone. Many people feel that thinking about their eventual demises will seem morbid, but it may also help you to remember that planning can bring a sense of relief in knowing that you have made your wishes known. Additionally, it may comfort you to know that your loved ones will not have to go through the process of settling your estate while wondering what you truly wanted.

Your estate plan could help lessen the chance of conflict

You are likely among the many people who want to create an estate plan in order to detail how you want your final affairs handled. This desire is immensely beneficial, and having a plan can make the probate process easier for your loved ones. However, family disputes often taken place after a loved one passes, and if you do not take certain preventative measures, the inheritance you leave your family could dwindle.

You may already fear that conflict will arise after your death because your family has a naturally combative nature. While this fear can cause substantial worry, it may also help you create the best estate plan possible to work toward avoiding conflicts where you can.

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Leonard F. Berg, Attorney at Law