The Holidays Could Provide the Chance to Discuss Your Estate Plans

holidays, Wheaton estate planning attorneysIt is hard to believe that the winter holiday season is here again already. By this time next week, you may be getting ready to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner with your family, loved ones, and friends. A few weeks later, many families will get together to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, the upcoming New Year. If your family members live in various parts of the country, the winter holidays could be the only time during the year that your entire family is able to be together. Therefore, I might also be the only chance you have to talk about important subjects such as estate planning.

Prepare for the Conversation

It can certainly be difficult to start a discussion about your estate plans. In fact, even just thinking about estate planning can be uncomfortable because doing so requires confronting your eventual death. The conversation, however, is too important to skip completely. There is no need for your estate plan discussion to take many hours, nor does it need to prevent your family from enjoying the holidays. You can control the situation and keep the tone light and positive, but you will need to do a few things in advance, such as:

  • Talk to certain people before everyone else is involved. It not the best idea to surprise your children or family members in front of everybody during the holidays by asking them to take on estate-related responsibilities. If you want your daughter to be your executor, for example, speak to her about it in private beforehand. When everyone is together, you can let them know that your daughter has agreed to take on the role.
  • Make a brief outline. If you do not have any set direction, your estate planning discussion could go on for a very long time—to the point where it takes over the whole holiday experience. To prevent this, make a short list of the key things that you want to talk about. Then, stick to the list! Other related topics will almost certainly be brought up, but do your best to limit tangents.
  • Cover the big things. The holiday discussion is probably not the place to spend time on the minor details. It really does not matter who is going to keep your bedroom television. What does matter is where your important documents are kept and how your plan accounts for the possibility of mental or physical incapacitation.
  • Let your family speak, not decide. Feedback from your family regarding your estate plan can certainly be helpful, but in the end, the decisions are yours to make. Some of your plans might not be open to debate, and that is fine, but tell your loved ones that. On other subjects, you might invite thoughts and ideas that could contribute to your ultimate decision.

Contact a Wheaton Estate Planning Attorney

If you are in the process of creating an estate plan, or if you would like to get started on one, contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning lawyer. Call 630-665-2500 to schedule an initial consultation at Stock, Carlson & Duff LLC today.

 

Sources:

https://www.investopedia.com/retirement/thanksgiving-good-time-talk-turkey-about-estate-planning/

https://www.fa-mag.com/news/discussing-the-issue-of-aging-parents-41779.html

Can I Include My Pets in My Estate Plan?

pet trust, Wheaton estate planning attorneyAs you go through the steps of creating an estate plan, you will probably give plenty of consideration to which of your family members will receive a particular asset or a part of your estate. If you have a young grandchild, for example, you could choose to bequeath one of your vehicles to him or her. With children, grandchildren, and other loved ones to consider, many people often overlook their companion animals. Could it be possible to include provisions for a pet dog or cat in your Illinois estate plan? Put simply, the answer is yes, but there are some limitations.

The Basics of a Pet Trust

Under the law in Illinois, you are permitted to make provisions for the care and protection of certain domestic animals through estate planning. In fact, the law explicitly allows for the creation of “trusts for domestic or pet animals”—more commonly known as “pet trusts.” The statute is not precise regarding the species of animals that are eligible to be covered under pet trust, as it simply states that the trust can be set up for the benefit of “one or more designated domestic or pet animals.” Over the years, however, Illinois courts have determined that pet trusts can apply to cats, dogs, and horses, as well as a number of other kinds of animals. Generally, livestock and farm animals are not considered domestic or pet animals.

In setting up your pet trust, you will be required to specify each animal that you wish to have covered. The trust documentation must include the animal’s name, sex, age, species, breed, and any other important details. You should also list any known health or medical conditions so that the individual you choose to manage the trust—known as the trustee—will be better prepared for the future.

Establishing Expectations

It is your right to decide how the assets you have put into a pet trust will be used. With this in mind, you should be sure to be specific about the level and type of care that you wish to be provided for the covered animals. For example, if you expect your trustee to have your beloved dog groomed every other month, you should include such directions in the trust documents.

Choosing a trustee wisely is also important. The person you choose should share your love of animals and be willing to carry out your wishes exactly as you intend.

At your discretion, your pet trust could also provide the trustee with the power to sell or give the animal to a new owner in the right situation. Consider a scenario, for example, in which your selected caregiver has taken in your dog—a friendly animal who loves children. About a year following your death, your granddaughter—who now has two children—asks to adopt your dog, promising to give him a loving home. Your chosen caregiver could only allow the adoption if you have given him or her the permission to do so.

Closing the Pet Trust

An Illinois pet trust can remain in effect only while the covered animals are still living. The trust must be closed upon the death of the last designated pet, or when the chosen caregiver is no longer caring for the last designated pet. Any assets remaining in the trust will then be distributed according to the plan that you established. This means that you must decide in advance what will happen to those funds. Should the caregiver be allowed to keep them? Should the money be given to a local animal rescue organization? The choice is yours, but it is important to include your decision in the trust documents to ensure that your wishes are carried out properly.

Call a Wheaton Estate Planning Lawyer

A pet trust is just one piece of a comprehensive estate plan. If you have questions about pet trusts or other instruments of estate planning, contact an experienced DuPage County wills and trusts attorney at Stock, Carlson & Duff LLC. Call 630-665-2500 to schedule a confidential consultation and get the guidance you need.

 

Source:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2117&ChapterID=61

How a Special Needs Trust Can Benefit You and Your Family

special needs, DuPage County estate planning attorneysIt can be terribly challenging to plan for a time when you are not around to care for your loved ones. However, facing this reality by making an estate plan is one of the most selfless actions you can take. This is an especially true if you have a child, sibling, or other close loved one who has a serious disability. If you have been responsible for caring for a loved one who cannot care for himself or herself, you may want to find a way of providing for him or her after you pass away. One way to do just this is through an estate planning tool called a special needs trust.

Planning for the Care of a Loved One with Special Needs

A special needs trust or supplemental needs trust is an estate planning instrument that can be critically important to individuals who have a disabled loved one in their care. This instrument works by allowing the caregiver to place funds in the trust, which can then be used for the future care of their disabled loved one. A special needs trust allows you to put aside money for your loved one without affecting the disabled person’s eligibility for government assistance programs. Special needs trusts can be funded through gifts and inheritances or a lump-sum settlement. Without a special needs trust, money left to your loved one could potential disqualify him or her for certain government aid programs.

Leaving Money to a Loved One Could Increase His or Her Available Assets Too Much

The majority of government-funded aid is distributed to individuals under a certain income level. For example, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and housing subsidies all have income criteria that a person must meet in order to qualify for the financial assistance. If you leave money to your disabled loved one without the appropriate estate planning instrument, it could be counted toward his or her available assets. If the funds are substantial, this money could bump your loved one’s income up to a level which makes him or her ineligible for programs with income or asset limits.

A properly-drafted special needs trust helps you ensure that your disabled loved one will receive the funds he or she needs in a way that does not jeopardize participation in other government assistance programs. Ideally, a special needs trust will help your disabled family member enjoy a high quality of life even after you have passed away.

Contact a Wheaton, Illinois Estate Planning Attorney for Help

Drafting a special needs trust or other estate planning instrument can be quite complex. For quality legal assistance from a knowledgeable DuPage County estate planning lawyer, contact Stock, Carlson & Duff LLC. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-665-2500 today.

 

Sources:

http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publishing/rpte_ereport/te_lewis.authcheckdam.pdf

http://www.americanbar.org/newsletter/publications/law_trends_news_practice_area_e_newsletter_home/0501_estate_financialplanning.html