Chicago Estate Planning Attorney
What Your Will Will NOT Do (And What To Do Instead)
The last will and testament is one of the most important documents that you can have as part of your overall estate plan. With a last will and testament, you are essentially making decisions regarding your assets that’ll take effect following your death. Creating and filing a will is often simple and inexpensive, and a will addresses many people’s estate planning needs.
Nevertheless, the last will and testament cannot do everything, and it’s really important to understand what your will can do, and what your will cannot do. With decades of estate planning experience in the Chicago area, and helping hundreds of individuals draft, file, and administer their wills, Chicago estate planning attorney James C. Provenza can help make sure that your will addresses your specific needs. For a free consultation with our law firm, James C. Provenza & Associates, call us today at (847) 729-3939.
What a Will Might Not Do
A last will and testament plays an important role in estate planning, but it cannot handle every piece of property and every situation. Below, we’ve listed some of the most common things that a will cannot do, and what you should do instead:
- A will cannot provide funeral plans. You can include funeral instructions in a will, but a problem with wills is that they’re usually not read until days (or weeks) after the death. Instead of including funeral plans in your will, make sure to pre-plan the funeral yourself with a funeral home or leave separate, written instructions. If you’re leaving instructions, also make sure that people know where to find them after your death.
- A will cannot care for pets. Animals cannot legally inherit property from you. Therefore, you cannot leave money to your pet to ensure that your pet will be cared for after your death. Instead of including clauses in your will for pets, you can leave money and property to other people who are willing to take care of the animal. Because a pet is considered “property,” you can also leave the pet with a person named in your will. Furthermore, you can state that the money (or other assets) must be used for the pet’s benefit.
- A will cannot transfer certain types of property. Unfortunately, there are certain types of property that cannot be transferred after your death. For instance, the last will and testament usually doesn’t affect property that is owned as joint tenancy, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, transfer-on-death accounts, and properties that are part of a trust. Usually, these types of properties and assets will pass automatically because of the way the property is legally owned.
- A will cannot avoid estate tax. A last will and testament cannot avoid the Illinois or federal estate tax.
- A will cannot avoid probate in court. The probate procedure, which occurs in probate courts, validates the will and gets it in motion. Although probate can take several months and it requires fees for attorneys, the executor, and the court, if your will is needed to transfer property, probate cannot be avoided.
- A will cannot provide for a child with special needs. For children, a spouse, or another person with special needs, a last will and testament is not the right estate planning tool. To provide for a child or a spouse with special needs, you should create a special needs trust that’ll hold money for the person’s care. This type of trust won’t affect the special needs individual’s government benefits.
Alternatives to a Last Will & Testament
Although the last will and testament is one of the most fundamental aspects of an estate plan, there are some disadvantages. Fortunately, you can consider some alternatives, including:
- Transferring property during your lifetime
- Setting up a pay-on-death account
- Creating life insurance policies with named beneficiaries
- Naming beneficiaries on retirement accounts
- Establishing a living trust
- Creating other trusts
Call James C. Provenza & Associates Today for Your Estate Plan
Dying without a will can be a major problem, as any property will then be transferred according to Illinois intestacy laws. As such, whether you’re looking to draft (or update) your will, or look for alternatives to make sure that all your property and interests are covered, call James C. Provenza & Associates today. Chicago attorney Provenza has decades of experience helping individuals just like you with their estate plans, and we ensure comprehensive and professional representation for your case. For a free, no-obligation consultation with our law firm, call James C. Provenza today at (847) 729-3939.