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Picking up the Pieces After Divorce

Estate Law Lawyer Rolling Meadows, IL

Consider all the planning a couple may do during the course of their lives: purchasing a home, building a business, starting a family – the list is endless. However, no one plans for a break-up. So what happens when there’s no longer a “happily ever after?” What will our finances, our emotions and even our future look like on the other side of divorce?

Not only must we rethink our immediate future, but there are also long-term plans that must be addressed. Specifically, our estate plans will need to be revised. The fact is, it’s difficult to look past the pain that’s felt in the moment, and looking towards the future may suddenly feel foreign.

But taking a proactive step in reducing the risks and going through the process of making important changes can help us feel more in control. Not to mention, there are many benefits that come from knowing those legalities are addressed. Here are a few ways to move toward those goals during a divorce from an estate planning perspective.

One of the most important changes you’ll make moving forward is changing the beneficiary designation on your retirement plan. Don’t forget that you’ll need to change the beneficiary on your actual retirement account, as many assume the only place these changes should be reflected is on their estate planning documents. The beneficiary on the retirement account takes precedence over anything you might have changed in your other legal documents.

Your powers of attorney–financial and medical–should be revised as well. Even if the divorce was mutual, odds are, you’ll want to name someone else to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf, should you become incapacitated. Your life insurance policy should also be reviewed.

Just as you changed your other joint accounts, such as credit cards and bank accounts, any Trusts you established as a married couple will need to be amended.

You likely have a HIPAA authorization form in place, as well. These important documents are designed to protect your medical confidentiality while also preventing access to your information by others with no authorization, such as a former spouse. You’ll want to be sure these forms are also updated.

From a technological perspective, you should also change your PIN numbers associated with any of your financial accounts and change passwords to your online accounts. This is really sound advice regardless of the situation, but certainly if you’re going through a divorce.

Finally, remember that a bit of time spent with your estate planning attorney after a divorce can go a long way in shoring up the path towards retirement, whether you remarry or opt to remain single.

Divorce is overwhelming, frightening and sometimes exhausting. While those emotions will subside over time, it is both important and empowering to take control over aspects of the future you can make better in the meantime. A qualified estate law lawyer Rolling Meadows, IL offers at Bott & Associates, LTD. can help you reach those goals.

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Can Someone Challenge My Will After I Die?

Estate Planning Lawyer

You want to make sure that your wishes get carried out after your death. You crafted a will along with your attorney, and as such, you believe that it will stand the test of time. However, is there a chance that someone will be able to challenge the will upon your death? Can your children or even a former spouse try and get more than what you have set aside for them? While challenging a will is difficult and highly unusual, it does happen. Take a look at the conditions under which someone may try to challenge your will after you’ve departed.

Claims You Were Not of Sound Mind

One of the most famous legal clauses in most wills testifies that you are “of sound mind and body” and making the will as such. However, some people may try and prove that you were not at full mental capacity when the will was created, especially if it is drastically different then a previous version. This scenario typically happens when former heirs feel like they were unjustly removed from the will and attempt to prove that you were declining when you revised it. For this bid to be successful, there has to be evidence that your mental health was declining steadily before and after you executed the will. Some people who may be called on to testify include the treating physician and the attorney present at the time the will was executed.

Claims Someone Unduly Influenced You

Your heirs or former heirs may believe that someone coerced you into making changes to your will in the months leading up to your death. One example of this has to do with children who believe a step parent purposely manipulated you to cut them out of the will. This scenario occurs, and adult children can become outraged if a new spouse somehow inherits the estate whereas before they were to split it. The adult children must prove in court that the new spouse placed undue influence on you to get you to make the changes.

The Will Is Not Properly Executed

An administrative error could allow someone you deleted from your will to come in and take a share. If a will is not dated correctly or is missing a witness signature, the entire document may be ruled invalid. A previous will, if one exists, will then come back into play and take its place.

Make sure that the people you love get what you want them to after your death. Go to a wills attorney in O’Fallon, MO and have the appropriate documents drafted and executed.


Thanks to the Legacy Law Center for their insight into estate planning and challenging a will.

