Julianne

says...

"...your articles on the changes to the child support law are very well-written and informative.”

LuQman

says...

“It’s good to open the door of creative vision to offer a service that may motivate other attorneys to do the same. Keep up the good work.”

DJ

says...

"Great set of articles. I was divorced in 2014 with one child and would have certainly considered you had I seen these types of articles then."

TAD

says...

"Extremely helpful. I would have never expected such helpful information from a law firm. I guess the times are changing."
New articles daily. Videos and podcasts 2x per week.
Learn-About-Law.com
Illinois legal tipsDuPage Divorce AttorneyNaperville Divorce attorneyFamily Law Attorney DuPage County IllinoisDuPage County Family LawyerNaperville family lawyer

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Back to

Estate Planning

Wills and Trusts

Revocable Trusts vs. Irrevocable Trusts | What is the Difference Between a Revocable Trust and an Irrevocable Trust?

Revocable Trusts vs. Irrevocable Trusts | What is the Difference Between a Revocable Trust and an Irrevocable Trust?

In this article, we will explain the difference between revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts in Illinois.  We will answer the questions, how do trusts work?, what is the difference between a revocable living trust and an irrevocable trust?, what is a revocable living trust used for?, and what is an irrevocable trust used for?  We will also discuss how irrevocable trusts are used to protect assets from creditors, to plan for long-term care, and to minimize estate tax.

Read More

Can a Revocable Living Trust Avoid Estate Taxes?

Can a Revocable Living Trust Avoid Estate Taxes?

In this article, we will explain the difference between revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts in Illinois.  We will answer the questions, how do trusts work?, what is the difference between a revocable living trust and an irrevocable trust?, what is a revocable living trust used for?, and what is an irrevocable trust used for?  We will also discuss how irrevocable trusts are used to protect assets from creditors, to plan for long-term care, and to minimize estate tax.

Read More

What is Required for a Will to Be Valid in Illinois?

What is Required for a Will to Be Valid in Illinois?

In this article we will explain what is required for a will to be valid in Illinois and answer the following questions: “what is a handwritten will?”, “is a handwritten will legal in Illinois?”, and “can I make changes to my will without an attorney?”, “what is a holographic will?”, “is a will executed in a different state legal in Illinois?”, and “why should I use an attorney to prepare my will?”

Read More

In Terrorem Clauses in Illinois Wills Explained

In Terrorem Clauses in Illinois Wills Explained

In this article we’ll be discussing what in terrorem clauses are as they relate to an individual’s estate plan and when, if ever, they should be used.

In terrorem” comes from the Latin for “for fear” and an in terrorem clause is a provision in an individual’s will that threatens to disinherit a beneficiary (or otherwise reduce their share of an estate) who challenges the legality of a will or any sub-part thereof. 

Read More

Top 5 Reasons to Have an Estate Plan With Minor Children

Top 5 Reasons to Have an Estate Plan With Minor Children

In this article, we will discuss the top 5 reasons that you should have an estate plan when you have minor children in Illinois.

Naming a Guardian: The most important concern for most families with minor children is usually naming a legal guardian to be responsible for raising your children should both parents pass away or become mentally incompetent.  Most people will name successor guardians to act if the initial choice for guardian is unable or unwilling to act.  Guardians are named through a will.  Click here to learn more about naming guardians for minor children.

Read More

How to Choose a Trustee for Your Trust

How to Choose a Trustee for Your Trust

Choosing a trustee is, perhaps, the most difficult decision you must make when completing an estate plan. Do you choose a family member or friend to be trustee?  Why would you want a professional trustee?  What should I look for in a trustee? What are the advantages of choosing a professional trustee? 

Great Power

Your trustee will hold great power.  That power comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility.  Here is a short list of things a trustee is responsible for:  collecting all assets, managing taxes, investments and real estate, following ever-changing rules, regulations, and laws and is personally responsible for all trust assets, distributions, filings, and document compliance.  The trustee must also take care of beneficiary needs, answer beneficiary questions and account to all involved.  Leaving your care and your beneficiaries in the hands of someone not qualified to administer trusts can be detrimental.  Time, experience, resources and oversite favor choosing a professional trustee to serve you and yours:

Read More

How to Name an Executor, Trustee, or Power of Attorney

How to Name an Executor, Trustee, or Power of Attorney

This article is the second in a series of nine articles explaining the Eight Goals of a Good Estate Plan.

