Tag: estate

How to Get Started Making an Estate Plan

Getting Started

If you would like to get started making an estate plan, you may not know which steps to take first. You will be on good footing if you assess which assets you own, think about your goals, and find a capable lawyer to help.

  1. Assess Which Assets You Own

Before you go see a lawyer to prepare your estate planning documents, it is a good idea to figure out exactly what you own. For example, you may have:

  • Real estate
  • Investments such as stocks, mutual funds, bonds, or ETFs
  • Retirement accounts like IRAs, 401(k)s, or pensions
  • Valuable items such as jewelry or cars
  • Cash

Make a list of your accounts and your assets to bring with you when you meet with lawyers. This will help the lawyer assess your situation and prepare appropriate estate planning documents. Make sure to mention if you own any property in another country or state, and mention if you jointly own any of your assets.

  1. What Are Your Estate Planning Goals?

In addition to listing out your assets, think about your goals. Why do you want to make an estate plan? Are there particular relatives or friends to whom you want to leave inheritances? Are you concerned about future medical problems? Do you want to protect your children? Identifying some basic goals in making an estate plan can help your lawyer address them in the legal documents. Your lawyer may have suggestions about different ways to accomplish the goals.

  1. Finding an Estate Planning Lawyer

Now that you have a better idea of your assets and your goals, it is time to find an estate planning lawyer. Having a lawyer gives you peace of mind that your plan meets legal formalities and can be enforced after you pass away. Moreover, a lawyer can advise you on the best ways to accomplish your goals considering the assets you own. Your lawyer should spend time with you discussing your goals and why you need particular estate planning documents. Look for an estate planning lawyer in your local area that you can trust.

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.

Can Creditors Seek Repayment of Debts from Your Estate?

If you are in debt, you might hope that the creditors will go away after you die. Your relatives shouldn’t have to pay back the debts that you owe, right? Unfortunately, the law does allow creditors to seek repayments of debts from your estate.

How Can Creditors Get Paid from Your Estate?

After you pass away, your executor or representative will gather your assets and distribute them to your heirs. Before your heirs get anything, though, the executor must notify creditors of your death. The creditors can choose to assert claims against the value of your estate.

These claims get paid off before your heirs receive any money. If you do not have liquid assets, like cash, the executor may need to sell things to raise cash for the debts. If your debts exceed the value of your assets, then each creditor will be paid for a portion of his or her claim. But your heirs will receive nothing.

Asset Protection Strategies

There are ways to protect your assets from creditors, even after death. Creditors can only make claims against your estate – that is, everything that you owned individually before your death. Assets owned by a trust or business, or those co-owned with a second person, may be protected from creditor access. However, creditors may be able to access business assets if you were the sole owner, and they could access your portion of co-owned assets in some cases.

Also, there are laws in place to prevent people in debt from “hiding” assets from creditors by changing the assets’ ownership. You must be very careful when setting up asset protection strategies to stay within the law. For that reason, it is often best to think about asset protection before you get into debt. Alternatively, talk to a lawyer to see if you have other options.

As discussed above, creditors can access any assets that are part of your estate. Assets left in trust to beneficiaries that are not your estate, however, are usually protected because the trust owns them, not you. If you plan ahead now by creating a trust, you may save your heirs from disappointment when creditors take a large portion of the assets.

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.

What Should You Do If Your Relative Chose You as His Executor?

Not long ago, your relative told you that he chose you as the executor of his estate. You are not sure what being an executor means, and you don’t know what your responsibilities are. Now, your relative has sadly  passed away. What should you do?

  1. Making Funeral Arrangements

Since you believe that you are the executor of your relative’s estate, you may need to take charge of making funeral arrangements. Talk to other family members and find out if your relative left a document explaining his funeral and burial wishes. This may be a separate document or part of a will or power of attorney. Follow those wishes if you can. If you cannot locate anything, ask your family what they think your relative might have wanted and take their suggestions into consideration.

  1. Look for the Will and Other Important Documents

You also need to find the will and other important documents concerning your relative’s estate. In particular, you need to confirm that you are listed as the executor in the will. The will may be in your relative’s house, with a trusted person like a lawyer or financial advisor, or locked up in a safe or safe deposit box. Getting access to the will could take some time and even require a court order. If you are having trouble finding it, you may want to speak to a lawyer to learn more about your obligations and duties.

