Wills Trust Probate & Estate Planning

Our trusts and estates attorneys provide counseling and guidance on a wide variety of trust and estate matters. We work closely with clients to ensure that clients’ wishes are served and to accomplish wealth transfer and other financial goals in the most efficient manner possible for heirs and other intended beneficiaries.

As part of our strategy we are mindful of Chicago tax implications and seek to avoid delays in the administrative process to settle your estate.

When in a situation where trust and estate litigation is necessary or cannot be avoided, we can provide the experience necessary to navigate the trust and estate litigation process.

Our estate planning team focuses its practice in the following areas:

An estate plan is a critical tool for asset protection and disposition, regardless of whether your assets include complex business interests and high value investments, or whether you simply own a home, bank account, stock account or retirement account.

Estate planning is done to ensure that wealth and property are transferred smoothly to your loved ones in a manner that minimizes the depletion of your assets.

Advance planning can serve to minimize taxes, and can help avoid the common delays in the administrative process that settles your estate.

Although you may not be familiar with the technical aspects of estate planning, we work with our clients to advise them of the particular risks they may face, what security measures can be taken to counter those risks, and to understand each client’s personal goals and objectives. Our recommendations include the legal, tax and financial ramifications of the available alternatives, and our plans are designed to meet the values and philosophies of each client.

The foundation of every estate plan is the execution of a valid will. A will allows a person to control the division and distribution of property after his or her death, name the person charged with the responsibilities of handling the administration process, and decrease the expenses that may be involved.

Without a will, Illinois statutes will determine the disposition of your assets upon your death.

For individuals and couples with minor children or other dependants, a will also enables you to nominate a guardian for these persons. Without a will, if it is necessary that your children or depends have an appointed guardian, the court will nominate a guardian for you which may or may not be consistent with your intentions.

Probate is the court-directed process of the distribution of your assets upon your death in accordance with your wishes as provided in your will, or if you do not have a valid will in place at the time of your death, in accordance with the intestacy laws of the State of Illinois. There may be situations in which the probate process is desirable, particularly when a client’s estate is contentious. However, probate is a public proceeding that can often be time-consuming, costly, and frustrating for those involved, and can be avoided with proper planning.

Trusts can be very powerful tools in both estate planning and asset protection planning.

If implemented properly, trusts can help minimize or eliminate Federal and Illinois estate taxes, provide asset protection to beneficiaries, and in many instances, avoid probate.

At the most basic level, a trust is an agreement whereby a person or persons, as trustee, hold legal title to an asset and manages it for the benefit of someone else, the trust beneficiary or beneficiaries. The person creating the trust is called the settlor and the creation of a trust agreement allows the settlor to control his or her property and its distribution upon death. The trustee is bound to distribute the trust assets to the beneficiaries according to the requirements provided for in the trust agreement. By placing assets in trust, the settlor can prevent giving outright control of assets to a beneficiary when it is not desired, such as when there are trust beneficiaries who are immature, under legal disability or illness.   There are many types of trust agreements which can be created under Illinois law, including, but not limited to:

  • revocable living trusts;
  • gift trusts;
  • irrevocable life insurance trusts;
  • charitable trusts; and
  • special needs trusts.

A durable power of attorney for property is a document which authorizes someone appointed by you to undertake your financial responsibilities and access your accounts should you become incapacitated or unable to administer your assets.

If you become incapacitated or are unable to administer your assets, the power of attorney for property is a valuable tool that will insure that management of your assets will continue as you instruct.

Should you become incapacitated without a power of attorney for property in place, the court will appoint a guardian for you and which may or may not be an individual consistent with your intentions.

A power of attorney for health care can provide important information on your preferences with respect to any desired medical care or treatments should you become incapacitated. In addition, a power of attorney for health care allows you to appoint an agent to make your health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so and can ensure that your wishes concerning health care will be followed. Should you become incapacitated without a power of attorney for health care in place, the court will appoint a healthcare agent for you which may or may not be an individual consistent with your intentions.

Advance planning can limit or eliminate the many potential delays and expenses that are so often associated with probate and estate and trust administration. Federal and Illinois estate taxes, funeral and administrative costs, your outstanding liabilities, executor’s fees, trustee’s fees, and other expenses generally make up your estate settlement expenses.

The goal in planning is to minimize these expenses in such manner so you can pass on as much of your estate as possible to your loved ones.

For married couples, there are various laws that govern how each estate will be taxed which can depending on the order of the spouse’s deaths. If you leave most of your estate to your spouse, and you predecease your spouse, your estate may avoid significant taxes upon your death if properly drafted and administered. However, in many cases, these taxes are merely shifted to your spouse’s estate and will need to be dealt with upon his or her death. Therefore, it is imperative that a determination be made as to whether to establish trusts in order to minimize taxes and to revisit your existing estate plan periodically as laws change.
Unfortunately, even the best planning cannot always avoid trust and estate litigation including, but not limited to: contested guardianships, will and trust contests, contested claims, and various other types of litigation involving decedent estates and trusts. If and when necessary, our firm can provide can provide clients with experience and assistance in getting through the litigation process.

As a multi-practice firm with experience in the areas of both estate planning and domestic relations,

our firm is uniquely equipped to provide clients with the benefit expertise in both areas, comprehensively counsel clients in their pre-marital and post-marital planning efforts,

and when necessary or desirable, incorporate pre-marital and post-marital planning into a new or existing estate plan.