Tag: assets

How to Get Started Making an Estate Plan

Getting Started

If you would like to get started making an estate plan, you may not know which steps to take first. You will be on good footing if you assess which assets you own, think about your goals, and find a capable lawyer to help.

  1. Assess Which Assets You Own

Before you go see a lawyer to prepare your estate planning documents, it is a good idea to figure out exactly what you own. For example, you may have:

  • Real estate
  • Investments such as stocks, mutual funds, bonds, or ETFs
  • Retirement accounts like IRAs, 401(k)s, or pensions
  • Valuable items such as jewelry or cars
  • Cash

Make a list of your accounts and your assets to bring with you when you meet with lawyers. This will help the lawyer assess your situation and prepare appropriate estate planning documents. Make sure to mention if you own any property in another country or state, and mention if you jointly own any of your assets.

  1. What Are Your Estate Planning Goals?

In addition to listing out your assets, think about your goals. Why do you want to make an estate plan? Are there particular relatives or friends to whom you want to leave inheritances? Are you concerned about future medical problems? Do you want to protect your children? Identifying some basic goals in making an estate plan can help your lawyer address them in the legal documents. Your lawyer may have suggestions about different ways to accomplish the goals.

  1. Finding an Estate Planning Lawyer

Now that you have a better idea of your assets and your goals, it is time to find an estate planning lawyer. Having a lawyer gives you peace of mind that your plan meets legal formalities and can be enforced after you pass away. Moreover, a lawyer can advise you on the best ways to accomplish your goals considering the assets you own. Your lawyer should spend time with you discussing your goals and why you need particular estate planning documents. Look for an estate planning lawyer in your local area that you can trust.

Want to start planning your estate? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.

Do You Need an Estate Planning Lawyer to Form a Trust?

If you want to form a trust, you may wonder if you actually need an estate planning lawyer. Maybe you have seen trust forms that you can print from the Internet, or you have a family member who prepared her own trust at home. But the truth is that using an estate planning lawyer is the safest and most reliable way to make a legally enforceable trust that accomplishes your goals.

Even a Single Misworded or Missing Sentence in a Trust Document Can Cause Major Problems

Trusts are structures that allow trustees to legally own and manage assets contributed by trust creators for the ultimate benefit of chosen beneficiaries. Trust creators give up all legal rights to the assets when they contribute them to the trust (unless the trust creators are also trustees or beneficiaries, which sometimes happens).

Because a trust document concerns legal ownership of assets, making one misstep in the wording of the document could have very serious consequences. For example, the wording could allow creditors of the trust creator or beneficiary to access the trust assets in satisfaction of debts, decimating the trust’s value. Or a mistakenly worded trust could cost the trust creator’s estate thousands of dollars in estate taxes. Fortunately, using a lawyer can help you avoid these pitfalls.

How Can a Lawyer Help with Your Trust?

Using a lawyer rather than trying to form a trust on your own has many advantages. For instance, a lawyer can:

  • Discuss with you the best type of trust to use (there are many)
  • Draft the trust language in accordance with current laws and court decisions
  • Explain the language to you in detail
  • Make changes to best accomplish your goals
  • Make sure the final document is properly executed
  • Help you choose an appropriate trustee
  • Answer questions about trust funding, management, and distributions as time goes on

One aspect of forming trusts that many people need advice about is funding a trust. You might need advice about which assets to contribute to the trust, how to change these assets’ ownership, and what the consequences of contributing them will be for your estate. An estate planning lawyer is the best person to answer these questions for you.

Want to start planning your estate by forming a trust? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.

What Information Should You Include in an Illinois Will?

When you decide to make a will, you may have questions about which information to include in it. First, you will probably want a lawyer’s help for many reasons. Second, you should be very clear about who receives which gifts. Third, you can include some additional information in your will for your executor and heirs.

  1. Why Do You Need a Lawyer’s Help with Your Will?

Most people are not familiar with preparing wills and do not know the legal rules surrounding them. It is unfortunately very common for someone to write out or type up a will and later have it invalidated by the courts. When this happens, assets may pass on in a way the deceased person never intended.

A competent estate planning lawyer can help you avoid these problems. One of the many issues that a lawyer can address is which property you may give away in your will. Any assets held by joint tenancy, that are payable to someone besides yourself or your estate, or held in trust are not part of your estate. Those assets will pass to the other joint tenant, the person to which they are payable, or the trust beneficiary. Your lawyer can identify these assets, as well as the assets that you can dispose of in your will.

