Working with estate attorneys in Chicago can be uncomfortable — after all, there are some tough questions that need to be asked and answered. However, the entire experience can be made less stressful if you know what types of questions your attorney will ask. Before you make an appointment with estate attorneys in Chicago, make sure you know the answers to these questions.
Estate Attorneys In Chicago Ask: Who Will Care For Minor Children?
If you have minor children, this is an important question to answer — who will take care of them if both you and your spouse dies? However, having an answer to this question isn't enough. You should also make sure that the person you name guardian agrees with your decision. If they don't, your death could be even more stressful as the guardian struggles with their new role and your children struggle with the loss of their parents.
Estate Attorneys In Chicago Ask: Are There Any Other Descendants Or Companions?
If your estate attorneys in Chicago seem to ask the same question again and again, it's not because they don't remember your answers! Oftentimes when an attorney asks if there are any other descendants, the answer is initially no. A few days later, however, the attorney receives a call that tells them, yes, there's a secret descendant. If you have a child from a previous relationship, now is the time to have a conversation. It will likely be uncomfortable, but it can be stressful for your loved ones if this relationship comes to light at your funeral or immediately following your death.
If you have a relationship outside of your marriage, it's also important to disclose it to estate attorneys in Chicago. He or she will be able to advise you on how to approach this relationship in your will, if you want to at all. If you don't want to provide to your partner, you're not obligated to do so. However, letting your estate attorneys in Chicago know about the relationship can help them defend against a will contestation after you're gone.
Estate Attorneys In Chicago Ask: What About Pets?
Man's best friend needs a plan for when you're gone too. If you have pets and want to make sure they're taken care of after you're gone, have estate attorneys in Chicago put in a provision for them. You can decide who's going to care for these pets and even leave funds available for their care.
Estate Attorneys In Chicago Ask: What About Health Care?
Lastly, decide what you want to do in case that you're left in a vegetative state. Do you want life-sustaining measures taken or do you want ventilators and feeding tubes turned off? Don't rely on your family members to make these decisions for you, especially if you haven't made your wishes fully clear. When you spell them out in a health care directive, there will be no question as to what your wishes are.
If you're in the beginning stages of the estate planning process, these are just a few of the many hard questions estate attorneys in Chicago will ask. Before you meet with one, think about your wishes and how you want your affairs handled after you're gone.
To meet with professional and qualified estate attorneys in Chicago from Peck Ritchey, please call us at (312) 201-0900.
If you haven't yet prepared a will, you're probably putting it off because you aren't sure what to include, how to structure it to protect your heirs or even how to establish a trust for your children. That's perfectly normal – most individuals are confused by the many laws surrounding a last will and testament, but you can quickly get clarification from a Chicago will attorney at Peck Ritchey. Rather than run the risk of leaving behind a confusing or invalid will, talk to us about having your will prepared properly. We can help you avoid the following common mistakes:
Mistake #1: Neglecting To Assign An Executor Or Chicago Will Attorney
While the courts can appoint an executor for your estate, it's best to choose a person you know and trust as the executor of your will. Almost any Chicago will attorney can tell you a tale about a court-appointed executor who winds up causing problems because he or she simply didn't understand or care about the wishes of the deceased person. A Chicago will attorney can help you choose someone who has the right skills, is trusted by the family, and who will execute the will faithfully.
Mistake #2: Trying To Mix Assets
Family fights and bad blood can be avoided if your will clearly outlines what each heir inherits and what should be done with the bulk of your estate. Many people who are executors, however, attempt to mix assets or don't fully understand the importance of keeping specific bequests separate. If there is an independent life insurance policy in effect or joint accounts that your loved one had with another individual, the situation can be even more confusing. To make sure that you don't mix assets and that you understand which assets should be included or left out of the estate, consult with a Chicago will attorney.
Mistake #3: Not Making Funeral Plans
This is a crucial aspect of an estate that is often overlooked by individuals trying to write their own wills. They assume that their children or grandchildren will be able to make the funeral arrangements themselves. Sadly, this often leads to unnecessary bickering when everyone is trying to mourn and when most people are particularly sensitive to criticism. One person may feel that a cherry wood coffin and a lavish funeral with hundreds of mourners is appropriate while another heir may feel that their loved one would have preferred a private send-off with minimal fuss. A Chicago will attorney can assist you in outlining your funeral wishes clearly and in detail so that your descendants don't have to go through the painful process of making arrangements.
Mistake #4: Not Appointing A Guardian For Your Children
No one thinks they will die while their children are still young, but it has happened often enough that every parent should prepare in advance for the possibility. Without stipulating a guardian for your children, they could end up wards of the court and given over to a guardian you would not have chosen because of their age, a fundamentally different lifestyle, or a religious view that doesn't agree with your own. Talk to a Chicago will attorney at Peck Ritchey about choosing and appointing an appropriate guardian so that your children will be raised in a manner closely aligned with your own beliefs and child-rearing methods.
