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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Change In Management

Agnes has learned that her living trust can accomplish after-death distribution of her property, much like a Will would. But her trust has an advantage for her out-of-state adult children. 

They will not need to file a probate court case here in Illinois after Agnes’ death in order to distribute her property as she directs them to in her trust.  They will not have to pay a special title insurance bond premium either, which saves money.

Agnes named her son, John, to wear her “trustee hat” and be her successor co-trustee.  After her death, John will have legal authority to manage her property, including whether to rent it out or sell it.  He will be authorized to sign a Deed to sell it without going to court first, because the owner of the property is the trust, not Agnes.

Because the trust is a piece of paper and so cannot die, Agnes’ death simply will mean there is a change in management.  As the successor trustee, John (or his sister Betty, if John does not take on the job for some reason) will follow the directions Agnes left for distributing her assets on the terms she specified.  When all is done as she wanted, the successor trustee will close the trust. 

For advice about living trusts or wills for yourself or someone you know who needs help with estate planning, call our office at (815) 436-1996 to set an appointment for individualized analysis of your specific situation. 

©2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Trustee Is Duty Bound

Agnes has learned that she has just as much power to take care of her property as trustee of her own living trust as she did when she owned that property simply as herself.  It also means that she can later allow either or both of her adult children take over managing her property later if she wants to, by naming them her successor trustee. 

She could later resign as trustee so her son John, who she named to serve first, could take over managing her rental property and other finances. Then, John would have the legal authority to buy or sell, mortgage, hold, or use any of her assets just as Agnes did when she served as trustee.  John could sign a deed to sell one of her rental properties, as trustee.

But there is an important difference.  John must make all management decisions for the benefit of Agnes only as long as she is alive.  Even though Agnes resigned being trustee, she is still the beneficiary of the trust for her lifetime.  So, as her trustee, John is duty-bound to act only for her interests.

If at the time Agnes stops being trustee, John is unable or unwilling to be trustee, Agnes has named her daughter Betty to serve as the backup trustee. 

For advice about living trusts or wills for yourself or someone you know who needs help with estate planning, call our office at (815)436-1996 to receive free informational brochures or to set an appointment for individualized analysis of your specific situation. 

©2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Grantor Is First

Agnes is finding out that she can be fully in control of her own revocable living trust so long as she is alive and able to handle her own affairs.  Plus, the living trust means her out-of-state adult children won’t have to go through probate court proceedings here in Illinois to take care of wrapping up her financial affairs after her death.

Agnes is in full control of her property held in her new living trust when she wears all three hats, as grantor, trustee and beneficiary, even though her trust, not Agnes, is the official owner of the property. 

As grantor, Agnes creates the trust.  When she creates the trust, she names who will inherit after her death and who will be in charge of paying her final debts and making sure the people she named receive her remaining property. 

The grantor also is the person who provides property for the trust to own; that is, Agnes funds the trust.  She plans to put just about everything she owns into her trust. 

As grantor, Agnes also is the only person who has full power to change or revoke it if she ever wanted to. 

For answers about living trusts or wills for yourself or someone you know who needs help with estate planning, call our office at (815)436-1996 to receive free informational brochures and information or to set an appointment for individualized analysis of your specific situation. 

©2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Considering A Trust

Agnes wants to be sure her adult children don’t have any trouble selling her rental property and cashing in her other assets after her death.  Since they both live out of state, she really doesn’t want them to have to do any court proceedings here in Illinois to do it.

Her friend, Dick, suggests that she see an attorney about getting a living trust.  “But I’m not ready to pay a bank to be in charge of my property yet,” Agnes answered him, dismayed. 

“I don’t think a bank would be involved at all,” Dick said, “and you need to do something to make things easier even if it’s not a living trust.  Go see an estate planning attorney, and ask how you can make it easier.”

Unless Agnes wants a bank in control, there is in fact no reason that a bank would be involved, just as Dick had thought.  Agnes will learn in the next few columns about the three hats she could wear herself by serving as grantor, trustee and beneficiary, if she decides to use a living trust to make things easier and less expensive for her children after she passes away.