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5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Medicaid

Estate Law Lawyer Rolling Meadows, IL

More and more Americans are worried about long term care. With life expectancies being longer than expected, it is more and more difficult to pay for care in our senior years. People work so hard, sacrifice so much, to accumulate the nest egg that they believe will carry them for the rest of their lives. However, when a person is diagnosed with diseases such as Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, and other debilitating diseases, the panic revolves around who is going to take care of me, and how will I pay for it?  The myth in many people’s minds is the State will take care of them. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Below are the five things you need to know about Medicaid.

  1. Medicaid is a joint Federal and State program. Medicaid is primarily funded by the Federal government. But it is up to each state to administer the program. Some states supplement funding for Medicaid, and that is considered “Medicaid Expansion”. Each state has its own rules as to eligibility criteria and benefits. Some are easier to qualify for, and others are much more difficult. Therefore, it can be a consideration when discussing where to retire in the future.
  2. Medicare vs. Medicaid. Often people are confused as to why long-term care is not covered by Medicare. They often think that Medicare covers everything after reaching age 65. This is not true. Medicare only covers your health care needs, for illnesses, hospitalizations, etc. Once you are in a rehab facility after you are discharged from the hospital, Medicare may pay for some of your days in that facility, depending on how well you are improving during the rehabilitation process. Once you max out the days paid for by Medicare, typically 120 days, then it is up to you to pay for additional days in the facility.
  3. Medicaid has low income and asset limits. The Medicaid program uses both income and asset limits to determine eligibility. Typically for a single person, you can only have $2,000 in assets. The income limit is tied to the Federal Poverty level applicable to the household size and geographic area. If a person has assets beyond the $2,000, then you are forced to “spend down” the assets until you have reached the level.
  4. There is a 5 Year Look Back period. Often people think they can gift their assets to their children in order to qualify for Medicaid. What they don’t know is that there is a 5-year look back for qualification. Your application requires 5 years’ worth of financial statements to be reviewed by the State. If they see any transfers during such time, then you will be disqualified for Medicaid, or at least have a waiting period before being qualified. You can do Medicaid Planning prior to needing long term care, as long as the planning begins at least 5 years before the need.
  5. The State may recover your assets upon your death. The Medicaid Estate Recovery Program allows states to recover assets or place liens on real estate after your death, if Medicaid paid for your care during your life. So although your residence is typically an exempt asset for purposes of qualification, it can be taken away from your children, upon your death. Again, Medicaid Planning way ahead of the need, can help prevent this from happening.

Planning ahead is the key. Although estate planning with Wills and Trusts are very important, it’s even more important to start thinking about long term care. Seek a qualified estate law lawyer Rolling Meadows, IL trusts to discuss what options are right for you.

Contact Bott & Associates, Ltd. for their insight into estate planning and Medicaid.

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Treating your Children Differently

Trust Administration Lawyer Schaumburg, IL

As a parent, you often want to make sure that you treat your kids as equally as possible. If one child gets new sneakers, you make sure the other kids get new sneakers. If a child wants to go on a school trip out of town, you want to give the other children the same opportunity. When planning for inheritance, many parents are very adamant that all children receive the same share, no matter what, so there are no hard feelings. In most cases, that is a great plan. In certain circumstances, it would be more advisable to treat them a little bit differently.