  1. What to Do with the Will

When you find a will, you may need to submit it to the probate court. In some cases, when an estate has a lower value, you do not need court help to distribute the estate. Figuring out whether the probate court needs to get involved usually involves assessing the estate’s overall value, which might require professional help.

If you need to go to court, locate a lawyer who can assist with filing court forms and appearing before the judge. If you do not need to go to court, you will still need to do some paperwork. Executors have to gather all estate assets, figure out how much they are worth, locate heirs, and distribute the assets to the heirs according to the will. This process can take months or years depending on the estate’s complexity. Once the estate is completely distributed and taxes are filed properly, the executor’s job is done.

Appointed executor of an estate and need legal advice? 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.

Do You Need an Estate Planning Lawyer to Make a Will?

If you want to make a will, you may wonder if you actually need an estate planning lawyer. Maybe you have seen will forms that you can print from the Internet, or you have a family member who wrote her own will. But the truth is that using an estate planning lawyer is the safest and most reliable way to make a legally enforceable will that properly conveys your wishes.

How Can an Estate Planning Lawyer Help Make Your Will?

Estate planning lawyers provide many services in connection with wills, including:

  • Writing the text of the will
  • Giving input on the will’s contents and whether the wording will effectively convey your wishes
  • Talking to you about the effects of the will, such as possible estate taxes
  • Providing appropriate witnesses
  • Making sure that you execute the will correctly
  • Holding onto a copy of the will
  • Adding a new section to the will or rewriting it if needed
  • Helping out your family with estate distribution and probate court issues if you should pass away

If you were to write your will yourself, you would not receive any of these services. In fact, your family might need to hire a lawyer later at potentially greater expense if there are issues with enforcing your homemade will.

Which Issues Could Arise with a Homemade Will?

Unfortunately, many families run into problems when relatives decide to handwrite, type, or print out wills rather than seeing a lawyer. For example, the handwriting could be hard to read, there might be additions written into the margins that may or may not be legally enforceable, the will might omit a spouse or children inadvertently, or the document might have been improperly signed without witnesses. All of these issues might lead to prolonged battles in probate court that could have been avoided with legal help.

While some people ultimately decide to make their own wills, it truly is safer to visit a lawyer before making any estate planning documents on your own. You can get your questions answered by a knowledgeable practitioner, have documents prepared that meet your needs, and most of all have peace of mind about your wishes and goals.

Want to start planning your estate by making a will? 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.

How Do You Figure Out Who Is the Estate’s Executor?

How Do You Figure Out Who Is the Estate’s ExecutorWhen a relative passes away, you may need to figure out who is the executor of his or her estate in order to distribute the relative’s assets to heirs. Determining the executor is usually relatively simple once you locate the will.

Why Do You Need to Identify the Executor?

An estate executor serves several important functions in distributing and settling a deceased person’s estate. He or she gathers all of the deceased person’s assets, locates any heirs, notifies creditors, and distributes the assets to heirs. The executor handles payment of taxes and legal fees, hiring professionals if necessary to help manage estate assets. In addition, an estate executor sometimes must make filings with the probate court.

An executor usually needs to take charge of estate assets soon after a person passes away to prevent any reduction in value of the assets (such as unpaid bills or damage from neglect). Sometimes, the burial arrangements or end of life wishes could be delayed because the executor has not been identified quickly.

How Do You Identify the Executor?

The deceased person’s will should name the executor. Many wills also name successor executors in case the first one cannot or will not perform the job. Once you locate the will, locating the executor is usually simple.

In some cases, though, you might have a tough time figuring out who is the estate executor. This could happen if:

  • The will does not name an executor
  • You cannot locate the person named as executor
  • The executor has died or is incapacitated and no successor is named
  • You cannot find the will
  • The deceased person did not make a will

If there is no will, then the probate court likely needs to appoint an estate representative to serve essentially the same function as an executor. You or another interested person such as a relative or friend of the deceased person needs to apply to the court requesting this appointment. The probate judge will then select an appropriate person to serve as representative with court supervision.

Need help handling a deceased relative’s 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.

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.