Estate Planning

Posted by on Feb 16, 2015 in Estates | 0 comments

According to the website of Peck Ritchey, two erroneous beliefs about estate planning are it is only for older (and, probably, sick) adults and the rich. Estate planning is a plan that is made before death; its purpose is to name those to whom the testator, or the person writing a will, would want to leave behind his/her assets and/or properties, which include anything of value, such as a house, car, savings account, life insurance, jewelry, furniture plus all other forms of investment. Failure to draft an estate plan will result to the application of the Law of Intestacy, the law that grants authority to the court to decide who gets what.

The drafting of a will is basically the first step in estate planning. Through this will, the testator identifies everything that he/she wants to pass on to his/her spouse, children and other dependents, as well as what or how much cash, specifically, each will have. The testator may also choose to draft a more elaborate will wherein he/she can elect his/her preferred guardian for his/her minor children, name a health-care proxy who will make medical decisions for him/her if ever he/she gets incapacitated and, elect an executor, or the person who will manage the estate left for distribution. This executor is also tasked to see to it that the testator’s last wishes are fulfilled, that all unpaid debts are settled and, after payment of all debts, whatever remains will be distributed to all heirs.

While the mental capacity of the testator is very essential in the drafting of a will (to make sure that he/she was never influenced by anyone and that he/she was perfectly aware of his/her decisions), being counseled by a knowledgeable and experienced legal professional is equally important to ensure that the will’s contents comply with the laws of the state (where the testator resides or where the estate owned is located) and that the rights of every legal heir are observed.

An experienced and skillful lawyer’s assistance can also help effectively address any litigation due to a will contest that an heir may file. Contesting or challenging the validity of a will can be filed by any heir who feels that he/she deserves more than what was left for him/her. An heir can also question the testator’s mental state when the will was drafted, citing any possibility of influence or manipulation by someone with interest in the assets and properties.

As estate and trust disputes involve family members all issues, therefore, are considered sensitive, besides being complex. Failure to address disputes effectively can only result to rivalries between family members which can only create rifts in their relationship.

Family members should understand that an estate plan is meant to put order in their properties and assets, as well as to make sure that they will be able to enjoy the maximum value of everything through reduction of tax and other expenses. Thus, in the event of disagreement, which can lead to litigation, if the family members themselves fail to allay anyone’s doubts, then only a knowledgeable, experienced and skillful lawyer probably can.

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Death and Bank Accounts

Posted by on Aug 3, 2014 in Estates | 4 comments

If you have an email account, chances are you have received an email from a purported Nigerian prince or bank officer who offers you a slice of a large bank account that has been “abandoned.” While such emails are most probably scams, abandoned accounts do exist, and there are ways for a legitimate heir to recover it legally through a probate or estate planning lawyer. It happens more often than people realize.

Many people fail to make provisions for what happens to their bank accounts when they die. This is especially true for people who have no expectations of dying in the near future i.e. car accident fatality, but even those who have the forethought to plan their estate neglect to appoint a beneficiary or leave other instructions regarding their active bank accounts. This can be a problem for the estate administrator or executor because the bank accounts will have to go through the probate process. It may also be an issue when it comes to distributing the funds.

There are many factors that come into play depending on what kind of bank account is in question. The simplest matter would be when the account is jointly held and at least one of the account holders is still alive. Upon presentation of the death certificate, the living account holder can have the name of the deceased removed and get full access to the funds. If the account is “held in trust for” a named person, that person can also get the funds upon presentation of the account holder’s death certificate.

In Illinois as in most states, if the account holder died intestate, the court will compile a list of people who are eligible to manage the estate from which the heirs choose one, and that person will be allowed access to bank accounts to pay for “last expenses” such as the costs of a funeral and burial. The remaining will be subject to probate and distributed according to state intestacy laws. Chicago estate planning lawyers will know what is due to legitimate heirs, so it would be wise to retain one if only to protect your rights.

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