  1. Spendthrift Child – If your adult child has a history of spending every last dollar, and then some, of their income and previous inheritances, you may want to think twice about giving that child too much money, too fast. The child may have a tendency to think that the money will never run out, so they go on to spend it in record time. You can always give them a certain amount, but have it be held in a trust for their benefit. Perhaps they receive a certain amount per year, like $20K per year, or 10% per year. Then at a certain age, like 65, he/she may request the balance. This allows the child to have some funds, but still have a nest egg growing in the trust for his/her retirement.
  2. Drug or Alcohol Addiction – With prescription drug addiction on the rise, you never know if your children have one right now, or have one in the future. If he/she receives an inheritance in full, in cash, he/she may just use most of it to increase their addiction. Generally parents are in denial that this would ever happen to their child, but unfortunately, anyone can be addicted fairly quickly and easily, just by one prescription of pain medication. The best way to tackle this issue is to keep a child’s inheritance in trust, and provide the trustee some discretion to withhold distributions if they suspect an addiction. This will hopefully give them the incentive to go to recovery, and get clean.
  3. Mental Health – Another issue on the rise today is mental health. Many people are being diagnosed with anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia and a whole host of issues. If your child already suffers from this now, or in the future, it is important to not give the inheritance too soon or too fast, because they are more likely to be “duped.” They may decide to trust the next person who shows them love and affection, and that person encourages them to hand over the money, or they may just get access to the funds on their own. To protect your children, keep the assets in trust, with the Trustee having the discretion to distribute. Therefore, the child will have funds to keep them in their standard of living, but will not have the ability to just hand over the funds to a predator.
  4. Ex In-Laws – When a couple walks down the aisle, the hope is always that they live happily ever after. Unfortunately, the statistics show that more than half of marriages fail and end in divorce. Perhaps you think your children have “perfect” marriages and would never end up that way. But what if they do? Would you want potentially half or all of the money you worked hard for, in the hands of your ex-son in law or ex-daughter-in-law? Most people do not. Once again, by putting your children’s inheritances in a Trust with the help of a trust administration lawyer Schaumburg, IL offers, it will be protected from any future divorces.

All of the above issues are sensitive subjects. After you have prepared a proper estate plan, using a Living Trust, it is also advisable to write out a Statement of Intentions. This is done in your words, and in your own way, to explain the rationale on how you decided on certain terms of your trust. This statement will help the family have a better understanding, and reduce the ill-will that may occur upon your death.

Contact Bott & Associates, Ltd. for more information on estate planning and children.

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“Last Will and Testament” vs. “Living Will”

Estate Planning LawyerClients sometimes approach our firm to purchase a specific document they have heard or believe they require to protect against a particular risk or problem.  Other clients come to us to learn about the purpose and process of estate planning more broadly and to determine if they need to develop a plan to protect their own interests.  Nearly all clients in the beginning are confused about the distinction between a “Last Will and Testament” (or “Last Will” or simply “Will”) and a “Living Will.”

A Last Will and Testament is the document most people intuitively think of as a Will.  A Last Will and Testament is a testamentary legal document that, upon the death of a person, exists as evidence of how the person desired his or her real and personal property to be distributed.  The Last Will is typically submitted to a state court as evidence in a court proceeding known as “probate,” which determines the distribution of assets and payment of outstanding liabilities left by a decedent.

The Last Will may be as simple as a one-page form or a substantial document of dozens of pages with sections and subsections addressing various legal, financial, and personal concerns of the client.  For those clients who require a trust to effectuate their estate planning goals, the Last Will may act as the funding mechanism designating their Revocable Living Trust as the recipient of non-trust property for the benefit of other persons or entities.  Alternatively, a skilled estate planning attorney may draft the Last Will to actually create a Testamentary Trust to hold the decedent’s property after death for the benefit of other persons or entities. The other persons or entities are typically family members, business partners, or charities important to the decedent.

A Living Will, on the other hand, does not address property but instead addresses the end-of-life wishes of clients.  Specifically, a Living Will expresses the desires of how clients wish to be allowed to pass away. Most clients elect for pain relief and to be kept in a comfortable state, even if the use of medications to achieve this results in accelerating the dying process.  However other clients, a minority in our practice, elect for all available means to be kept alive regardless of the expense to their estate or physical pain that results. There are also a spectrum of circumstances and choices clients choose in between the two most common elections.  The important distinction to remember is that a Living Will is the expression of a person’s desires as to how to be allowed to pass away. The people who often benefit most from the Living Will are often the family members who do not have to make the painful decision to end or prolong the life of a loved one who is nearing death.

In addition to the Last Will and Living Will, a basic estate plan for all people typically also includes a Financial Power of Attorney, a Healthcare Power of Attorney, and a HIPAA Waiver.  Because the legal authority of a parent ceases when a child turns 18 years old, the Citadel Law Firm recommends all adults aged 18 or over complete at minimum a Living Will, Healthcare Power of Attorney, and a HIPAA Waiver to allow their loved ones (often parents) to be involved in their medical decision making, if required.  In addition, because one of the most common sources of legal disputes (or “estate litigation”) among families of a deceased loved one is over a poorly drafted or improperly executed Last Will, we always recommended consulting with an estate planning attorney rather than going it alone with basic forms purchased online.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Citadel Law Firm for their insight into estate planning.