Mistake #5: Forgetting Fido
Despite their status as members of your family, pets are considered personal property by probate courts. That means your dogs or cats could end up being sold or given away if you don't specifically leave them to an heir who will care for and love them. A Chicago will attorney may also advise you to leave a specific amount of money to the person who inherits your pet or pets to defray the expenses of caring for your furry friend.
Mistake #6: Not Paying Off Debts Before Distributing The Estate
As the executor of an estate, you may discover that the heirs to an estate are anxious to get their fair share of the inheritance. Often, they will want the executor to distribute the funds as soon as possible, not understanding or caring that there may be substantial debts or obligations that have to be paid for out of the estate before the remainder is distributed to the heirs. When preparing your own will, a Chicago will attorney can assist you in writing clear instructions for paying off debts and obligations from a bank account set aside specifically for this purpose. This allows for quicker distribution of the estate, while protecting executors from liability if additional expenses are discovered.
At Peck Ritchey, a will attorney isn't just a lawyer who creates a standard document. He or she will be your advisor every step of the way, suggesting ways to structure your estate in order to protect your heirs and ensure that your final wishes are carried out faithfully. Visit our website to schedule an initial consultation.
It’s well known that the death of a relative, particularly one who has a substantial estate, can bring out the worst in some people. If you worry that your descendants or beneficiaries may not see eye to eye, you need to consider safe guarding your estate. In Chicago, estate planning lawyers can walk you through the steps needed to make your last will and testament as clear and ironclad as possible. Some of these steps will seem obvious, but others may surprise you. Talking to Chicago probate attorneys may also help you clarify certain problems in your estate and resolve them.
Keep Clear, Concise Records
There are few documents as important as your will and testament. Careless record keeping or the lack of clear instructions can immediately turn your demise into a war, particularly if you’ve written more than one will in the past. If someone is questioning the validity of your latest will, the executor of your estate or your estate planning lawyers should be able to produce unmistakable proof that the will in question is not only the last one you signed, but that it was clearly your intent that its instructions be followed.
Keep detailed, precise notes of every meeting with your Chicago estate planning lawyers, including any conversations about the content of your will. Record every date and time that you meet with your estate planning lawyers and the result of each meeting. Keep signed, witnessed copies of your current will as well as any prior wills in existence, but make sure you clearly designate which one is currently in force.
Taking notes during meetings with your estate planning lawyers is always a good idea. Trying to reconstruct your conversations after the fact can lead to problems, particularly if others remember the conversation differently. If you don’t think you can take accurate, detailed notes, invest in a small tape recorder or video camera and record the meeting with your estate planning lawyers, keeping the tape or tapes in a safe place with all copies of your will.
Among the records you should keep are any talks you have with your estate planning lawyers, discussions that take place while you’re drafting the will, and any guidance given to you by your will attorney. A detailed paper trail and recordings can combine to ensure that your final wishes are clearly understood by your heirs and estate planning attorneys. Your heirs should be able to produce a definite paper trail that ends with your current will, but don’t neglect leaving copies with others, including your will attorney.
Don’t Let Your Competency Be Called Into Question By Probate Attorneys Or Unhappy Heirs
You’ve probably heard of cases where neglected heirs have called a will into question because they believe the author of the will wasn’t in his or her right mind. Some people contest a will based on the premise that the author was being coerced or unduly influenced when the will was written. To be sure this doesn’t happen with your estate, have a doctor examine you on the day you sign any legal documents, including your will. Have the doctor verify in writing that you are of sound mind and body and keep this document with any and all copies of your will.
The witnesses you choose for your will can also verify your mental state when you sign your will. This is why Chicago estate planning attorneys recommend you have three witnesses or more, rather than the two witnesses required by law. Choose your witnesses carefully; they shouldn’t be strangers to you or each other. Close friends or acquaintances you’ve known for years are the best witnesses, as they can testify at a later date as to your mental state and competency.
Make Sure Your Will Is Clearly Written, With No Ambiguity
Chicago estate planning lawyers have seen many wills that are poorly drafted or unclear. They know how difficult it can be to enforce an ambiguous will and they’ll help you write a will that is crystal clear. One of the most common mistakes Chicago probate attorneys see is wills that were written by individuals using budget, “one size fits all” templates found online. Trying to write a will using generic legal software is also a recipe for a long, drawn-out legal battle over your estate. Always have your will written by experienced estate planning attorneys.
Be Honest When Talking To Your Heirs
Many wills turn into estate battles because the deceased re-wrote his or her will and either didn’t tell anyone, or didn’t explain any changes clearly. While you may want to avoid a confrontation with potential heirs who may be disappointed, it’s always best to be honest. Letting everyone know the specifics of your will can eliminate thousands of dollars in legal fees and prevent an ugly family feud after your death.
You should also make sure anyone you want to disinherit is unmistakable designated as such in your will and testament. Chicago estate planning lawyers can help you deal with this sensitive situation. This will minimize potential disagreements based on someone’s claim that they were accidentally or unintentionally excluded.
Take the time now to meet and work with experienced estate planning lawyers in order to reduce the chances of a protracted battle among heirs later. If your will is concise and clearly drafted, the chances that probate attorneys will be needed is minimized and your heirs will be more likely to abide by your wishes.