Estate planning for the family involves making an inventory of what assets you have, who is going to eventually receive those assets, and how receiving those asset will affect that family member and the family. With the increase in the federal estate tax exemption amount and, portability, our Chicago estate planning attorneys are able to place more estate planning emphasis on our clients’ desires and wishes in leaving their family a secure legacy than ever before.  Many new clients engaging our Chicago law firm to address estate planning for the family will assume that they only need a simple will to properly plan for their families estate planning needs.  However, even though there has been a significant increase in the federal estate tax exemption amount, traditional family estate planning techniques employed to address estate tax issues, such as the use of different types of trusts, also helped resolve other estate planning issues – i.e., control and management of assets after the first spouse’s death and creditor protections.  Thus, properly informed, the majority of our new estate planning clients who are planning for their family will want the benefits of something more than just a simple will.

Why Do Estate Planning for the Family

Estate planning is not mandated by statute.  In other words, you don’t need to have an estate plan in place to provide for your family when you pass away.  However, should something happen to you, if you have not engaged in the proper planning for your estate, the following is what may happen.

If You Pass Away Without A Last Will & Testament

If you pass away with no will, you are giving up your right to determine you receives your assets or who manages those assets before they are received by the statutory beneficiary.  Passing away with no last will and testament is referred to dying “intestate” and Illinois has laws that govern who is to receive your estate.

  • If a husband dies with no will and is survived by a wife and children, the wife receives half and the children receive the other half;
  • If a married person dies with no will leaving no children, his or her entire estate passes to his or her spouse;
  • If a person dies with no will survived by children and no spouse, the children will receive the estate in equal shares;
  • If a single person dies with no children and no will, his or her estate will passes to his or her parent(s) and if none then to their brothers and sisters in equal shares.

Keep in mind that not all assets pass under the Illinois intestate rules.  Many assets pass to joint owners (i.e., a joint checking account) or beneficiaries (i.e., insurance or an IRA) and do not pass according to the Illinois intestate rules.

If You Pass Away Without A Revocable Trust Agreement

A revocable trust agreement or a “living trust” as it is often called is a revocable instrument that a person will execute during his or her lifetime to create a fictional container into which he or she will transfer all assets in an effort to have those assets not be in his or her name whey they pass away and thus not pass under the will thereby avoiding probate.  If you pass away with no revocable trust agreement then by definition you must have either a valid, executed last will and testament or had no will and in either of these scenarios your family will be dealing with lawyers and the court through the probate process.  Therefore, if you pass away with no revocable trust agreement, your family will be filing inventories, accountings and proposals for distribution with the probate court and they are going to be paying attorneys’ and probate court fees also.