If you're beginning the estate planning process, you know how important it can be. However, understanding the importance just isn't enough — you also need to make sure that you're avoiding these common problems. Before you meet with an attorney, heed the advice of estate lawyers in Chicago and learn how to avoid these common mistakes.
Choosing The Wrong Executor
Choosing the executor of your will is a vital step. This person will be responsible for a number of major decisions, including whether your house should be sold and filing your final federal and state tax returns. The executor will make sure that the wishes of the will are enacted. He or she will make sure that pets and minor children are taken care of according to the will and that assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes. He or she is typically a family member, but it's possible to name estate lawyers in Chicago or even a certified public accountant as the executor.
Before naming someone as an executor, estate lawyers in Chicago recommend that you ask permission, especially if you're naming a friend or family member. Acting as an executor can be a major undertaking so it's important that the person knows what they're getting into before they volunteer for the job.
Not Including A No Conflict Clause And Not Treating Beneficiaries Equally
Another mistake that estate lawyers in Chicago want you to avoid making is not adding a no conflict clause in to the will. A no conflict clause will help eliminate fighting among family members and beneficiaries. It basically states that anyone who contests the contents of the will receives nothing. It's an easy way to ensure that everyone gets along throughout the entire process.
Also, treating everyone equally will help ensure that beneficiaries don't fight among themselves. If you have multiple children, ensure that everyone receives an equal portion of your assets. While it might seem like a good idea to give wealthier relatives less than relatives who aren't as financially stable, this can create negative feelings and strife between family members.
Not Updating The Beneficiaries In Your Will
Estate lawyers in Chicago also want you to make sure that your beneficiaries are updated regularly in your will. If someone named in your will has recently died, it could cause problems if the document isn't updated. It's a good idea to take a look at your legal documents at least once a year to make sure the information is accurate and go to your estate lawyers in Chicago for updates if it's not.
#1 Mistake Estate Lawyers In Chicago Want You To Avoid: Not Making A Plan At All
The top mistake that estate lawyers in Chicago want you to avoid is neglecting to make a plan at all! People who don't plan for what happens to their assets after their death are setting their family members up for a nightmare of paperwork and potential problems. They could also lose a large percentage of their assets to taxes and attorneys' fees. Instead of leaving your loved ones with a mess, make sure that the details are taken care of well in advance.
Avoiding these common mistakes can really help your loved ones through the difficult time after you've passed. If you haven't planned for the future, contact top estate lawyers in Chicago at Peck Ritchey. We'll be able to ensure your family members are taken care of, even after you can't.
It’s only natural for most people to put off getting an estate plan in order. But what people may not realize is that if a medical emergency happens, like a car accident or a stroke, their medical wishes and treatment may not be handled in the manner they would have liked.
Say your mother is in the hospital and incapacitated. Unless you are her Power of Attorney, you may not be able to make decisions with regard to her treatment.
It’s never too early to put Powers of Attorney in place because this will allow the person you select to make the decisions for your medical treatment as closely to your wishes if you become unable to make choices for yourself. But it can be too late to get this important legal document drafted!
If you wait too long and suffer a brain injury or get a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease you may have to get a guardian; this can be a complicated legal matter you may wish to avoid.
Since you cannot plan for medical emergencies it’s best to be proactive. Drafting a will and securing Powers of Attorney are the first steps in protecting your future-and one less thing to worry about when a medical emergency does occur.
With 2012 quickly coming to a close, people begin drafting their lists of New Year’s resolutions. While many will join a gym or vow to stop smoking as a way to improve their lives, they will often overlook getting their legal paperwork in order.
It may not be a priority for all, but updating beneficiaries after major life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or the passing of a family member is an important thing to do.
Take inventory of your documents. Where are insurance policies, retirement paperwork and investment information saved? It’s critical to have this kind of information at hand in case of an emergency.
And while making legal decisions is often difficult, our team offers compassionate, informed, and dedicated service. Peck Ritchey, LLC staff counsels clients with up-to-the-minute advice that will protect their assets during their lifetime and for their family after the client’s death.
Peck Ritchey estate attorneys will meet at an office location that is most convenient for their clients; Peck Ritchey has office locations in Chicago, Northbrook, Orland Park and Skokie. The firm also provides legal services for DuPage County.
Take the opportunities over these next few months to examine how happy and healthy your older relatives’ lives really are. You can help avoid future emergencies by productively discussing their current and future living situations now.
