How Not To Plan Your Estate


Estate planning combines several things that people dread, in no particular order: (1) accounting for ALL of your money, assets, and debts; (2) facing your own mortality; and (3) sitting for a prolonged amount of time with a lawyer. In all seriousness, there are some proven mistakes that I have seen over the years that I would suggest you avoid. Here are a few:


  • Engaging in NO Estate Planning. When you die without a will, the Illinois legislature provides a default will for you. Known as dying intestate, the law establishes: (1) who your assets will go to based on a preference list; (2) that an administrator shall be chosen not by you, but based on a list of people who may petition for the right to settle your estate; and (3) the process by which your estate will go through the probate process. You essentially have no choice in the matter and have left your loved ones in a position where they may have to fight for what you wanted them to have.


  • Taking a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Approach. I’ll acknowledge that it is tempting when you go online and Google immediately directs you to a hundred forms that purport to be an all-in-one will that you just need to download, fill in the blanks, and print. Voila! An instant will, right? Wrong. It is more likely than not that your internet-generated will cannot withstand a probate court challenge due to the many technical and legal requirements it must meet. In addition, lawyers spend their entire careers continuously learning the intricacies of the law regarding estate planning, probate law, and tax law, all of which are necessary to effectively advise a client. This advice ranges far beyond just preparing the will, but includes creating trusts, powers of attorney, living wills, gifts, estate tax planning, etc. A lawyer can help you fulfill your estate wishes and maximize what you leave to your loved ones.


  • Failing to Amend or Revise a Will. Life changes happen fast. Such as changes to your marital status, additional children, and major gains or losses of assets or money. It is important that your will reflects your current status and intentions so that your estate goes to the people you want to receive it.


  • Not Accounting for Estate Taxes. If your estate has a gross value greater than $4 million, you may be subject to an Illinois estate tax. This state estate tax is in addition to the federal estate tax you must pay to the IRS if the gross value of your estate exceeded $5.49 million in 2017. You have worked hard to accumulate wealth and property over your lifetime, and you have options that you can take advantage of in life and in death to maximize what your loved ones receive.


Your estate plan is something I take incredibly seriously. I have more than twenty years of legal experience helping clients in all aspects of estate planning, probate law, tax law, and family law. The Law Offices of Robert S. Thomas employ a team of professionals who can guide you toward an estate plan that follows your exact intentions. Call our office today at 847-392-5893 or visit our website to set up a consultation.

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