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7 Steps to Creating a Will

Estate Attorney

When creating a will, many people do not know where to start – especially if they decide to write their will themselves without the help of an estate lawyer Allentown, PA trusts. Writing a will can be simple by following a few easy steps. Here are 7 steps to creating a will.

  1. Pick your beneficiaries

The first thing you want to do is decide who is going to be a beneficiary of your will. Will you be leaving your things to only your children or are there other family members you wish to include? It’s a good idea to write out who you want to be considered as beneficiaries before you start writing your will to make sure you don’t forget anyone.

  1. Pick your children’s guardians

If you are leaving behind any children under the age of 18 years old, you will need to select a guardian (or two) for your children. These are the people you trust to raise your kids the way you would want them to be raised. This is a very important decision and it must be included in your will unless you want the state to decide who will be the guardians of your children.

  1. Pick an executor

The executor of your will is someone you trust to make sure your wishes are taken care of how you would like. This is extremely important because you are giving this person the legal authority to execute the items you’ve listed in your will.

  1. Be specific about who gets what items

If you are planning on leaving items to certain people, make sure you are specific. You don’t want there to be any arguments or tensions in your family because you were not clear in your will. This is the part of your will where you leave specific items to people. Do you want to leave your collector’s items to your cousin Dan? Or maybe you want to leave your jewelry to your granddaughters. This is the place to write that out.

  1. Gather witnesses

In order for your will to be a legal document, you will need two witnesses. These are people who are not beneficiaries in your will but can sign a sworn affidavit saying they witnessed you sign your will.

  1. Put your will in a safe space

This may seem obvious, but you want to keep your will somewhere safe and protected like a safe or a fireproof box. And make sure you let whoever you designate as your executor know where you’ve kept your will so they can get to it if and when they need it.

  1. Keep your will updated

It’s important to keep your will up to date. A good rule of thumb is to update your will anytime you have a major life change. Did you have another child? Did you get married? Did you get divorced? Keeping an updated will ensures that in the event of an unexpected event, your family will still be taken care of in the way you wanted.

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Klenk Law for their insight into estate planning and steps to creating a will.

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It’s Not About the Paper

Estate Planning Lawyer in Palatine, IL

There is a saying that goes “penny wise pound foolish.” Prospects tend to want the cheapest attorney to put together their Wills. The reality is the service you are paying for is not to produce paper. The actual document is certainly one aspect of the service, but the real service people are paying for boil down to two things: (a) Experience that your plan will fulfill all of your objectives; and, (b) Comfort that your family will be able to lean on someone at the time of an emergency – a disability or a death.

Some of the top reasons clients have recently called our office include the following:

(1) Client is selling real estate in another state and the attorney is requesting an entire copy of the trust; We contact the attorney and ask what he needs, and we are able to email just those pages, not the entire trust.

(2) Client’s son has been arrested with possession of drugs, and mother is crying profusely; we calm her down and discuss options, we contact a criminal lawyer on her behalf, and she receives the help she needs to take care of her son.

(3) Client died, and daughter calls in a panic because she cannot find the documents; we email the copies of the documents quickly to her. She mentions that her father’s girlfriend is refusing to leave the house that is owned by my client’s trust. We discuss the various options, and we keep in touch with the other attorney involved in the matter.

(4) Client died recently, and we receive a call from client’s son. He is panic stricken because he needs money to keep the house expenses paid. We discuss the next steps regarding the Trust provisions, and obtaining access to the bank accounts. He calmed down, and we helped him understand the terms of the trust, and what steps need to be taken.

(5) Client’s middle aged only child dies unexpectedly. Client calls extremely saddened and upset, wondering what to do next. Son did not have an estate plan, and we discuss the probate process with client. Although he is understandably grieving, we are able to provide a little comfort in holding his hand through the process.

These are just some of the types of calls we receive from clients on a daily basis. To a certain extent, we are their “problem solvers”. Whatever is on their minds, whatever they are panicking about, whatever challenges they are facing, we are the ones on the other line, listening to them. Although we cannot solve all of the problems, we do our best to point them to the right professionals, or companies, or agencies. But because we have established a certain trust with our clients, we are very appreciative to be the ones they call.

