For most people, a Last Will and Testament is the first estate planning document they create. That Will may continue to serve as the foundation of their estate plan in the years to come, or it may be replaced as the foundation document by a trust agreement. For some people, a simple Will by itself is sufficient; however, most people find that they need more than just a simple Will at some point. How do you know when you have reached the point where a simple Will is no longer enough? The Lincolnshire estate planning lawyers at Hedeker Law, Ltd., help you decide if you need more than a simple Will to ensure that you, your estate, and your loved ones are protected.
Last Will and Testament Basics – What a Simple Will Can, and Cannot, Accomplish
Most people are familiar with the basic concept of a Last Will and Testament. A Will is a legal document that allows the Testator (the creator of the Will) to make specific and/or general gifts of estate assets to beneficiaries. Those gifts will then be honored at the time of the Testator’s death. A well drafted Will can distribute the Testator’s entire estate. The Testator also names someone to be the Executor of the estate in a Will. The Executor is the individual who is responsible for overseeing the probate of the estate following the death of the decedent. Finally, a Will is the only place where an individual may nominate a Guardian for minor children in the event a Guardian is ever needed. Executing even a simple Will ensures that you will not leave behind an intestate estate which would allow the State of Illinois to distribute your estate using the Illinois laws of intestate succession. There are, however, a number of limitations to what a simple Will can accomplish.
Why Might I Need More than a Simple Will?
As your estate planning needs and goals increase and become more complex, you will likely need to incorporate additional strategies and tools into your plan. If any of the following apply, you likely need more than just a simple Will:
- You want to plan for incapacity. The terms of a Will only apply upon your death. To protect yourself and your assets from the possibility of incapacity, you will probably want to include a revocable living trust to your estate plan.
- You need to protect assets. Whether you need to protect assets from creditors, divorce, or an economic downturn, an irrevocable trust is probably your best bet.
- You become a parent. Your minor children cannot inherit directly from your estate. Therefore, you will need to set up a trust to protect your child’s inheritance.
- You own a business. Transferring business assets in a Will creates numerous problems. Instead, incorporate a business succession planning component into your estate plan.
- You might be subject to gift and estate taxes. By planning ahead you can shelter a considerable amount of your wealth from taxation; however, it will take more than a simple Will to reduce your estate’s tax burden.
- It’s time to plan for long-term care. Unless you can afford to cover LTC expenses out of pocket, you will need to include Medicaid planning tools and strategies in your estate plan well ahead of time to ensure that you qualify for Medicaid if you need to down the road.
- You have a child with special needs. Leaving a child with special needs assets in your Will can jeopardize his/her eligibility for much needed state and/or federal assistance programs such as Medicaid and SSI. Instead, create a Special Needs Trust to protect those assets.
If you are unsure whether it is time to add to your simple Will, set up an appointment with your estate planning attorney to discuss your estate planning needs and goals.
Contact Lincolnshire Estate Planning Lawyers
Please feel free to download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns regarding your current estate planning needs, contact an experienced Lincolnshire estate planning lawyer at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.