Tag Archives: will

Debt and Estate Planning

Theresa

Most people want to make sure their families are taken care of once they pass away. However, in the event of prolonged illness or long term care, that goal may not be possible to achieve.  Medical expenses and long term care can reduce the value of an estate very quickly. Heirs and family members may wonder who is responsible for the payment of debts after death.  The answer may depend upon the status of the estate once the decedent has passed.

Solvent Estate

solvent estate is one that has enough assets to pay off all of the debt of the decedent. The estate representative will pay off all of the debts using the assets of the estate. For example, if the estate is worth $500,000.00 and the debts add up to $200,000.00, after the debts are satisfied, the estate would then be worth $300,000.00. If the decedent has left a Last Will and Testament, the remaining monies would then be given to the people that were named therein.

Insolvent Estate

An insolvent estate results when the decedent left more debts than assets.   For example, if the final debt amounts to $100,000.00 and there is only $50,000.00 in the estate, the estate is considered insolvent. In this case, the representative would then have to prioritize the payment of the bills based on state law. There may be creditors that will be paid in full while others may receive a partial payment or none at all.

The Bottom Line

In the case of an insolvent estate, there will be no monies that will be paid out to those named as beneficiaries in the Last Will and Testament.  The beneficiaries or heirs to the estate will not be responsible for payment of these debts unless one of them was contractually obligated.  For example, if the heir was a co-signer or guaranteed payment of the debt, they may be liable for the debt.  If you have questions regarding the planning of your estate or the impact that debt may have upon your estate plan, an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney can assist you.

Why do I Need a Will?

Pam (estate plan will)

If you do not have a lot of money or assets, you may be wondering why it is important for you to have a will. However, a will is not only for the rich. You do not have to be rich to feel that you have something of value.  Perhaps it is a precious belonging that you want a certain person to have. If you do not have a will in place, you will not have a say in how things are managed once you are gone.

A will can be changed as your life changes. According to CNNMoney it is a good idea to review your will periodically, particularly if your marital status changes or if your family expands. It is also recommended that you review your named beneficiary on any retirement such as any IRA and 401 (k) accounts, as these will automatically be transferred upon your death.  If your beneficiaries are deceased or no longer in your life, you want to ensure your assets transfer to those you care about most.

Even if you do not have material assets, a will is important if you have minor children. In your will, you can assure that your wishes for the guardianship of your children is clearly reflected.

Even if you have a trust, a will goes hand in hand with the trust.  A trust will stipulate how assets are distributed and to whom; a will is still necessary in the event you have assets that were not placed in trust in order to determine how those assets are distributed upon your death.

Some people feel that they have plenty of time to address these matters. The thought of planning for one’s death does evoke happy thoughts. However, being prepared helps make the transition easier and smoother for those left behind. If you have questions about types of wills or if you are in need of a will, contact an Illinois Estate Planning attorney.

Appointing a Guardian for Your Children

Estate planning is not just about deciding where your money will go. When planning for your family after your death, your assets are not the only things about which you will need to decide. Especially if your children are young, you will need to take into consideration what will happen for them upon your death. It may seem morbid to think about, but planning ahead is far less morbid than not having a plan—which leaves your family to make decisions without you. Naming a legal guardian in the event of your death, if your children are minors, is an important part of estate planningAppointing a Guardian for Your Children IMAGE

According to IllinoisLegalAid.org, a “guardian is a person who has been appointed by the court to handle the personal or financial affairs of another person.” Many parents opt to appoint a trusted relative or friend as the guardian of their children. It is important that the person who you prefer to have as your child’s guardian is trustworthy and close to the child—this person will be handling all the financial, as well as day-to-day, decisions in your child’s life if you are unable to do so. If your child is developmentally disabled and relies solely on you, even if your child is over 18 you will need to consider naming a legal guardian. According to IllinoisLegalAid.org, “many important decisions may need to be made concerning matters such as health care, living arrangements, and habilitation.”

According to CNN Money Magazine, “if you die without a will—a status known as intestate—you leave it up to the court to decide who will take care of your child.” First-time, young parents often name their own parents as guardians of their children, which can be a good decision at an early age, but given the fact that grandparents usually die before their children this may need to be amended at some point thereafter.

If you or someone you know is beginning estate planning, do not go through it alone. Contact a dedicated Illinois estate-planning attorney today.

