Chicago Law & Updating Your Estate Plan

Once you have created an estate plan, it is important to keep it up to date. The following is a list of events which may trigger an estate plan update.

Whether it is your first marriage or a later marriage, you may need to update your estate plan after you get married. In Illinois if you die without a Will, a spouse gets one-half of your estate, and the rest will go to other relatives. You need a Will to spell out how much you would like your spouse to get.

Your estate plan may get more complicated if your marriage is not your first. You and your new spouse need to figure out where each of you wants your assets to go when you die. If you have children from a previous marriage, this can be complicated. There are a number of options to ensure your children are provided for including creating a trust for your children, making your children beneficiaries of life insurance policies and giving your children joint ownership of property.

It is important to name a guardian for your children in your Will. You may also want to set up a trust for your children so that your assets are set aside for your children when they get older.

When your children get older, you may want to update your plan to reflect the changes. They will no longer need a guardian, and they may not need a trust. You may want your children to act as executors or hold a power of attorney.

If you get divorced or your spouse dies, you will need to revisit your entire estate plan. It is likely that your spouse is named in some capacity in your estate plan such as beneficiary, executor or agent under power of attorney. If you have a trust, you will need to make sure your spouse is no longer a trustee or beneficiary of the trust. You will also need to change the beneficiary on your retirement plans and insurance policies.

One part of estate planning is estate tax planning. When your estate is small, you usually do not have to worry about estate taxes. In Illinois in 2015, only estates with more than $4 million are subject to Illinois estate tax and estates with more than $5.43 million are subject to federal estate tax. As your estate approaches these levels, a plan that takes tax planning into account needs to be considered.

Consult your estate planning attorney for further information.