Everyone should have a will in place that will effectively distribute their estate according to their wishes, but many people never get around to it. Despite the difficulty, everyone should prepare a will in order to protect their friends and loved ones. A Chicago estate lawyer can simplify the process and help individuals in a variety of ways in order to prepare a legally binding document that will hold up in court.
DIY Wills May Not Be Valid
It’s tempting to save a bit of money by using an online program or a software template to write your will, but it’s often a mistake that can cost your heirs a lot of money and heartache when your will goes to probate after you’ve passed on. Most programs or kits for preparing a last will and testament are very basic, not taking any number of variables into account. A Chicago estate lawyer is familiar with all of the legal statutes that apply to preparing an estate and drafting a legal will and can ensure that your document is legally binding.
A Chicago Estate Lawyer Will Make Sure Your Directives Are Legal And Appropriate
Although you may want your will to simply say that your entire estate goes to your children, the court will generally consider such a document too vague. Other common issues include leaving an inheritance of money or property to minor children who can’t legally inherit directly. For minor children, a Chicago estate lawyer can prepare a trust that appropriately handles the money until a child reaches a designated age. Trusts can also be designed to protect your estate and provide for someone who is incapable of providing for himself. If you are hesitant about leaving a large estate or large sums of money to other adults, talk to a Chicago estate lawyer at Peck Ritchey about creating an appropriate trust to administer the money according to your wishes.
Leaving Unwell Or Elderly Family Members “Out In The Cold”
When you’re working with an estate attorney, you’ll naturally put a lot of thought into outlining a plan to care for your children, but what about an elderly parent or grandparent who might outlive you? If you are currently caring for them, they could be literally left out in the cold if no one is willing to spend the time or money to care for them properly. Peck Ritchey attorneys have dealt with many estates where the deceased assumed incorrectly that other relatives would be happy to step up and care for elderly parents. A Chicago estate lawyer can help you prepare a plan that addresses these issues and puts aside funds from your estate that will be used for their safety and well-being.
Leaving An Outdated Will In Place Is As Bad As No Will At ALL
A will that you prepared when you got married isn’t good enough if you now have children to raise and elderly parents who need care. Preparing one document and then locking it away because you assume it will serve its purpose no matter how much time has passed is an unfortunate mistake many parents make. Without a document that specifically stipulates who the guardian of your children should be, the courts can step in and appoint a relative who would not have been your first choice for their care. If the years have gone by with the typical births, deaths, name changes, relocations and marriages, a Chicago estate attorney will likely tell you that the will may not hold up in court because the circumstances of potential heirs have changed considerably.
Not Being Specific About Personal Property
You may feel certain that when you pass away, your children and grandchildren will divide up personal items such as jewelry or coin collections in a way that is fair to everyone, but the reality is usually a bit more grim. In some cases, siblings can start a feud over something as specific as who gets your diamond earrings or who inherits your collection of miniature cars. These kinds of arguments can quickly turn into family feuds that tie up your estate in court for years.
Preparing your will should be part of an overall estate plan to protect your assets and your heirs. At Peck Ritchey, a Chicago estate lawyer can be your greatest asset when you sit down to prepare you own will.
Most of us don’t like to think about eventually dying, but we know that it will happen one day. Unfortunately, many of us don’t plan ahead. If you pass away without an estate plan and a valid will, your heirs will be left without any way of knowing what your last wishes would have been. Many families discover too late that an outdated will doesn’t address more current issues such as guardianship of children. Peck Ritchey’s elder law lawyers recently ranked the top five mistakes made by individuals with regard to their estates and/or wills.
Mistake #1: Assuming They Don’t Need An Estate Plan
There seems to be a misconception that unless you’re worth millions, you don’t need estate planning. Attorneys in Chicago have seen countless families suffer needlessly because someone didn’t clearly state their wishes in a will. You may think you have enough life insurance to take care of your family’s needs; you may also hope that your heirs will gladly divide up personal effects such as jewelry without a squabble. The reality is rarely so easy. Talk to one of our Chicago estate attorneys if you don’t want your children fighting over who gets your wedding rings or who inherits your awesome collection of classic rock albums. In many cases, life insurance may not go very far, and inheritance taxes can eat up a sizable portion of your assets if you die without a will. Meeting with our estate planning attorneys in Chicago should be your first step toward maximizing your estate and diminishing future inheritance taxes.
Mistake #2: Not Updating Your Current Plan
If you wrote a will when you got married fifteen years ago, it’s time to review it with your spouse and our estate planning attorneys, particularly if you have minor children. Chicago estate attorneys can help you review and update your will to reflect your wishes more accurately and designate appropriate guardians for your children. Remind your parents that they should do the same so that they can choose who will make decisions for them if they are incapacitated. Peck Ritchey’s elder wills lawyers in Chicago can walk them through the process, ensuring that every generation of your family is protected by an estate plan.
