During your life:
When it comes to estate planning to prepare for what may happen while you are still alive, you’ll want to make sure you have documents in place for your spouse or other individual(s) you trust to be able to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make these decisions. This can be the same person if you choose, or you may wish for one person to make medical decisions and for another to make financial decisions for you.
After your death:
Consider to whom you wish to leave assets after your passing. You can name beneficiaries of retirement and non-retirement accounts. If your beneficiaries are charities or are old enough and mature enough to be able to manage the inheritance they will receive from you, this can work well. You may also want to consider establishing a trust that would be for the benefit of yourself (and for your spouse, if this is your situation) during your lifetime(s) and then for the benefit of your beneficiaries after your deaths. You will want to consider who to name as trustee. It often works well to name a family member to act as trustee along with an independent trustee who is not a beneficiary of the trust and not related to any beneficiary.
Another reason to make a trust a part of your estate plan is that assets held in trust are available to and are under the control of the trustee and may be used for expenses of administration, including estate taxes, final income taxes, and final expenses (such as unpaid medical bills and funeral expenses). Funding a trust can greatly reduce the expenses of administration after you pass away.
Even if you aren’t leaving assets to family members, you will want to provide a family tree to your attorney or another trusted party as some states require heirs-at-law to be given notice of probate proceedings. Leaving a list of your heirs-at-law ahead of time will help those who will benefit from your estate save time and money.
Carefully consider who you will name as your executor and trustee(s). The person who serves as executor carries a lot of responsibility, and this is a time-consuming job. The executor is responsible for filing your final income tax returns, filing your will with the probate court, and distributing your assets according to your will, among other responsibilities.
There is a lot for child-free adults to keep in mind when it comes to estate planning, and everyone’s situation is different. An estate planning attorney can help you create the best plan for your individual situation.
For help with your estate plan, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.