Like many people, you may have put off creating your comprehensive estate plan for a number of reasons. One of those reasons may be the simple fact that you are not sure where to begin. After all, until may have had no reason to learn anything about wills, trusts and estates. The best way to find out more about estate planning is to consult with an Illinois experienced estate planning attorney. In the meantime, however, take some time to read through the following “10 Things You Need to Know about Wills and Trusts” to learn some basics about Wills and trusts and how they fit into your estate plan.
1. Everyone needs a Last Will and Testament. You do not need to make a specific amount of money, have a large estate, be married, or have reached a certain age in order to need a Will. Everyone over the age of 18 needs to have a Will.
2. Dying without a Will, or dying “intestate,” is the same as allowing the State of Illinois to decide what happens to your estate assets. If you execute a Last Will and Testament the terms of the Will decide what happens to your estate. If you die intestate, or without at least a basic Will in place, the intestate succession laws of the State of Illinois decide who will inherit from your estate and in what proportion they inherit. Friends, charities, and more distant relatives will receive nothing.
3. Your Will is public. One of the first things that should happen after your death is that the person you appointed as Executor of your estate should submit your Will for probate in the appropriate court. Once your Will has been submitted too probate it becomes part of the public record and may be viewed by anyone.
4. A trust is not public. A trust, on the other hand, is not public because trusts are not part of the probate process. That also means that trust assets are not part of the probate process.
5. Your Will does more than just decide who gets what. Along with deciding who will receive your estate assets when you are gone, a Last Will and Testament also allows you to appoint someone as the Executor of your estate and nominate a Guardian for your minor children. In fact, your Will is the only opportunity you will have during your lifetime to tell a judge who you would want to be their Guardian.
6. Trusts are not only for the wealthy. Once upon a time trusts were almost the exclusive domain of wealthy families who used them to pass down, yet keep control of, the family fortune without incurring taxes.
7. You can even create a trust for Fido or Fluffy. If your family pet is just that – part of the family, don’t you want to ensure that he/she is well cared for after you are gone? If so, a pet trust might be a perfect addition to your estate plan.
8. You may be able to be the Trustee of your trust. If you want the benefits of a trust without losing control of your assets, you may be able to create a revocable trust in which you are the Trustee.
9. You might be able to be the beneficiary of your trust. You may also be able to benefit from your own trust by naming yourself as a beneficiary of the trust.
10. You create your own trust terms. Some trusts are specially designed to accomplish specific goals, such as Medicaid planning or Special Needs planning. As such, they are required to contain specific language designed to accomplish their specific goals. A basic trust, however, is very flexible. As the Settlor, or creator, of the trust you are able to create your own trust terms to suit your needs.
If you have questions or concerns relating to Wills, trusts, or estate planning in general contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.