You have worked hard at building a life – we make sure the people and things most important to you are protected in case of your disability or death. We also provide administration services when a loved one dies to ensure the estate is wound up pursuant to the decedent’s estate plan or, if no plan existed, pursuant to the default laws that exist in Illinois.
A will allows an individual to distribute property after they die to those individuals or charities designated. It is the most basic form of asset distribution. It is less flexible than a trust and does not avoid the probate process, which can be costly to a decedent’s estate. Another key component of a will is that it can also be used to name a guardian for minor children. While a trust is usually superior to a will due to the benefits it provides that a will does not, we provide our clients with information on both type of plan so they can make an informed decision about which plan works best for them.
A pour-over will is a special type of will that is used in conjunction with a living trust. A pourover will instructs a decedent’s executor to “pour” all the decedent’s probate assets (those that haven’t been funded into the trust during the settlor’s life) into his or her trust at death. While the assets subject to the pour-over will still need to be probated, this type of will ensures that all assets of the decedent get transferred to his or her trust at death so they can be distributed pursuant to the trust instructions.
A trust is a legal agreement in which the settlor (owner of the trust) provides instructions for the use of the assets owned by the trust and who may manage those assets. A trust has many advantages over a Will. A living trust is an asset distribution vehicle that has many additional advantages over a will. A living trust allows the grantor’s assets to pass to beneficiaries without the need for probate. This means almost immediate distribution, as opposed to waiting months or even years for the probate process to conclude. Another benefit is privacy. While a will is filed with the probate court, a trust remains private. Additionally, and most important to parents of minor children, distribution under a trust can be delayed, such as to allow minor children or spendthrift adult children to reach a certain age or milestone, i.e. college graduation or marriage. Another distinct advantage of using a trust over a will is the ability for disability planning that is unavailable with a will (because a will only becomes effective upon death). A trust can provide for a successor trustee to take over in the event the grantor becomes unable to manage his or her affairs due to illness or incompetency, allowing a seamless transition without the need for court intervention. Lastly, trusts can provide many opportunities for tax savings and asset protection for the grantor and his or her beneficiaries. Trusts come in many different varieties and flavors. Just as individuals are unique, so are their asset distribution and protection goals. We work with each client to design the trust that works best for them.
POWERS OF ATTORNEY
A power of attorney allows the principal to appoint an agent for healthcare and financial decision-making. The power of attorney assures the principal that in the event he or she becomes disabled, even for a short period, everything will still be taken care of by an attorney-in-fact, i.e. an agent of his or her choosing. The Illinois Power of Attorney Act contains a statutory power of attorney form that can be used in some circumstances. However, it is not appropriate for everyone and an attorney should be consulted to determine whether a non-statutory form is a better option.
SUCCESSION PLANNING FOR SOLE PRACTITIONERS
Sole practitioners face unique challenges when it comes to business succession planning. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 1.3, Comment 5 states in part that, “To prevent neglect of client matters in the event of a sole practitioner’s death or disability, the duty of diligence may require that each sole practitioner prepare a plan, in conformity with applicable rules, that designates another competent lawyer to review client files, notify each client of the lawyer’s death or disability, and determine whether there is a need for immediate protective action…” As a sole practitioner herself, Jennifer has invaluable insight into what a solo attorney must put into place to ensure that client’s matters aren’t neglected in the event of the attorney’s disability and/or death. She ensures that an attorney’s succession plan allows another attorney to take over and/or sell the practice with as little court involvement and delay as possible.
Whether a decedent dies with a trust, a will or nothing at all, our firm can assist the family with the process of administering the decedent’s estate and/or trust pursuant to the estate plan and Illinois’ laws of administration. We help our clients and their families navigate the estate administration process in a timely manner, while thoroughly explaining their options to ensure their loved one’s assets are properly distributed. We can also assist with the following probate and administration-related matters: