Is a Will Necessary, or Can I Simply Tell My Family How My Assets Should Be Divided?

A will informs everyone what should happen to an estate (including money, possessions, and other property) after a person dies.  When someone dies without a will (referred to as passing “intestate”), Illinois intestacy laws[1] determine how assets are distributed, which may not be in accordance with a decedent’s wishes.

Typically, personal property, bank accounts, investments, and other property will pass to a spouse, children, or other family members, excluding any nonrelated parties and friends.  For instance, if you die with no spouse and four children, each child will receive one-fourth of the estate, regardless of whether you were estranged from one child, if a child has special healthcare needs while another is wealthy, or if you intended for your unmarried partner to receive half of your possessions.

Instead of relying on intestacy, it is critical for every individual to have a will (even if a trust is in place).  Executing a will makes it much easier for loved ones to sort out affairs and streamline the probate process, helping avoid frustration and the expensive fees associated with passing intestate.  Do not leave your asset distribution up to chance; let me help by drafting your last will and testament that ensures your loved ones receive what you want.

If My Assets Will Automatically Pass to My Family, Why Do I Need a Will or Trust?

There are often many practical matters that occur if a family member (such as an elderly parent) tries to tell children which assets they should inherit.  For instance, not all children may be present to hear the parent’s pronouncements concerning the inheritance of specific items.  Memories of the children may fade, or they simply may not remember who is supposed to receive specific items.  Specific assets may be sold and not replaced, leaving one child at a disadvantage.

Assets may also change.  What happens if the parent said that a 20 year old, virtually worthless car was to go to a specific child, and then the parent sold that car and bought a new very expensive car.  Should the same child receive the new expensive car?

Additionally, there are certain items that individuals desire to pass to specific family members; however, this may not occur if an estate representative distributes property.  As noted above, a personal representative of an estate is required under law to divide assets in equal amounts based upon Fair Market Value.  Fair market value does not take into account sentimental value. It may very well be that a child would rather receive certain items of high sentimental value (but which have little fair market value) rather than a higher fair market value asset distribution.

Without a Will, Those Who Die Place Family Member Estate Administrators in Difficult Positions

In most cases, a family member will also serve as the estate administrator.  In these cases, the estate administrator can be put in a position of conflict – they may be entitled to an equal share of a parent’s estate, and they may also want the same items of sentimental value as their brothers or sisters.

The estate administrator is thus put in an almost unwinnable position: Should they give these assets to themselves or to their other family members?

With a will, these difficult decisions – and the conflict and hard feelings that can result – can be avoided.

Please Call Me to Learn How an Affordable and Comprehensive Will and Estate Plan Can Be Created to Meet Your Needs.

I look forward to meeting you and learning about your estate objectives.

[1] 755 ILCS 5/2 et. seq.

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