For answers about living trusts, wills or probate for yourself or someone you know who needs help with estate planning, call our office at (815)436-1996 to receive free informational brochures and information, or to set an appointment for individualized analysis of your specific situation. 

© 2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Estate Planning Matters When You Are Alive

Jon and Sue have been engaged and living together for over two years.  They plan to get married, but wedding expenses seem almost insurmountable.  So they keep putting off the big ceremony another year.

Along with the ceremony, they have been waiting to do Wills and Powers of Attorney, thinking that they will do those after they are married and have children.

But that thinking has some flaws.  Some things may be even more important to them now than they would be after the wedding.  For example, if Jon were hospitalized, Sue has no legal family status. 

As non-family, she might be delayed or even prevented from seeing him or talking to his doctors about his condition.  And she definitely would not be considered the decision-maker for Jon’s care by medical personnel if Jon becomes unable to decide for himself.

Such health care decisions would be made by agreement of Jon’s parents, who were divorced several years ago.  Sue could hope that they agree to let her decide, but they are not required to.  In fact, since she took Jon’s mother’s “side” in the ugly divorce, she thinks his father would not cooperate with her in any circumstance.

A power of attorney for health care allows you to choose who will make your health care decisions for you in the event you cannot.  To make your own choices, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an estate planning appointment. 

©2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Too Young To Have Anything?

Jon and Sue think they are too young to have an estate plan.  They plan to wait until after they get married and have children to do a Will and other estate planning. 

As we wrote last week, they actually already have an estate plan; they just may not know what it is.  Illinois law gives each of them the default ‘Will’ we wrote about last week.  So if Jon passes away, for example, that will leave his bitterly divorced parents and his brother to inherit all of Jon’s probate assets, with Sue, his fiancée for over two years, to get none.

Happily for Sue, there are some non-probate assets that she may receive.  She and Jon have a joint checking account for their household expenses, so she would receive that. 

They also bought a car together and put it in both names.  So that too would be Sue’s in the event of Jon’s death. 

But some personal property they bought together does not have title registered with the Secretary of State (or elsewhere), so it might be claimed by Jon’s probate estate.

For example, Sue and Jon planned how to pay to buy their 70-inch LCD television together.  To get a discount, Jon applied for a store credit card to buy it on, and they paid off the balance about a year later.  The receipt and the card were in Jon’s name, of course, which is potentially evidence that the TV is ‘his’ and not ‘theirs.’

Planning what happens in the event of your death is important, even when it may not seem obvious.  To learn about and control your own plan, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  ©2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Do You Like Your Estate Plan?

Jon and Sue think they are too young to have an estate plan.  They figure they will wait until they get married and have children to think about what will happen if either or both of them pass away unexpectedly. 

But they do in fact have an estate plan.  They effectively ‘decided’ by not deciding.  Their plan is what the ‘default’ probate laws say it is. 

Jon’s parents are divorced and his brother has not spoken to either of them in 5 years.  If Jon dies, every account or other asset he has in his name alone will be divided equally between his mother, father and brother.  And his mother and father will have ‘equal right’ to decide who would be in charge of Jon’s estate after his death. 

Unfortunately, their divorce was bitter, so the chances of them disagreeing about it are high, meaning the court would have to decide which one wins on that issue.  And Sue, who has lived with Jon for over two years and helped him buy his car, would have no say in it at all and would not be entitled to even a penny of his estate. 

Everyone has an estate plan.  It is best to know what it is.  To learn about your own plan, call our office at (815) 436-1996 to set an appointment to review it. 

©2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Choosing Health Help

Having made a painfully slow three-year recovery from incompetency after a mountain climbing accident, Wes no longer takes his ability to exercise control over his own life for granted. 

He has already decided to sign a Power of Attorney for Property, to have his twin brother, Ted, to manage his finances if it were to become necessary again.  Meg would serve as the alternate if Ted is cannot do it.