This article will explain how an estate plan can help you with the first goal of a good estate plan:Appointment of Fiduciaries and Distribution of Assets.

For the sake of readability, I have broken this article into two parts. Last week’s “part A” discussed distribution of assets. This “part B” will discuss appointment of Fiduciaries.

A “fiduciary relationship” is an ethical or legal relationship of trust between two parties. Fiduciaries are responsible for managing some aspect of another individual’s affairs, and are held to a high standard of responsibility and care in the management of those affairs.

Read More

Estate Planning Goals: Distribution Of Assets

Estate Planning Goals: Distribution Of Assets

This article is the second in a series of nine articles explaining the Eight Goals of a Good Estate Plan.  This article will explain how an estate plan can help you with the first goal of a good estate plan: Appointment of Fiduciaries and Distribution of Assets. For the sake of readability, I have broken this article into two parts.  This “part A” will discuss distribution of assets.  Next week’s “part B” will discuss appointment of fiduciaries.

A.  Distribution of Assets

In Illinois, if an individual dies without a will or a trust, state statute determines what will be done with her assets.  This is called dying intestate.  When an individual dies intestate, the assets will be distributed in equal shares to the first of the following groups that contains a living member:

  1. Spouse;
  2. Children – Note: If a child is deceased but has living children of her own, then the deceased child’s share passes to her children in equal shares;
  3. Descendants (e.g. Grandchildren, Great-grandchildren);
  4. Parents;
  5. Siblings;
  6. Nieces and Nephews.

Read More

Avoiding Probate With Revocable Living Trusts

Avoiding Probate With Revocable Living Trusts

This article is the third in a series of nine articles explaining the Eight Goals of a Good Estate Plan. In this article we will discuss using a trust to ensure that your estate avoids probate when you pass.

What Is Probate?

‍​A probate case consists of court oversight of the distribution of the assets of an estate to creditors and heirs. If probate is required for a particular estate, the executor of the estate cannot simply sell the real estate owned by the deceased individual or distribute the deceased individual’s bank accounts to the estate’s heirs.

Read More

Should My Trust Be The Beneficiary Of My Retirement Account?

Should My Trust Be The Beneficiary Of My Retirement Account?

Employing a trust is a wonderful technique to avoid probate, and control your estate beyond the grave.  One consideration, prior to drafting a trust, is whether or not to name the trust as a beneficiary for a retirement plan, such as a 401(k), 403(b), IRA, or Roth IRA, and if so, how to properly structure the trust.  Although retirement plans achieve the objective of avoiding probate through title if living beneficiaries are named, there are some benefits to naming a trust as a beneficiary.   See below for a few advantages and disadvantages of naming a trust as the beneficiary of a retirement plan.

Read More

Illinois Powers of Attorney Explained

Illinois Powers of Attorney Explained

This article is the fourth in a series of nine articles explaining the Eight Goals of a Good Estate Plan.  In this Article we will discuss using Powers of Attorney to avoid the necessity of lengthy and costly guardianship proceedings if you become mentally incompetent.

What is a guardianship proceeding?

If you become mentally incompetent, whether through injury, disease, or simply old age, your spouse or next of kin cannot simply take over the management of your financial affairs and major life decisions.  If your loved one would like to sell your house or access your accounts for your benefit, or check you into a long-term care facility, he or she will not be able to do so unless either:

Read More

Living Wills Explained

Living Wills Explained

What is a living will? In this article we will discuss using a Living Will to provide for end of life instruction.  This article is the fifth in a series of nine articles explaining the Eight Goals of a Good Estate Plan.  

In our previous article, we discussed using a Healthcare Power of Attorney to appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are mentally incompetent.  A Living Will is a tool used to make the decision, while you are still mentally competent, to terminate life-sustaining treatment in the event that you are in an irreversible vegetative state.  The Living Will takes this decision out of the hands of your healthcare agent.

Read More

Illinois Powers of Attorney Explained

Illinois Powers of Attorney Explained

This article is the fourth in a series of nine articles explaining the Eight Goals of a Good Estate Plan.  In this Article we will discuss using Powers of Attorney to avoid the necessity of lengthy and costly guardianship proceedings if you become mentally incompetent.

