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Mokena Estate Planning And Probate Blog

What can I do if the executor is stealing from Mom's estate?

If you have reason to believe that the executor, or anyone else for that matter, is stealing from your mother's Illinois estate, there is recourse under the state's probate law.

Care-taker in life may have much control of finances

Should I make a will or a trust?

There are a lot of reasons to not leave your estate at the mercy of a will. One of the main reasons is that a will must generally undergo probate. Why avoid probate?

While not everything about probate is necessarily negative, there are some significant drawbacks to probate to consider. They include the following:

  • Probate is time-consuming
  • Probate is expensive and the courts charge for it
  • Probate can be exhausting and stressful to decedent’s survivors

Why estate planning is not only for the wealthy

When people talk about estate planning, it can sometimes conjure up images and ideas of sprawling mansions, yachts, overflowing wealth and extensive assets. The truth of the matter, however, is that estate planning simply refers to planning how to distribute your assets after your death.

Estate planning is not only for the wealthy; it is a smart procedure for every individual to explore. If you are considering how you wish to distribute your assets such as property, businesses and other assets after your death, estate planning is an essential step.

Certifying a trust

Assuming the role of trustee at the request of a family member, friend or associate in Mokena is an awesome responsibility. By doing so, you become inextricably linked to all interested parties to the trust through the duration of time that it remains in effect. Many of those that we here at Zapolis & Associates, P.C. have worked with in the past can attest to the fact that such parties will certainly have plenty of questions for you. The first one is likely to be how you can verify that the settlor did indeed create the trust in the first place. 

The easy answer would be to present the actual trust instrument. Typically, trust beneficiaries are entitled to see it. Yet there may be instances where the settlor is uncomfortable disclosing the full amount of his or her wealth to others. Thus, he or she may prohibit you from doing that. Fortunately, the law offers other methods through which you can certify a trust. According to Section 8.5 of the Illinois Trusts and Trustees Act, you need only provide parties other than beneficiaries with the following information: 

  • A statement verifying the existence of the trust and the date it was executed
  • The identity of the trust settlor
  • Your identity and address (along with those of any co-trustees)
  • The powers the trust has afforded to you
  • The trust's taxpayer identification number

Should I make my property jointly-held?

Sometimes titling an asset in Illinois as jointly-held with another person is a great tool. Perhaps you are considering using the tool of “jointly-held” to avoid having to have a will or trust prepared.

After all, doing so has the nickname of a poor man’s will and can ostensibly save money up front. Whether that is a good choice for you with regard to any of your assets will depend on facts specific to you. There are some definite risks to consider, however.

Determining a trustee's delegation rights

Previous posts on this blog have detailed the duty that trustees in Mokena have to follow prudent investment strategies when managing trust assets. However, understanding exactly what such strategies may be can be difficult for some asked to assume the role of trustee (particularly if they are chosen from among a settlor's family or friends). They may not be familiar with managing an investment portfolio, and thus want to hand that portion of their duties off to more qualified parties. The question then becomes to what extent does the law allow them to do that? 

According to Illinois' Trust and Trustees Act (the same legislation which defines the state's Prudent Investor Rule), a trustee has a duty not to delegate any responsibilities related to the trust that are exercised through judgment and discretion. The only exception to this is if another with comparable skills and experience related to investments would do the same. Thus, if another would feel equally as inadequate at managing a trust's investment strategy, then the trustee may delegate that duty to a person or party better suited to handle it. 

Powers of attorney in Illinois

Many people may associate incapacitation with dementia and other mental health issues more likely to affect the elderly. However, a stroke often renders people unable to conduct their own affairs. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, it is the number one reason Americans suffer serious, long-term disabilities.

The good news is that you can protect yourself from the effects of stroke. A health care provider can give you advice on ways to stay healthy; an estate planning attorney can help you prepare for the worst by designating powers of attorney through the guidelines of the Illinois Power of Attorney Act.

Misconceptions about property ownership and estate planning

You may have heard that there are a variety of ways to leave your estate to your heirs so that you protect your assets from taxes and probate. Many of these hinge on whose name is on the title or account. Choosing the right type of ownership for your circumstances is essential, but keep in mind that what is "common knowledge" may be a misconception.

This estate planning video explains the four types of ownership in Illinois. Here are some factors to consider about each one before you create an estate plan.

What is a will contest?

If you are an Illinois resident who has been disinherited by a family member or otherwise are dissatisfied with the provision of someone’s will, you can challenge the authenticity of the will in court. This is called a will contest. As FindLaw explains, however, contesting a will is rarely successful. Up to 99 percent of American wills go through probate with no problems and no challenges.

Nevertheless, if you are the surviving spouse of the testator (i.e., the person who made the will), you have a better chance of successfully contesting the provisions of your spouse’s will with which you take issue. Likewise, if you are a close relative of the testator, such as a biological or adopted child, a parent, or a sibling, your chances of mounting a successful will challenge are increased.

Can I become guardian of my sister?

If your sister needs a guardian in Illinois to help her get through her day-to-day living, it may be possible for you to take on that role. There are many kinds of guardianships, so to have best chances of securing the appointed you will want to tailor your request accordingly.

The Illinois Probate Act provides for the several types of guardianship.

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Zapolis & Associates, P.C.
9991 191st Street
Mokena, IL 60448

Phone: 708-390-8936
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