When determining who you want to work with to prepare your Will, it is important to know if that person will be there for you in times of need. It is important to know if they will check up on you to review and update your plan. It is important to know they care about you, and your family. It’s not the paper you are paying for when choosing an attorney, like an estate planning lawyer in Palatine, IL. You are choosing whether your family will have someone they can rely on, when any number of situations arise. So don’t be “penny wise and pound foolish.” This decision can make all the difference for the protection of your family.

For more information, call Bott & Associates, LTD. for more insight into estate planning.

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What Are the Duties Of a Trustee?

 Estate Planning Lawyer

When someone creates a trust, they are wisely thinking ahead to when they may not be around, ensuring that someone they can rely on will take care of their assets and property. However, if someone has just named you a “trustee” or even a “successor trustee” for the first time, you may not be sure of what your responsibility is. Do you need to speak with an attorney? Do you act immediately? How involved should you be in the trust process? This may seem like an overwhelming job at first, especially if you are not sure of the details, but below you will find answers to frequently asked questions to guide you through the trustee and successor trustee process.

What Is a Trust?

A trust is similar in many senses to a will, but the two documents are different. The person who creates a trust goes by many things, including a “grantor”, a “creator”, or a “trustor”. The grantor will write down who they want to handle their final affairs and who they want to get their assets when they die or when an injury or illness incapacitates them. One of the most common types of trusts that people use is a revocable trust. This allows the grantor a great deal of flexibility when making changes to their trust, like adding new assets, removing obsolete assets, canceling it, and naming trustees.

What Is a Living Trust?

Many people favor a living trust because the grantor transfers their assets into the trust before they pass away, making it a much smoother process when the trustee steps in to begin managing their assets.

Who Are the Main People Involved In Trusts?

There are typically a few people involved, including:

  • The Grantor. As noted above, this is the creator of the trust. Married couples can also be co-grantors.
  • The Trustee. The grantor names the trustee as the person to manage their assets. It is possible to even name yourself as the first trustee so you can continue managing your own assets and finances.
  • The Successor Trustee. If the original trustee can no longer manage the affairs as outlined in the trust, the grantor will usually name a successor trustee—a backup—to step in an ensure that they properly manage the remaining assets. In many cases, the successor trustee can be an individual or even a bank.
  • The Beneficiaries. The beneficiaries of the trust are those who get the assets of the trust once the grantor passes away.

What Are My Responsibilities?

As the trustee, remember that you are not necessarily the beneficiary, but you are ensuring that they are taken care of as the grantor has outlined so that the beneficiaries can get them after the grantor dies. You:

  • Cannot use the assets in the trust for personal gain unless the trust strictly authorizes it.
  • Cannot favor any beneficiaries in the trust unless the trust specifically states to do so.
  • Must keep accurate financial records and reports on tax returns.

Do I Have To Do This Alone?

While the law does not require you have a lawyer to help you out, it can be to your benefit to speak with an attorney who has worked with trusts before. To get help and legal advice regarding your responsibilities as a trustee, contact a trust lawyer Danbury, CT offers now.



Thank you to our friends and contributors at Sweeney Legal, LLC for their insight into estate planning and the duties of a trustee.

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Will Your Estate Be Required to Go Through Probate?

Probate Lawyer

If you’re thinking about estate planning, chances are you’ve already come across a seemingly scary word: Probate.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the court-supervised process of authenticating the last will and testament of someone who is deceased. It may also be used when the deceased did not leave a will behind. Essentially, it is one way for the state to ensure that the decedent’s wishes are being carried out and to be sure that all of their debts have been paid as well. The process can seem confusing and often ends up being a bit costly, but it’s nothing to be afraid of as it is very common. Anything that is left in the decedent’s name at the time of their death is subject to probate.

Some Ways to Avoid Probate:

  • Make Gifts to Your Beneficiaries

Because probate is dependent on the decedent owning a piece of property, when that property is given away in the form of a gift, it is no longer owned by the decedent. Seems simple enough, right? Anything that isn’t in the decedent’s name is not subject to probate.

