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Estate Planning

Why You Should Have a Will

Here are the main reasons why a person would want to have a will. 

1.  To Designate Who Shall Serve as Your Executor

You can state in your will who will serve as your executor (the person/s who shall take care of collecting your assets, paying your debts, and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries).  An executor is like a “financial manager” to carry out the instructions in your will. 

2.  To Designate Who Shall Be the Beneficiaries

If a resident of Illinois dies without a will (meaning you die “intestate”), Illinois has a law stating who will receive the assets owned individually by the deceased person (assets that aren’t passing by a beneficiary form).  If Joe dies intestate, Illinois law basically gives the first $10,000 to his wife (if he has a spouse), a minimum of $10,000 for his minor children or adult dependent children, and one-half of the remainder to his wife and the other one-half for his children. 

3.  To Designate a Guardian for a Minor Child

If you have a minor child, you can state in your will who you desire to serve as guardian of your child if you die and the child is still a minor.  By stating who you want to serve as the guardian, you hopefully reduce the chances of your relatives fighting about who will raise your child/children. 

4.  To Designate a Guardian for a Handicapped Adult Child

If you have a handicapped adult child (and you are the present guardian), you can state in your will who you desire to serve as guardian upon your death.  By stating who you want to serve as the guardian, you hopefully reduce the chances of your relatives fighting about who will raise your handicapped child. 

5.  To State the Age for Young People to Inherit

You can state in your will (or in a trust also) when you would like your children, grandchildren, or other young persons to receive an inheritance.  If you die and one of your heirs (the persons who inherit your assets when you die without a will) is younger than age 18, in Illinois the assets can be distributed to the person if the total assets that he or she is receiving are $10,000 or less.  If the inheritance for the minor is over $10,000, then a guardian must be appointed to manage the money/assets until the minor turns age 18, at which time the money/assets are distributed to the 18-year-old.  Most people don’t want to allow an 18-year-old to receive a large inheritance because the young person may not make the best decisions regarding the inheritance. 

6.  To State How Assets May Benefit a Beneficiary Before the Final Distribution to the Beneficiary

You can state in your will (or in a trust also) how you would like the assets to be used for a child, grandchild, or other beneficiary.  Here are some possible ways:

          (a)  to pay for educational expenses

          (b)  to pay for medical expenses, dental expenses, or optical expenses

          (c)  to pay for living expenses (such as food, clothing, utility bills)

          (d)  to pay for a beneficiary’s wedding expenses

          (e)  to help a beneficiary with a down payment on a home

          (f)  to help a beneficiary establish his/her own business

7.  To Waive Surety

Unless the will waives getting a “surety”, then the executor must have either (a) a corporate surety {which will mean an expense to the estate}, or (b) have two individuals sign documents stating they are willing to serve as sureties for the executor.  Basically a “surety” is guaranteeing that if the executor were to steal money or other estate assets, that the surety will be on the hook for that money (will pay the creditors or the beneficiaries what they are due).  A will can state that no surety is required, thus saving the executor the trouble of having to get a corporate surety or two individual sureties.  If you choose someone you trust to serve as executor, do you really need a surety?  

8.  To Protect Assets for a Beneficiary Who Receives SSI (Supplemental Security Income) or Medicaid Benefits

If you die without a will and one of your heirs is receiving either SSI or Medicaid benefits, then the assets/money which that heir receives may replace the government benefits that he/she was receiving (in other words, your assets/money may cause such heir to stop receiving Medicaid benefits and/or the assets/money that the heir receives may have to be turned over to the government because the heir was receiving Medicaid).  It is extremelyimportant to check with an estate planning lawyer to get a good will in place if you have a child, grandchildren or close loved one who is receiving SSI or Medicaid.   

9.  What if I have a trust?  Do I need a will?

          Yes, you do need a will even if you have a trust because

          (a)  you might not put all your assets into the trust (most people don’t put their vehicles into their trusts, and some people like to keep a small checking account outside the trust)

          (b)  if you forget to transfer any assets into your trust, then your will does state that your trust is the beneficiary of the will (to direct any assets into your trust)

          (c)  if you were injured/hurt before your death (auto accident, medical malpractice, or in another manner), then your executor may have the right to sue the person that caused your harm


Copyright 2008 Ronald Runkle

Law Office of Ronald Runkle & Associates, P.C.
236 Center Street - Grayslake, IL 60030
Tel: (847) 548-5950 Fax: (847) 548-6085