Read More

Should My Trust Be The Beneficiary Of My Life Insurance Policy?

Should My Trust Be The Beneficiary Of My Life Insurance Policy?

This week, I received the following question from a reader.​

Q:  Hi I read your blog about funding a revocable trust.  My husband and I are talking about getting them, but all we have of significant value (besides house, and a money market ($500,000), is life insurance on his life ($2M).  Your article says you should keep the beneficiary of a life insurance policy first to a wife then to a trust. Why?

‍A:  Whether to make your revocable living trust the beneficiary of your life insurance policy depends on your personal situation and what your goals are.  There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, so it is important to have your attorney educate you and assist you in making an informed decision. 

Read More

The 8 Goals of a Good Estate Plan

The 8 Goals of a Good Estate Plan

This article is the first in a series of nine articles explaining the Eight Goals of a Good Estate Plan.  The next eight articles in this series will each examine one of the Eight Goals of a Good Estate Plan in detail and explain the tools we use to accomplish that goal.

‍The purpose of this article is to provide you with a road map of the goals and the tools we use for each.

I have broken the Eight Goals into two groups.

The first group consists of four General Goals that apply to nearly every client. The second group consists of four Specialized Goals that may be appropriate depending on a client’s individual circumstances.The four General Goals and the tools that we use to accomplish them are:

1.  Appointment of fiduciaries and distribution of assets;

Tools: Revocable Living Trust, Will, Healthcare Power of Attorney & Financial Power of Attorney

2.  Probate avoidance upon death;

Tools: Revocable Living Trust

3.  Guardianship avoidance upon mental incompetency;

Tools: Healthcare Power of Attorney & Financial Power of Attorney

Read More

Illinois Revocable Living Trusts Explained

Illinois Revocable Living Trusts Explained

Why is a trust the most popular estate planning technique?

  • Your loved ones will save thousands of dollars in attorney fees becaus your estate will not go to probate court. 
  • Your spouse and children will have immediate access to your assets rather than having to wait a year or longer while your assets are tied up in probate. 
  • If you are incapacitated, your spouse or children will be able to immediately access your assets for your benefit without the need for a costly and lengthy guardianship proceeding.
  • You will retain complete control of your assets during your lifetime. 
Read More

Protecting Estate Assets From Creditors

Protecting Estate Assets From Creditors

This article is the eighth in a series of nine articles explaining the Eight Goals of a Good Estate Plan.  In this Article we will explain how to use Family Limited Partnerships and Irrevocable Trusts to protect assets from creditors in Illinois.

Tenancy By the Entirety

‍In Illinois, a married couple can own their primary residence in a manner called“Tenancy by the Entirety.”  Creditors of only one spouse cannot place a lien on property held in Tenancy by the Entirety.  This method of ownership is reflected on the deed to the property.  It is restricted to married couples’ primary residences.  Ensuring that your residence is held as tenants by the entirety, rather than joint tenancy or tenancy in common is a good first step in protecting your assets from creditors.

Read More

Pets Trusts in Illinois

Pets Trusts in Illinois

When my wife and I are out of town, we call my friend, Kristin Skelton, owner of Floofins & Co., which provides pet sitting and dog walking services, to make sure that our black lab, Leah, is taken care of while we are gone.  Kristin recently told me that many of her clients had asked her about pet trusts, which are trust funds you can establish to ensure that your pets are taken care of after you pass away.  Being a dog lover myself, I was thrilled to write an article on the subject at Kristin’s suggestion.

Pet trust law, including the validity of such trusts, varies from state to state.  Fortunately, Illinois recently enacted a statute that explicitly provides for the creation of pet trusts.

‍When you create a pet trust, your attorney will draft a trust document naming your pet as the beneficiary of the trust after you pass away and also naming a trustee, who will be responsible at that time for managing the assets of the trust for the benefit of your pet.  You and your attorney can then transfer assets into the trust.

Such assets will remain in your control during your lifetime, but will not be included in your estate at your death.  Instead such assets will be legally held by the trust until they are distributed for the care of your pet according to the terms of the trust.

For more information on trusts in general, please visit our estate planning page, where you can watch a short video of our recent estate planning seminar.