  • Name a Beneficiary on Your Accounts

Did you know that some assets allow you to name beneficiaries? For example, you can name a beneficiary (or beneficiaries) on your bank accounts, investments, and retirement plans. And it’s not difficult to name beneficiaries on these accounts–you simply fill out some paperwork as provided by your bank or brokerage company. In some states you are even able to designate beneficiaries for your real estate through a transfer on death deed or affidavit. Additionally, life insurance policies, 401K plans, stocks, bonds, IRA accounts, and pension plans are all payable on death.

  • Joint Tenancy With a Right of Survivorship

Joint Tenancy With a Right of Survivorship is another way to keep property from going through probate. It’s not too difficult. When another person’s name is on the title of, for example, a home, and one of the owners dies, then the property would go to the other joint-owner.

  • Create a Revocable Living Trust

A simple and straightforward way to avoid probate is by creating a living trust. This is similar to a will, but has one key difference: It allows the person that is appointed as trustee the ability to transfer property and possessions to the beneficiaries without undergoing probate. You still get to choose who will inherit what, but essentially the trustee is the owner of your assets, and therefore they’re not required to go through probate.

How Long Does the Probate Process Take?

Because probate law is dependent on state law, the length of time is could take for an estate to go through probate varies. On average, the entire process can take six to nine months, but if the deceased did not keep clear records of their assets, or if the will is contested, the process can take considerably longer.

What Do I Do If My Loved One’s Estate Is Going Through Probate?

If your loved one’s estate is going through probate and you are dealing with the process, don’t hesitate to call a probate attorney Allentown, PA offers who is ready to help you through the process.


Thank you to our friends and contributors at Klenk Law for their insight into estate planning and probate.

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No Crystal Ball

A couple of years ago I heard about a car accident in a nearby neighborhood. A Mom and Dad, and their 16 year old daughter, were just leaving a local YMCA, about to turn into the main road at about 9pm on a weeknight. A 20 year old gentleman was driving on that main road, at 90 miles an hour. He ran into this family’s van head on. He survived, the family didn’t. The rest of the family, two minor children, were at a relative’s house at the time.

This story haunts me. First of all, I have 3 minor children so it’s hard not to think about the “what if”. But it also impacted me deeply because of the clients I serve. Many families tell me that certain “what if” scenarios would never happen. Like a parent surviving a minor child. Like an older spouse surviving a much younger spouse. Like an entire family dying in a common accident. So when I hear about these types of car accidents, I know different. We do not have a crystal ball. We just have to plan for every scenario, no matter how unbelievable it may seem at the time.

Another story that has impacted me is the one that just happened earlier this year. It was in a Duck Boat in Branson, Missouri. This tragedy is even more troubling because me and my entire family of 16 people were on this very same Duck Boat in 2015. The boat was on the lake this past summer, when a horrendous storm came over. 13 people died, including 9 people from the same family. What a horrific event. There are no words.

Hug your family. Say I love you. Often. And more importantly, plan ahead. Many people sit in my office to tell me they are not ready to do an estate plan. No one is ever ready, sort of like being a parent for the first time. The important thing is, get it done, before it’s too late.

Getting an estate plan done is not as complicated as you would think. I know seeing a lawyer can be a stressful situation. Generally if you are seeing a lawyer, you are either buying a house or going through a lawsuit or a divorce. All of those scenarios are very complicated and stressful. However, when you come in to discuss your estate plan, it can be somewhat of a relief. We discuss your family, and your assets. We discuss a myriad of “what if” scenarios. We help and guide you to make decisions about what would happen in case you are disabled, and upon your death. Not fun topics, but certainly important to discuss. Then after about a month, we come back together, review all of your documents, and sign the very same day. So in one month, you can have the peace of mind that a solid estate plan can provide. You will have given the gift of ease and protection to your family and beneficiaries, that will impact them fo the rest of their lives. The whole process does not take too long, and is more affordable than you think.

Call and make an appointment to discuss your estate plan with us. Feel free to come to an upcoming seminar or participate in our monthly webinar on basic estate planning concepts so you are armed with the information needed to make good decisions for your family. The first step is easy. Call us at (847) 818-9084 or email us at info@bottestateplanning.com.

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One Trustee vs. Co-Trustees – What is the best option?

