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What Information Do You Need When Making an Estate Plan?It is difficult to say when the right time is for you to create an estate plan because you cannot predict when you will need it. However, you should consider having a will or trust in place if you have valuable assets or people who are financially dependent upon you. An up-to-date estate plan could save your family time and cost on the probate process in the event of your death. If you have not created an estate plan before, you may not know everything you need to make a trust or will. Here is a helpful list of what you should bring to your meeting with your estate planning lawyer:

  1. Records of Your Major Assets: Your attorney needs a list of the assets you wish to distribute to your beneficiaries in your estate plan. Properties such as your home, other real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, and investments are typically the most important items in your plan. You should bring any deeds, contracts, or receipts that relate to those properties. You may also have luxury items or family heirlooms that you want to distribute. You can include any possession you own, though it is probably unnecessary to list every appliance or trinket.
  2. Records of Your Debts: Your estate plan must account for your debts, as well as your assets. You need to provide documentation of debts, including mortgages, loans, and lines of credit. The assets from your estate will be used to pay off your debts before they are distributed to your beneficiaries.
  3. List of Beneficiaries: You need to know who will be your beneficiaries receiving your assets. Spouses and children are usually the primary beneficiaries of estate plans. With children, you must consider at what age they would receive the assets and who would be their financial custodian until then. You also have the option of giving assets to other family members, close acquaintances, or organizations.
  4. Names of Your Trustee or Guardian: If you are creating a trust, you will need to name a trustee to manage your estate. You want someone who is level-headed and will be fair in managing your estate, whether that is a family member, friend, or professional. If you have children, you need to name someone as their guardian in the event that both of their parents are dead or incapacitated. Whoever you choose as a trustee or guardian, you need to discuss it with them before you make it official.

Contact a McHenry County Estate Planning Attorney

The estate plan you create must be clear in how you are distributing your assets and who you are leaving responsible for making decisions. With an ambiguous plan, your family will be forced to guess at your intentions for your estate. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, estate planning attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, will work with you on creating a plan that protects your dependents in the event of your death. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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Posted on in Divorce

Updating Your Estate Plan After DivorceA divorce changes not only your life but plans you made in the event of your death. You likely named your former spouse as the primary beneficiary or caretaker in your estate planning documents. Once your divorce is final, Illinois law should assume that you no longer intend for your former spouse to receive most of your assets in a will or trust or be responsible for making decisions for you if you are incapacitated. However, you need to update these documents to make your intentions clear to your family:

  1. Wills: In a will, you name the beneficiaries who will receive your assets upon your death. After your divorce, the will treats any inclusion of your former spouse as though he or she has already died. However, your divorce can make your will essentially useless if your former spouse is the only beneficiary named. You should update your will to name new beneficiaries, such as your children, other relatives, or a charitable organization.
  2. Trusts: A trust differs from a will because you place assets in a trust while you are alive. The trustee will distribute those assets to your designated beneficiaries. One of the main benefits of a trust is that it allows your beneficiaries to receive those properties without having to go through probate. Assuming that you have a revocable trust, you can change who will receive the assets that would have gone to your former spouse or remove the assets from the trust.
  3. Power of Attorney: If you become incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions, a power of attorney allows someone else to make decisions on your behalf. A power of attorney for financial lets that person make monetary decisions, while a power of attorney for health care lets that person make decisions regarding your medical treatment. Though your former spouse will no longer have these powers, you need to update these documents to state who you want making these decisions for you.
  4. Child Guardianship: The normal presumption is that one parent will assume complete parental responsibilities for the children if the other parent dies. However, your former spouse may have limited or no parental rights if he or she is a danger to your children. In such a case, you need to name another adult who would be the legal guardian of your children upon your death.

Contact a McHenry County Divorce Attorney

Updating your estate planning documents can be a complicated process. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, divorce attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can help you examine your documents and decide which changes you want to make. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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Divorce Does Not Change Life Insurance BeneficiariesIllinois law is inconsistent when it comes to divorce and your beneficiaries upon your death. Once your divorce is final, your former spouse will automatically lose his or her status as your primary beneficiary in your will or trust, as well as any control over your estate. If you fail to update your estate plan before your death, a probate court will likely assume that you did not intend for your former spouse to remain your primary beneficiary. However, Illinois has no law that automatically removes your former spouse as the primary beneficiary in your life insurance policy. You must decide and act on any changes to your life insurance beneficiaries.

Choosing a Beneficiary

Unlike with an estate plan, Illinois courts have ruled that failing to update a life insurance policy after a divorce shows that the policyholder intended for his or her former spouse to remain the primary beneficiary. Some people choose to keep their life insurance beneficiaries the same because:

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