Estate Planning & Your Will: The Basics. By Rick Law, Elder Law Attorney & Senior Estate Planner in West Suburban Aurora, IL

What happens to an estate upon death – and what can essentially determine the safety of one’s assets will depend in large part on what kind of plan the decedent had in place at the time of their passing.
If someone dies without having a will, then they die “intestate.” But here’s a little know fact:  whether you have a will or not, your estate will likely go through the probate process if you have no other estate planning documents in place.
During probate several things happen, including:

  •  A petition is filed
  •  The death notice is published
  • A hearing is held to validate the will
  • Assets are frozen for inventory
  • The executor pays debts, taxes or fees
  • The executor files the tax returns
  • Assets are distributed
  • The estate is closed

The probate process can essentially take anywhere from nine months to two years to complete. In addition, probate fees are set by state statute and can consume up to 6 percent of the individual’s entire estate.

And, if your estate goes through probate, the entire proceeding becomes public knowledge.

Having a will is certainly a good start in helping to keep assets safe. However, there are both pros and cons – especially if a will is the only type of planning done by the decedent.
With a will, retitling of assets won’t be necessary, and the decedent’s creditors will only have a limited amount of time to make any claims against the estate. In addition, if there are any minor or special needs children involved, a will can provide for the appointment of a guardian.
But using a will as your only estate planning tool has some definite disadvantages, such as the fact that since wills are only effective at the time of death, they offer no opportunity to plan for incapacity.
In addition, a will can quickly become outdated, so unless you regularly update your will, there could be some real issues upon death. Also, having just a will in place without any other planning documents will still require the estate to go through the probate process.
If you’re ready to start getting your estate in order and secure your assets for the “worst-case” scenario, please give our office a call at 800-310-3100. Your first consultation is absolutely free.  We’ll let you know what steps you need to take, right now, to protect yourself and your family.  Call now.
Rick L. Law, Attorney, Estate Planner for Retirees
Rick was named the #1 Illinois elder law estate planning attorney by Leading Lawyer Magazine. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, AARP Magazine,, and numerous newspapers and articles. Rick is the lead attorney for Law Elder Law, LLP, focusing in Estate Planning, Guardianship, and Nursing Home Solutions. His goal is to give retirees an informed edge when it comes to dealing with an uncertain future.  Get flexible retirement strategies that work during good times and bad, plus information on how you can save your home and assets from being used to pay for long term care.  Appointments available in Chicago, Aurora, Oak Brook, Schaumburg, and Joliet.  Call 800-310-3100 for your free consultation now!

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