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Prenuptial Agreements: The Beginning

Prenuptial Agreements IMAGEMany people avoid estate planning because they feel it is either not for them—perhaps only for the wealthy—or because it seems too morbid a task to undertake early in life. Yet estate planning is not just for the rich, and it is never too early to begin planning for the future. In fact, many experts think that estate planning should begin before marriage, before kids. The earliest form of estate planning can be considered to be obtaining a prenup before marriage. According to the AARP Magazine, “a prenuptial agreement… is a legal contract, between you and your spouse-to-be, setting forth what will happen to the money when you die or divorce.” Having one, even at the beginning of a healthy, young marriage, can save headache not only for you and your spouse but for your children as well when it comes to estate planning.

While for some, a prenuptial agreement feels as though it is plan enough, it’s only the very beginning of an estate plan, and sometimes people overlook important aspects of estate planning because they feel protected by agreements such as this. According to the New York Times, the top oversights that should be double-checked in estate planning—likely with the help of a qualified estate planning attorney—include, but are not limited to:

  • The designation of wrong beneficiaries.  People commonly forget to update documents years after they were originally filled out. Things like new spouses, new children, and new bank accounts must be current on all documents in order to avoid confusion.
  • Liquidity deficit. Estate taxes are due nine months after death. Your heirs will need enough liquid cash to pay them.
  • Deciding on an executor. Your spouse may be the love of your life, but that spouse may not be the best with money.

Prenuptial agreements are just the beginning to estate planning, a long process that is best undertaken with the assistance of a dedicated estate planning attorney. Contact our offices today.

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Determining The Need For a Trust

Determining The Need For a Trust IMAGE

There is plenty of legal jargon when it comes to estate planning, and the difference between a trust and a will is often confused. A will, according to CNN Money Magazine, “governs the distribution of nearly everything in your estate.” A trust, on the other hand, deals with specific assets, “such as life insurance, or a piece of property.” While the idea of drawing up a trust may seem like something that is only necessary for very wealthy families or real estate magnates, that’s not so. According to a different CNN Money Magazine article, a trust is useful if your family has a net worth of at least $100,000 and meet one of the following conditions:

  • you have some real estate holdings, money invested in business, or money invested in fine art
  • you think it’s best that your belongings be stratified upon distribution to your heirs—that is, they don’t receive everything at once, or you want to set parameters (ie: they’ve graduated from college first, etc.)
  • you want your surviving spouse to be taken care of, but you want the majority of your assets to be left to your children after your spouse dies
  • you’d prefer to maximize estate-tax exemptions
  • you’d like to provide for a disabled relative without disqualifying him or her from Medicaid or other governmental assistance

There are several different types of trusts. According to the National Association of Financial and Estate Planning, one such trust is an IRA Checkbook Control Trust, “a special purpose trust which is either fully or partially owned by a self directed individual retirement account.” This can be useful if your retirement savings are in an IRA, of which very few permit direct ownership of real estate or other non-traditional investments.

Determining the best estate plan for you is a complicated process, and is best figured with the help of a qualified estate-planning attorney. Contact a dedicated Illinois estate-planning attorney today.

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Ray Charles’ Children Win Legal Battle to Reclaim Song Copyrights

Ray CharlesSeveral of late singer Ray Charles’ children have won their legal battle to reclaim the copyrights on 60 of the entertainer’s most famous songs. A lawsuit filed by the Ray Charles Foundation attempted to block his children’s’ right to ownership.

In 1976, a revision to the Copyright Act gave authors the ability to reclaim their works assigned to publishers after a certain period of time. However, works “made for hire” cannot be reclaimed. If an author is deceased, then the heirs of the estate are allowed to recover works.

In 2010, seven of Charles’ twelve children filed termination to reclaim ownership of the 60 compositions from Warner/Chappell Music. Warner/Chappell did not challenge the validity of the termination notices. The Ray Charles Foundation did, however, because it reaps royalties from the copyrighted music.

According to a report in Variety, the judge would not rule on whether or not the songs were “made for hire” but instead wrote that “because the foundation is not a grantee of the rights to be terminated or its successor, Congress did not even require the statutory heirs provide it with statutory notice of the termination, let alone give it a seat at the table during the termination process.”

The foundation was also claiming breach of contract, claiming that in 2002, the children entered into an agreement with their father under which he set up a $500,000 trust for each of them and they waived “any right to make a claim against his estate.” The judge ruled that the termination notices were not claims against the estate because the estate had been probated and closed in 2006, prior to the notices being sent out. Therefore, there was no breach of contract.

Foundations, trusts, and any other estate planning issues can be very complicated and through knowledge of the law is important. Make sure you consult with a qualified Illinois estate attorney for all your estate planning needs.