ESTATE PLANNING FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I need a Will?
Definitely! Without a Will the state will decide how your assets would be distributed in the event of death. Also, without a Will you are forfeiting the right to nominate the Executor and more importantly, the Guardian of your minor children, if applicable. There are many other reasons why an effective estate plan is necessary for everyone and we are prepared to discuss these reasons with you at no charge.
What is an “Estate Plan”?
We believe that a person needs a comprehensive “Estate Plan”. In addition to a Will, we believe that each person should have a Durable Power of Attorney for Property and for Healthcare. In addition, all beneficiary designations should be carefully examined. Beneficiary designations are allowed for assets such as life insurance, annuities and retirement plans. Beneficiary designations supersede what you might say in your Will. Other documents to be considered when creating an estate plan would be a Living Trust and perhaps documents such as Irrevocable Insurance Trusts or Charitable Remainder Trusts.
What is a “Living Trust”?
Our clients often confuse the term “Living Trust” with “Living Will”. A Living Will is the document that was used before the advent of the Healthcare Power of Attorney. It is simply an advance directive that one does not wish to have artificial life support, should the circumstances arise. A Living Trust is like a simple corporation or separate entity. The two main purposes of the Living Trust are to guarantee privacy for the family, since the trust does not need to be filed with the Clerk of the Court (as does a Will) and probate avoidance. Probate is court supervision of a deceased person’s estate. It can be time consuming and expensive. The two main reasons that some individuals do not adopt Living Trusts include cost and paperwork. At Kuhn, Heap & Monson the additional cost is modest and we assist our clients with the “paperwork chores” at no additional cost. “Paperwork chores” means that in order for the Living Trust to work effectively and to avoid probate, the Living Trust should own or be the beneficiary of the client’s assets. Again, we assist the clients in this task so that it is not burdensome. Since the Trust can be terminated or amended at any time prior to death, there is no worry about adopting Living Trusts.
Mom’s mind is “slipping”. What should I do?
We are often confronted with this scenario. We suggest that mom immediately adopt Durable Powers of Attorney for both Healthcare and Property nominating her loved one to make healthcare decisions and decisions relating to her assets when her doctors feel that she is no longer capable of making these decisions. It is also the perfect time to do a review of mom’s estate plan to make sure that her intentions are captured and to avoid taxes wherever possible.
Should I be concerned about death taxes?
Absolutely! At a tax rate of just under fifty cents on each dollar this is a vital concern to every family. We are skilled at establishing plans designed to save death taxes.
What is “asset protection”?
We frequently counsel our clients about this issue. For example, a physician who may be a target for a future malpractice lawsuit that could potentially bankrupt the family has the concern for the need to protect his or her assets. The same holds true for the family-owned business which manufacturers household products or has drivers out on the highways. We counsel families as how to protect their family savings and homes from lawsuits.
I like what I am reading, but how can we get started?
Contact our law firm to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. Kuhn, Heap & Monson has served individuals and businesses throughout Chicagoland since 1978. We focus on creating tailor-made legal solutions with personal service to each and every client we serve.