A Will is a written direction controlling the disposition of property held by you at the time of your death. The Will is operative only upon your death. In Illinois anyone who is eighteen (18) years of age or older and is of sound mind can make a Will.
Your Will does not become final until your death. As long as you remain mentally competent it can be changed. Changes in circumstances after the making of a Will, such as tax law amendments, deaths, marriages, divorces, birth of children or grandchildren or changes in the nature and extent of property owned, may suggest reasons for a new Will.
1. According to Illinois law, if you die without a Will, property held by you will be distributed according to the Illinois statute pertaining to the rules of descent and distribution. This process may direct your property to a surviving spouse, children or other relatives in a manner not of your choosing.
2. With a Will, you can name your own personal representative (executor) for the administration of your estate. This is a very important consideration because that person is responsible for carrying out your specific directions in settling the Estate. Also in the Will, you can name a guardian for minor children in the event both parents are gone.
3. Through the creation of trusts, within your Will, you can provide funds to benefit your loved ones or charitable institutions for many years, as well as taking advantage of possible estate tax planning for reduction of taxes.
4. The Will can be flexible because your property can be directed to go to a named party but, should that party predecease you, provisions can be made to redirect that property to someone else.
Specific gifts or bequests in the Will can be made to charitable institutions, such as Saint Anthony's Foundation. As a general rule, the value of property transferred to a charity may be deducted from the value of the estate in calculating estate taxes.
The advice of your professional advisors, primarily your attorney, accountant, life insurance underwriter and bank trust officer is very helpful in formulating an estate plan. At the very least, it will be a worthwhile investment to have your affairs reviewed so that you can make informed decisions that will affect the preservation and distribution of your assets to your loved one or favorite charities.
Depending on your individual situation, you may need more than a simple Will. You may find that a total estate plan which includes a living trust may be advisable.
1. Determine who you want to provide for after your death and how you want to provide for them.
2. Decide who will serve as your personal representative. You should consider whether the person has good business judgment, is familiar with your survivors and business affairs and has the time to serve as your personal representative.
3. Be prepared to inform your advisor of what your assets currently are and how they are owned, i.e., individual or jointly with others. Be sure to include the value of retirement or death benefits, life insurance cash value and value on death, annuities, stocks, etc.
4. Review your beneficiary designations under any retirement plan, life insurance policy or annuity contract to be sure that they are coordinated with your overall Estate plan.
5. Choose your advisors carefully and discuss fee arrangements at the outset. Determine whether your advisors do a significant amount of estate planning work. Ask your advisors about Durable Powers of Attorney, Living Wills and Living Trusts.
Armed with this information, your professional advisor can assist you in determining what alternatives might serve your own particular situation most effectively.