  1. Clarity as to All Gifts You Make

Even when working with a lawyer, it is extremely important to be clear about all gifts that you make in your will. For example, you need to identify the full name of any heirs so that there is no confusion about who you mean. “All my money to Jan” in a will could easily become a problem if you have a mother named Janet, an aunt named Janelle, and a child named Janey.

In addition, you must clearly identify the specific gifts you are making. Rather than leaving the “green car” to Janet, have your lawyer list out the license plate number or VIN number. Explain how much money you want each person to have and the sources of the money, if it matters. For example, you could direct your executor to sell your house and distribute the sale money 50/50 to your sons.

  1. Additional Information in Your Will

Some people choose to include additional information in their wills, such as a guardian designation for children or funeral directions. The guardian designation indicates who the deceased person wants to take care of surviving children, although the court gets the final say about who will be appointed guardian. Funeral directions can help the executor and family understand the deceased person’s final wishes, if he or she did not specify them in an advance directive.

Finally, be sure to sign your will properly and have it witnessed in accordance with Illinois law. Your lawyer can help with this step.

Want to start planning your estate? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.

High Net Worth? Why You Need an Estate Plan Now

If you have a high net worth, you probably need to make an estate plan as soon as possible. You should have an estate plan to protect yourself, gain peace of mind, and effectively pass on assets to your heirs.

Protect Yourself with an Estate Plan

When you have a high net worth, you may have relatives or friends who want your money. It’s hard to think about the possibility that someone could try to take your assets away from you, but you need to protect yourself. An estate plan can not only help you distribute all of your assets, but also help you gain better control of them.

For example, you can make a plan that gives to charity over time or after your death, with the benefits of gaining tax advantages and reducing your probate estate. Further, you could create a trust that leaves interest and dividends to your relatives but limits their ability to access the principal.

Gain Peace of Mind with an Estate Plan

Without an estate plan, your assets would pass to close relatives through a process called intestate succession. You do not get to choose who inherits, and you do not get to choose how much each person inherits. Your substantial estate will have to go through the probate court process for distribution, which can take months or years and cost a lot of money.

Having an estate plan in place allows you to focus on the rest of your life. You have assurances that your assets will be distributed as you wish. Also, you can appoint a trusted agent to make medical and/or financial decisions for you if you cannot.

Pass on Assets to Your Heirs with an Estate Plan

Finally, you can pass on your high net worth to your chosen heirs with an estate plan. If you have children or a spouse, you can protect them and provide for their future needs through structures such as trusts or college savings plans. You can give money to other relatives or friends too. All of these gifts can take place during your lifetime or after you pass away. In short, an estate plan gives your high net worth purpose in the future after you pass away.

Want to start planning your estate? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.

You Already Have a Will. Do You Need More Estate Planning?

If you already have a will, you may think that you do not need more estate planning. Often, this is not the case. Additional estate planning can help you reach different goals and gain more peace of mind.

Doesn’t Your Will Dispose of Your Whole Estate?

A will explains how your executor should distribute any assets named in the will to your chosen heirs. Most wills have clauses at the end saying that any other assets in the estate go to a specific person. However, estate planning does not just concern distributing assets. Other issues that people tackle with estate plans include:

  • Controlling distribution of wealth to relatives even after death
  • Minimizing tax liability and probate fees
  • Giving to charity
  • Appointing someone to make medical or financial decisions if they cannot
  • Expressing wishes for end-of-life care
  • Protecting children and spouse for years to come

A will cannot necessarily accomplish all of these goals. If you feel that they are important to you, then you probably need additional estate planning.

Which Other Estate Planning Options Could You Use?

In Illinois, residents have many estate planning options available to them besides just a will. For example, you could consider:

  • Creating a family trust
  • Starting a charitable trust
  • Taking out life insurance
  • Changing beneficiary designations on retirement accounts
  • Signing a medical power of attorney
  • Signing a financial power of attorney
  • Making a guardian designation
  • Doing gift and estate tax planning

All of these options have different benefits that can help you reach your goals. For example, if you want to protect your children and spouse after you pass away, you might consider making a guardian designation, taking out life insurance, and creating a trust in your children’s benefit. All those structures can be set up in addition to a will that leaves assets to your spouse and children. If you are interested in expanding your estate plan beyond a will, talk to your estate planning lawyer about your options.

Want to start planning your estate? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.