Estate Planning: Blended and Traditional Families and Same-Sex Couples

same-sex family,  Illinois Estate Planning Lawyer, blended and traditional familiesA recent survey compiled by UBS highlights the differences in the American family structure of today compared to past generations, and how those differences may affect a family's estate planning.

According to the survey, 34 percent of all high-net-worth investors live in modern families and 35 percent live in traditional families. However, nearly two-thirds of those who participated in the survey felt that financial advice is targeted to only traditional families.

The survey classified a modern family as one consisting of same-sex couples, one in which children were living in the home from prior relationships, or a home with parents and adult children living together.

There were 2,715 high-net-worth and affluent investors who participated in the survey. Of those who participated, 1,787 had a minimum of $1 million in investable assets, with slightly more than 400 members of that group having at least $5 million in investable assets.

Fourteen percent of survey participants lived in blended families. More than half of those families noted that their lives are more complicated than those in traditional families, with issues surrounding finances and retirement planning.

Members of blended families cited additional issues—more than 40 percent expressed that they did not accurately anticipate the financial costs of supporting their spouses' children. Sixty percent indicated that those children had not fully accepted them, despite the fact they were helping to support them. These issues parlayed into difficulties when trying to decide asset division upon a person’s death—almost 70 percent surveyed said they had not been able to decide how asset division would be handled, compared to only half of those traditional family members who were surveyed.

Same-sex couples who participated in the survey pointed to the recent Supreme Court decision which legalizes same-sex marriage as a positive move towards estate planning for same-sex couples. However, more than half those surveyed also stated that there was a lack of financial planning information for same-sex families. Additionally, more than 70 percent said they are pursing financial advice on how the new law will impact retirement and health benefits.

The third type of family surveyed—those with adult children and aging parents—also expressed different financial concerns than those experienced by traditional families. Many of these aging parents—53 percent—are concerned that they will not be able to reach and maintain financial security without the extra financial support of their adult children, especially when it concerns health care benefits.

If you have questions or concerns about future estate planning needs, please speak an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney. Call Stock, Carlson, Flynn & McGrath, LLC today at 630-665-2500.


Title of Property and Estate Planning

title of property, Illinois Estate Planning LawyerWhen a person is purchasing a home, it will need to be decided how he or she wants to hold title of the property at the closing. There are several options from which homeowners can choose; however, it is important to understand that any chosen option may affect what happens to that property in the event of the owner's death.

Each of the choices have both positive and negative aspects. The following provides a general overview of each option, but it is always beneficial to discuss the options with a qualified estate planning attorney prior to making any legal decision.

Sole Ownership

Sole ownership, also referred to as ownership in severalty, is a common choice for people who are single or wish to hole a property in their name only. If a person who is married purchases a property and chooses this option, his or her spouse will often sign a quitclaim deed waiving any rights of ownership to the property.

Properties which are titled as sole ownership are required to go through the probate process, which often involves expenses and delays in transfer.

Tenants in Common

Two or more owners, who are not married but purchase a property, will often hold the title as tenants in common. This is often the case for unmarried couples or investment partners. The percent of ownership of a property does not have to be equal, and is specified on the deed itself.

A co-owner is allowed to pass on his or her share of a property to anyone he or she chooses in the event of death. This is one benefit to this type of deed for married couples who have children from prior relationships and want to ensure their share of the property goes to their children.

The downside of this choice is that in some instances, such as when the tenancy in common is for a business partnership, the surviving partner could end up owning property with someone they do not know. Another downside is that if one partner wants to sell, and others do not, that partner can file a lawsuit to force the sale of the property.

Joint Tenancy

Just like tenants in common, joint tenancy is for when two or more people own a property. However, when one owner dies, his or her percentage of ownership is passed directly to the other owner or owners and not to the heirs of the deceased. The benefit of joint tenancy is that there is no probate required. A huge downside to this option is that one partner can give or sell his or her portion of ownership of the property without the approval of the other partner.

Living Trust

One of the best ways to hold title to a property is through a living trust. With a living trust, a person maintains control of their property, and upon their death, ownership of the property is transferred to their chosen beneficiaries. A living trust also avoids the costs and delays of probate.

Consult with an Illinois Estate Planning Attorney

If you are planning on purchasing a home or other property, it is important to contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney in order to plan for what will happen to that property, as well as any other assets you have, should something happen to you.

Estate Planning and Prenuptial Agreements

estate planning and prenuptial agreements, estate planning in Illinois, Illinois Estate Planning LawyerWhen people hear the words prenuptial agreement, they usually think of beginnings—the beginning of a new life together. Estate planning usually brings to mind then end—the end of life. However, these two phrases should really go hand-in-hand, especially when there is a family business involved.

It can be devastating to parents who have worked hard all of their lives to build up the family business to leave to their adult child, only to see half—or more—of that business lost to a child's spouse in a messy divorce.

A prenuptial agreement can be one of the strongest legal documents in estate planning for protecting a family business if a marriage ends in divorce. A prenuptial agreement is essentially a binding contract between spouses which clearly spells out how a marital estate will be divided in the event of divorce. An agreement can also detail what will happen to an estate in the event of a spouse's death.

Under Illinois law, a prenuptial agreement must be in writing and must be signed by both parties, willingly. If it is later proven that one party signed an agreement under duress or coercion, the agreement can be invalidated by the court. Both parties must also provide full disclosure of all assets or the court may throw the agreement out based on fraud. Although attorneys are not required under the law for drafting up prenuptial agreements, the majority of financial and legal advisors recommend both parties consulting with their own individual attorneys.

In terms of estate planning, a prenuptial agreement can protect assets in a variety of ways. As mentioned above in regards to situations where there is a family business, a prenuptial can spell out that any claim to that family business stays with the spouse whose family owns the business. In a situation where an adult child refuses to get a prenup or a future spouse refuses to sign, parents can make legal arrangements to ensure that the business is protected. This not only applies to family businesses, but it can also apply to any major assets the parents want to make sure stay in the family.

Prenuptial agreements can also assist older couples who are marrying by ensuring their estates are divided the way they wish. This is particularly true for couples who have children from prior relationships and want property, financial accounts, etc. to pass to their children in the event of their death.

Whatever your situation, if there are impending nuptials in your family's future, contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney to discuss what the best legal options are to protect your family's future.