If you are considering a pet trust, you should keep the following information in mind:

  • Trustee:  It is advisable for the trustee to be someone other than the caretaker of the pet.  You should also name at least one successor trustee in case the original trustee should be unwilling or unable to perform his or her duties.  The Illinois statute provides that no portion of the trust assets can be used for the trustee’s own purposes, unless specifically provided for in the trust document.  Your trust document  can provide for compensation to your pet’s caretaker or to the trustee, should you so choose.
  • Beneficiary:  You may identify each beneficiary pet by simply stating your pet’s name.  However, you can also reference your pet’s microchip, if you have had one inserted.  In addition, you may include any descendants of your pet as beneficiaries.
Read More

How to Transfer Assets to Your Illinois Trust

How to Transfer Assets to Your Illinois Trust

In our previous article, Crash Course in Wills and Trusts: Part I, we discussed the importance of a good estate plan and introduced you to the basic elements of such a plan.  In Trusts and Wills: Which is Right for You?, we generally recommended a revocable living trust over a will as the primary vehicle for your estate plan.  This week, we will explain the trust funding process.  Hopefully, we will be able to help you determine which parts of the process you can accomplish without an attorney, with the aim of reducing your legal fees.​

As we explained in the above articles, trusts are legal instruments that direct how certain property will be distributed and maintained.  However, your property must generally be transferred to a trust before it will be subject to the trust’s provisions.  In this respect, trusts differ from wills, which must merely describe the property in question and indicate how you wish the property to be distributed.Before we dive into how to fund your trust, a few notes:

Read More

Should I have Trust Instead of a Will?

Should I have Trust Instead of a Will?

Consequences of Intestacy (No Estate Plan):

  • Probate: Probate case must be opened

After opening the probate case with the court, the personal representative takes the following steps:

  • inventory and collect the decedent’s property
  • pay any debts and taxes
  • distribute the remaining property to the beneficiaries

  • Estate is diminished by attorney fees
  • Heirs do not have immediate access to assets
  • Bond: Executor must pay surety bond to probate court
  • Distribution: Assets are distributed according to state intestacy laws

  • Advantages of a Will over Intestacy
  • Waiver of Bond: Although estate will still go through probate, the executor’s surety bond can be waived
  • Distribution: Assets are distributed according to decedent’s wishes
  • Guardianship: Ability to name a guardian for minor children
Read More

The Elements of a Typical Estate Plan

The Elements of a Typical Estate Plan

This week we will explain the elements of a typical estate plan for a married couple with assets below $2 million dollars.  Such an estate plan will contain the following documents:

  • Joint Revocable Trust:  Primary estate plan document, which sets forth inheritance wishes, provides for disability, and establishes successor trusts for children.
  • Pour Over Will:  Safety net document, which provides that any assets not transferred to trust during lifetime will be dealt with according to the terms of the trust; also provides for guardianship of minor children.
  • Financial Power of Attorney:  Allows your spouse (and successor agents) to execute financial transactions on your behalf.  
  • Health Care Power of Attorney: Designates an individual to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event of incapacity.
  • Living Will:  States your wishes in the event that you are incapacitated and death is imminent except for delaying procedures.
Read More

Family Limited Partnerships and Irrevocable Trusts

Family Limited Partnerships and Irrevocable Trusts

In our past articles on estate planning, we have primarily discussed the Revocable Trust, which allows your estate to avoid probate but does not protect your estate from creditors.  If you are interested in using estate planning in order to shield certain assets from your creditors, two other vehicles may be useful: (1) the Family Limited Partnership; and (2) the Irrevocable Trust.

In our hour of need, let’s call on the Avengers to help make estate planning interesting, which is on par with saving New York from Loki in terms of difficulty.  In order to develop the super-soldier serum that would eventually imbue Captain America with his powers, Howard Stark borrowed several million dollars.  Although Howard has every intention and expectation of repaying the loan, he would like to make sure that his prized asset, Stark Tower, as well as his savings account, are protected from collection by his creditors in the event of a default.  His primary concern is ensuring that these assets are included in Tony’s inheritance.

Read More

What is Estate Planning?

What is Estate Planning?

A lot of my friends either are starting to have children, or are thinking about having children. As you might expect, this means that I am fielding a lot of questions about wills and trusts. These conversations inevitably start with wills, because this is the estate planning instrument that most people are familiar with (e.g. “if you don’t attend University of Iowa, I am removing you from my will”). However, wills are just one component of a healthy estate plan–and not even the most important component.

Read More