Now Wes is working on his Power of Attorney for Health Care, that will allow Wes to name who would be the decision-maker for him in the event he were unable to make medical decisions for himself. 

For this, he wants to name his daughter first, as she would be most concerned about those decisions.  But then he knows that Ted really understands his views on end-of-life decision-making.  So he asks if he can put them on together.

The answer is no, and it is non-negotiable.  When the legislature passed the Act creating the Power of Attorney for Health Care, it specified that no joint or co-agents were allowed. 

That way the doctor does not have to poll several individuals and track down multiple signatures for consent; instead the signature and opinion of only one person at a time is relevant or needed. 

However, Wes can name either one first, and the other second.  And he can give them non-binding, informal direction to consult with each other before making any major decisions. 

For advice on planning that allows you to control who makes your decisions when you cannot, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an estate planning appointment. 

© 2015 Gruber Law Office


Monday, September 14, 2015

Taking More Control

Wes and his daughter Meg have celebrated his recovery of his mental faculties three years after his traumatic mountain climbing accident.  Meg likes having her father ‘back’ more like she remembers while growing up and is also pleased to be done managing Wes’ finances as his court-appointed guardian.

Wes likes being back in control of his own finances.  He had a long recovery, made more difficult by having to watch his daughter struggle with the burden of managing his financial portfolio during these volatile years as the market has battled back from the 2008 drop. 

Since Meg is a generation younger, she had not previously managed such substantial assets.  She did not have time to learn over time as her own investments slowly grew.  Instead, she had to learn with her father’s retirement nest egg at risk while reporting all to the court.

Wes no longer takes his ability to exercise more control for granted.  He has decided to execute a Power of Attorney for Property, where he names who he would manage his finances without guardianship court supervision.  He chooses his twin brother, Ted, with Meg to serve as the alternate if Ted is cannot do it.  He feels Meg has had enough burden already.

Planning is a way to keep control even if it unexpectedly slips from your grasp.  For advice regarding your own planning opportunities, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.

© 2015 Gruber Law Office


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thankful With Lesson Learned

With the court’s approval, Meg has gladly handed over management of her father’s money back to her father, Wes.  She had been appointed by the court and acted as Wes’s guardian for the three years it took for him to recover his mental faculties after his mountain climbing accident.

With the court ruling that Wes is competent again, both Wes and Meg are thankful that the guardianship proceeding is over and particularly that it is no longer necessary.  It also means that Wes can do something now (besides being a safer mountain climber) to prevent or reduce any future guardianship costs. 

One key way for Wes to do this would be to execute Powers of Attorney – one for finances and one for medical decision-making. 

The Power of Attorney for Property would control financial decisions.  In it, Wes names who should take care of his finances if he is unavailable or cannot do so himself.  Then, if the need arose, the person taking care of his finances will not have to be appointed guardian and have their actions supervised by the court.

Planning ahead is an opportunity Wes now has again.  He has decided that since he now knows how fragile life is, he won’t take that opportunity for granted this time. 

For advice on planning that will protect what you have and your loved ones, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment. 

© 2015 Gruber Law Office


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Happy Ending with Red Tape

Meg has been managing Wes’s money as his guardian since his mountain climbing accident left him unable to do it himself.  But after extensive therapy, Wes seems to be recovered now, and they both want him to control of his own life and finances again.

Meg can turn control over to him with his help by filing a petition to terminate the court’s adjudication of disability and asking that the guardianship be terminated.  Then, they must convince the judge that her father has regained his capabilities and can now resume taking care of himself.  Wes will probably testify; there does not necessarily have to be any doctor’s reports or exam, although that might be helpful too.

Meg will need to do a full and complete accounting of her activities as guardian to the court.  After all, once she’s no longer guardian, her father is going to need to know where all his money and investments are.  And the court needs to make sure that Meg has finished her job responsibly till the very end.

So it’s more paperwork and expense, but at least this time it’s for a happy reason.

For advice about planning your own affairs to make future guardianship less likely even if you end up needing help, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  There are tools other than guardianship that can help in these situations.  

© 2015 Gruber Law Office


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