Often clients choose 2 or more children to act as co-trustees or co-executors because clients don’t want to “play favorites” and want every child to have a say in the estate or Trust administration. Although it may seem like a logical idea, it often turns into the worst decision for the family.

When we raise our children, we try to instill them with the same values and beliefs and teach them to be kind and respectful to one another. Then the children grow up, get married, have children, and lead very separate lives. During that time, each child has evolved as their own families grow. Two people with different backgrounds raise their own children and mix their cultures, beliefs and traditions. Then fast forward around 35 to 40 years, these same children who Mom and Dad raised exactly the same, who hopefully have the same values and beliefs originally instilled in them, have to come together, and make an inordinate amount of emotional and financial decisions about Mom and/or Dad while they are alive, and when they are gone.

This evolution of life is truly a recipe for potential disaster. Kids coming back together for Thanksgiving dinner or holiday brunch is common, and generally peaceful and happy occasions. Kids coming back for a Family Planning Meeting with a coordinator at a senior living facility, or at a funeral home, or at an attorney’s office to discuss estate planning, is definitely emotional and very tense for everyone. Sometimes the adult children are very accommodating, respectful and generous when dealing with decisions for Mom and Dad. That unfortunately is the exception. Most times, there is at least one child in the family that will cause more issues when making tough decisions for Mom and Dad.

Is the answer NOT choosing 2 or more kids to act together as trustees or executors? No. The answer is to be honest with yourself, and take stock of your family dynamics as they are today. Perhaps the kids were very close growing up. Perhaps parents wish them to be close today, but they are not. If that is the case, DO NOT make them act together to make important decisions with your finances and/or your health. Choose one person for each type of decision, and tell the family that you have made your decisions. If you want to avoid conflict for your children when you die, talk to them while you are alive, about the decisions you made, and why you made them. This way no one is caught off guard. The goal is not only to keep them from fighting, but hopefully, the children can have Thanksgiving together in peace, even after Mom and Dad are gone.

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What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

Estate Law Lawyer

It can be daunting to think about creating a law will and testament in the event of your death. Taking into account your assets and considering your beneficiaries can seem like a monumental task when you don’t know where to begin. Let’s start simply: Having a will can make the lives of your loved ones easier after your passing and will make your last wishes known so that you can have peace of mind.

What happens if you die without a will?

If you don’t leave behind a will, your estate will be known as “intestate.” That means that your estate is in the hands of the laws in the state you reside in, and that those laws will determine how and to whom your assets will be distributed. These laws vary depending on your marital status at the time of your death.

If you are…

Married Without Children

If you own your property with your spouse, your estate will go entirely to them, but if you do not both own the property, it will be divided evenly between your partner, parents, and siblings.  

Married With Children

This one can be more complicated than you would think. If your children are all the children of your surviving spouse, your estate will simply be inherited by your surviving spouse, but if your children are not all shared with your spouse, things are a bit different. Your spouse would get up to 50% of the estate and the rest would go to the the surviving children from the other spouse or partner.

In a Domestic Partnership

Not all states recognize domestic partnerships, so it’s important to check your state laws, but if domestic partners are recognized in your state, your partner would inherit your estate in the same way a married couple would.  

Unmarried, but in a Relationship

If you are unmarried but in a relationship and living together at the time of your death and you choose not to leave a will, that means that your partner does not inherit any of your assets. Intestacy laws only recognize relatives and not unmarried couples.

Single Without Children

If you are single and without children, then your estate will pass on to your parents (if they are both living). If one parent is deceased, the estate gets divided among your surviving parent and the rest of your siblings. If both parents are deceased, then the estate is divided amongst the surviving siblings. If there are no surviving  parents, siblings, or children of siblings, then the estate will be split in half with 50% going to relatives on your father’s side and the other 50% going to relatives on your mother’s side. If you have no family at all, then the estate is often given over to the state.

Single With Children

If you are single with children at the time of your passing, the estate will pass on to your children and split among them equally.

As you can see, passing without a will means that you do not really have a say in how your estate is divided amongst your loved ones. It could be helpful to talk to an attorney at an estate planning law firm St. Peters, Missouri relies on to discuss the specifics of your case so that you can figure out what would be the best fit for you.


Thank you to our friends and contributors at Legacy Law Center for their insight into estate planning and what it means to not have a will.

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