Tag: death

What Are the First Steps to Take After a Loved One Dies?

After a loved one dies, your first thoughts are probably not about his or her estate plan. But it is important to take certain steps soon after the death in order to protect the estate. These steps include making funeral and burial arrangements, locating the will, and maintaining the estate’s value.

What Should You Do First?

When someone passes away, you should not immediately start taking items from their home or distributing their estate. There is a legal process to follow for estate distribution, and violating it can get you in trouble. Instead, first focus on funeral and burial arrangements.

The deceased person may have had specific wishes surrounding organ donation, anatomical gifts, funeral arrangements, and burial or cremation. You and other people close to the loved one should look for a document that lists these wishes. It may be a will or a separate piece of paper, and it may be with other important documents, with the person’s lawyer, or in another safe place. Sometimes, people include wishes about organ donation and anatomical gifts in their health care directives too. If you find a document listing these wishes, then notify family members and do your best to carry out the wishes.

Looking for the Will

In addition, you and others close to the deceased person should look for his or her will. Again, it might be in a safe place like a safe deposit box or with a lawyer. You may not be able to gain access to the safe deposit box right away without help from the probate court.

If you can’t find a will, don’t stress out. Sometimes wills are difficult to locate, and sometimes people do not make wills. Again, you should not start distributing the deceased person’s property. Talk to an estate planning and probate lawyer instead for help beginning the estate administration process.

Maintaining the Estate’s Value

Finally, you can take important steps towards maintaining the estate’s value. This may involve tasks like keeping an eye on the loved one’s house or caring for a child or pet. You may receive reimbursement from the estate later, and you will help out enormously until the executor or personal representative of the estate can step in. Once the executor is located and takes charge, he or she will handle finances, maintaining property, and other needed tasks.

Not sure what to do after a loved one’s death? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.

Illinois Marital Property Laws: The Basics

If you have ever been divorced or considered divorce in Illinois, you may have heard of the term marital property. The Illinois marital property laws dictate how assets are divided up in a divorce, independent of how they would be divided upon death of one of the spouses. Spouses can alter division and distribution of assets through a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement or in their wills.

What Is Marital Property?

In Illinois, any property that is acquired before the marriage, by gift, or by inheritance is non-marital property. 750 ILCS 5/503(a). In addition, any income received from non-marital property or increase in value on the property is considered non-marital property. The non-marital property belongs to the spouse who originally acquired it.

Any other property not listed above – usually property acquired during the marriage by one or both spouses – is marital property under the law. During a divorce, all marital property will be distributed equitably between the two spouses. But non-marital property cannot be divided by the court or assigned to the other spouse. 750 ILCS 5/503(d).

What Happens to Marital Property When One Spouse Dies?

Illinois is not a community property state, so the marital property laws do not apply when a spouse dies (only for divorce). Each spouse is considered to own the assets that are titled in his or her name. In other words, if only one spouse’s name is on a car title, then the car is part of only that spouse’s assets and will be distributed as part of his or her estate after death. When the spouses jointly own property, the surviving spouse may automatically receive full ownership of the property outside of the probate process.

Each spouse can make a will that leaves a portion of his or her assets to a spouse, but also he or she could disinherit the spouse altogether. If there is no will, the surviving spouse will receive a share of the deceased spouse’s assets by law.

In addition, spouses can sign a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that affects distribution of assets – both upon divorce and upon death of one spouse. See 750 ILCS 5/503. For example, such an agreement might waive marital property rights, preventing distribution of property acquired during marriage between the spouses. The agreement also might waive the spouses’ statutory shares of the estates if either dies without a will. Spouses interested in signing this kind of agreement should be sure to integrate it with their existing estate plans or incorporate it into a new estate plan upon marriage.

Want to start planning your estate? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.

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