Common Questions And Answers About Estate Planning
There are many important elements in a comprehensive estate plan. The details can feel overwhelming if trying to create a plan by yourself. But when you work with an experienced attorney like Doug Belofsky, the entire process can be quicker and easier than you expected.
Before meeting with an attorney, it may be helpful to read through answers to some of the more common questions that clients often have. After reading, you can contact the Law Offices of Douglas Belofsky, P.C., to get your own questions answered during an initial consultation.
Why do I need an estate plan?
Having an estate plan makes your intentions and your instructions clear to family members. When someone dies without a will, it can lead to family in-fighting, resentment and even litigation among heirs. Creating an estate plan can reduce the risk of conflicts and the costs of probate. This is especially important if you or your spouse have children from a prior relationship.
If you have a complex estate or a complex asset like a closely held business, an estate plan is even more crucial. Failure to plan effectively can be catastrophic and result in permanent damage to your business, a dispute over who owns the business or adverse tax consequences.
You may also need to coordinate your estate plan with your retirement accounts or life insurance. Wills typically do not control retirement accounts and insurance policies.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
Dying without a will is known as dying “intestate.” Because you didn’t make specific plans for your assets, the property would be passed to your heirs according to Illinois’ intestate succession laws. Those laws are “one size fits all,” and make assumptions about how you would want to split your assets between your spouse and children, or other relatives if you don’t have a spouse or children when you die.
The downside to this approach is that intestate succession laws may not fully align with the decisions you would have made in an estate plan. There may be unfortunate financial consequences from some distributions, and planning can be essential to prevent these outcomes. You worked hard for your assets, and you want to be in control of what happens to them.
Do I need a trust?
You might, but it is not a part of everyone’s estate plan in the same way that a will would be. Trusts are extremely flexible and useful legal tools that give you considerable control over how and when your assets are distributed to beneficiaries. They are especially useful if you have young children or even older children who might not yet be mature enough to receive a large inheritance all at once. They can also be appropriate for wealth preservation and tax planning or for caring for a relative with special needs.
Creating a trust can protect a child’s inheritance in case of a divorce, or shield it from their creditors. Trusts can effectively protect the control and ownership of property and assets. Doug Belofsky can explain the potential methods to protect your family’s assets.
Trusts do come with some administrative costs, which might make them less desirable for you if you can achieve your goals using a different estate planning tool. The decision on whether to create one is easier to make in consultation with a knowledgeable attorney and Doug Belofsky has the experience to help you understand this calculation.
Do I have to leave something to my children? What about their spouses?
You are not required to leave anything to your children in your will. Nor are you required to treat all of your children equally. You do not have to leave anything to the spouses of your children. If you are worried that one of your children may get divorced, an estate plan may prevent their spouse from receiving part of their inheritance.
Without a will, however, all of your children will share all or a portion of your estate equally. If you wish for something different, it is even more reason to hire an attorney to create your will and estate plan. Because courts presume that one will leave assets to their children, they give greater scrutiny to estate planning documents that disinherit children.
Your intentions need to be crystal clear and in writing, drafted by an attorney who understands the sensitive nature of this type of a request. Also, you might want to explain your decisions in your will so that your children and a court, if necessary, understand your intentions.
Can I take care of my pet in my estate plan?
Yes, you can. You can establish a “pet trust” that will provide for your pet if it outlives you. This can provide peace of mind since a formal trust is enforceable and prevents someone from ignoring your wishes, ensuring your beloved pet receives the care you would want them to receive.
Get Your Questions Answered In An Initial Consultation
Based in Northbrook, Illinois, the Law Offices of Douglas Belofsky, P.C., serves clients throughout the surrounding areas. To learn more about how we can help you create a thorough and effective estate plan, contact us to schedule an initial consultation. Just call 847-464-9303 or send us an email.