Estate Planning For Everyone Part 1

From the Desk of Lauran Corcoran

Estate Planning for Everyone

Most people believe that estate planning is primarily for the wealthy, who need to plan for estate taxes. This common misconception ultimately leads to many people not having any kind of estate plan in place. A comprehensive estate plan not only directs the distribution of your assets after your death, but it also provides documents for issues that arise during your life , such as your desires for end of life treatment.

At minimum, an estate plan should consist of a Last Will and Testament, as well as lifetime disability documents. This post will discuss the Last Will and Testament. Check out next week’s post, Estate Planning for Everyone Part II, as the addition of a trust to the minimum estate plan will be discussed.

Last Will and Testament
In a will, you direct the distribution of your real and personal property. The purpose of the will is to direct the court in how to distribute your estate. A will is entirely revocable and is as private as you want it to be. Your will is not filed with the court until after your death.

If you die without a valid will, your estate passes by “intestate succession,” which means that your estate will be distributed under the rules of descent and distribution set out in the Illinois Probate Act.

At your death, if you have: | Your estate will be distributed as follows:
Children and a Spouse | 50% to your Spouse; 50% to your children
Spouse only | 100% to your Spouse
Children only | 100% to your Children in equal shares
Descendants of Children, no Spouse | 100% to your Children’s descendants in equal shares
Parents only | 100% to your Parents in equal shares
(no children or descendants of children and no spouse)
Siblings only | 100% to your Siblings in equal shares
(no parents, no Spouse, no Children or descendants of Children)
Siblings and Parents only |100% to your Siblings and Parents in equal shares (if only one Parent is living, that parent gets 2 shares)
(no Spouse, no Children or descendants of Children)

It is imperative to understand how your estate will be distributed if you do not have a valid will. Very often, you will have certain persons in mind whom you wish to receive your assets, and these persons are not be the same persons who would take if you die intestate. If you should have children and no will to speak of, legally, you have not designated any guardian for your children. Therefore, the probate court will appoint a guardian for you, leaving your personal wishes and concerns behind.

Please stay tuned for future posts, as other common advantages will be discussed in greater detail.

See: Estate Planning for Everyone Part II