Caring Probate Attorney Helps with Estate Planning and Wills

For most people, estate planning does not rank high on the list of favorite activities. The thought of planning for your death may seem morbid or depressing. But creating a will is not as much about planning for your death as it is about providing for the lives you leave behind. Without a will, you can potentially leave vital decisions to third parties and leave your loved ones with the burden of figuring out your estate in the midst of their mourning. Make the process of distributing your assets as easy as possible for your loved ones by working with an experienced probate attorney to draft your will.

What is a Will?

A last will and testament is a legally binding document that tells the world how your assets should be distributed after death. It essentially answers three questions of “who”:

  • Who receives each of your individual assets and property, also called beneficiaries;
  • Who will have the responsibility of carrying out the provisions of the will, also called the executor; and
  • If you leave behind minor children, who will care for them, also referred to as a guardian.

Types of Wills

Under Illinois law, there are three general classifications of wills:

  • An outright will calls for the outright distribution of assets to beneficiaries;
  • A testamentary trust will sets up a trust for certain assets in cases where the descendent did not arrange an irrevocable trust before death; and
  • A pour-over will is put in place as a safeguard when an irrevocable trust is in place. It calls for placement of any remaining assets into the trust.

Making Changes to an Existing Will

In order to make changes to an existing will, you must follow the appropriate legal guidelines to ensure that your updated will is valid. For limited changes, a codicil is completed and added to the will. This is best completed with the assistance of an attorney. For significant changes, a new will may prove more appropriate. This requires the revocation of the existing document. An attorney can advise you about the acceptable methods of completing this task.

How is a Will Executed?

Upon an individual’s death, a probate case is opened in an Illinois court. This is the process whereby the court officially appoints the executor to gather the assets, pay all outstanding debts as distribute any remaining assets to the beneficiaries as designated in the will. Another benefit to having a will is that your named executor is excused from purchasing a surety bond, which can prove costly.

If your estate is valued at less than $100,000, your beneficiaries may be able to avoid a formal probate case with a small estate affidavit. The affiant declares the value of the estate and lists its contents. The document also includes an assertion that no outstanding debts are owed and that no petitions to contest are anticipated. The affiant must list names and contact information for any surviving spouse, minor children, and adult children who are legally classified as dependents. Once the document is signed and notarized, the affiant can provide it to any institution or individual who is holding an asset from the deceased’s estate and request that they release it.

Work with a Probate Attorney

The creation of a will is a serious undertaking that should not be taken lightly. Contact Susan A. Marks, a knowledgeable and experienced probate attorney, to ensure that you are best protecting your assets and the interests of your family. The SAM LAW OFFICE, LLC can provide you with the guidance you need. Call today for a free consultation.


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