Mistake #3: Using A Boilerplate Will Template
Preparing a will without consulting with estate planning attorneys is the same as constructing a building without consulting the blue prints. Chicago estate attorneys are familiar with Illinois state inheritance laws and can craft a plan that works for you and your family. An online will that’s downloaded and completed using “fill in the blanks” usually doesn’t work. Estate attorneys at Peck Ritchey can review your accounts, investments and wishes and propose an appropriate estate plan.
Mistake #4: Failing To Appropriately Designate Beneficiaries
If you have accounts such as life insurance policies, an annuity or pension that will pay out to your spouse or children after your death, be sure to review these with our Chicago estate attorneys. Many people forget that these don’t automatically pay out to your wife or children. Instead, the designated beneficiaries were chosen by name at some point. More than one client has been surprised to discover that their old railway pension or the 401K from a job held years ago designated an ex-spouse or didn’t include all of their children. Any designated beneficiary will automatically override even a more recent will. Estate planning attorneys in Chicago can help you prepare the appropriate paperwork to update all of your accounts and designate the proper heirs.
Mistake #5: Putting Off Meeting With Estate Planning Attorneys In Chicago
Your parents or grandparents may have already met with elder wills lawyers in Chicago, but you may be thinking, “I’m too young to worry about my estate yet.” Sadly, many people put it off until it’s too late and the spouse and children they left behind suffer the consequences when they die unexpectedly. If you have young children or a family member who requires special care, don’t put off consulting with our estate planning attorneys. Chicago families should clearly designate who will care for these family members in the event you no longer can.
Peck Ritchey’s estate planning attorneys in Chicago are ready to help you put together an estate plan that will ensure your last wishes are carried out properly while protecting your family and heirs.
Simply writing a will won’t mean your wishes will be honored in probate court when you die. The complexities of probate laws in most states can mean confusion over the intent of your will after you pass away. Estate attorneys can explain the many probate laws in your state and help you structure your estate in a way that will guarantee your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Estate attorneys can also minimize the chance that disputes will be filed by probate attorneys on behalf of individuals contesting your will.
Not Every Will Is Straightforward
Greed and jealousy can rear their ugly heads among normally loving relatives if there is a lot at stake. In many cases, relatives will hire probate attorneys to contest a will that has left them out of the picture. A standard will can be difficult to interpret or uphold in court if those contesting it have hired experienced Chicago probate attorneys. The more scrutiny your will is under, the less likely it will stand up in probate court if you haven’t attended to the details by working with estate attorneys when drafting it.
Estate Lawyers In Chicago Can Craft A Customized Will
Estate lawyers can help write a will that addresses any unusual wishes you might have. For example: If you die unexpectedly and don’t want your children to have full access to your assets while they are still minors. Consulting with Chicago probate attorneys or estate attorneys can help you structure your estate and establish a trust fund or restricted account, protecting the bulk of the estate until your children are old enough to handle it responsibly.
Estate attorneys can also help you address issues such as who will raise your children and what to do with your home when you pass away. There are dozens of other issues to contend with as well, estate lawyers in Chicago or you local area can advise you on how to address these concerns properly.
Death And Taxes: Coping With A Sure Thing
Unfortunately both death and taxes are unavoidable, that is why consulting with estate attorneys sooner rather than later is essential. Inheritance taxes are complex and can vary widely from state to state. Estate Planning attorneys are often also CPA’s and are well versed in tax law issues surrounding wills and estates. They can offer suggestions and can recommend an appropriate tax attorney. Experienced estate lawyers and probate attorneys can help you understand the tax ramifications of your death so that you can prepare now, and have your family protected later.
Using A Standard Will Template Can Lead to Problems
Do not be lulled into assuming that writing a will using a standard template will protect your heirs. Your seemingly simple instructions can quickly mushroom into a family feud or a battle of the probate attorneys. Printing a form off of the Internet does not guarantee your wishes will be followed, the form may not even be legal, may not cover all areas of your estate and even if it does, without an attorney, you cannot ensure you have signed the document properly for it to be recognized by the court.
By planning now and working with estate attorneys can minimize family strife and greatly reduce the chance that your heirs will need probate attorneys to fight for their rights. Protect your heirs properly by meeting with estate attorneys now rather than waiting until it’s too late.