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Do you need a Will?

At some point in your life, you have probably wondered “do I need a Will?”

Most people know a Will controls how your property is distributed upon your death. However, if you have a spouse, children or step-children, a Will is a necessity. From deciding who gets your car, to naming a legal guardian for your minor child, a Will can shape the future of your family and loved ones. The most common question Chicago Estate Planning Lawyers are asked is “what exactly is a Will good for?”

You can decide how your estate will be distributed

A Will lets you determine how your estate should be distributed upon your death. If you die without a Will, there is no guarantee your possessions will be distributed as you intended. In your Will, you decide not only who receives the money from your estate, but also your personal possession. This can help minimize any potential family conflicts over your estate, especially over family heirlooms.

You can decide who will take care of you minor children

Most people aren’t aware a Will is the only instrument which allows you to name a desired individual to be the guardian of your minor children upon your passing. Without a Will, your child’s care will be left to the mercy of the court. The court will choose from a member of your family or a state-appointed guardian, only your child has to sit through court proceedings. A Will allows you to protect your children from a strenuous legal process after losing a parent, while making sure your children are not raised by the wrong person.

You can avoid the lengthy probate process.

Every estate goes through Probate Court, with or without a Will. However, a Will informs the court how you would like your estate distributed, decreasing the amount of time your estate is in probate. Without direction, the court must decide how to distribute your estate on its own. Additionally, family dispute as to how to distribute your personal assets can extend the probate period even longer.

You can minimize estate taxes

By making bequests to your spouse or charities named under your Will, you can reduce the value of your estate. These gifts are deducted from your estate’s value prior to the imposition of the estate tax, causing your estate to be taxed at a lower rate, allowing for more value to be distributed to your primary beneficiaries. There are other ways to reduce estate taxes through such devices as Trusts, and our experience Chicago Estate Planning lawyers can help create a plan to best serve your needs.

You can decide who distributes your estate

An Executor can be designated in your Will, or else the court will appoint one, most likely a member of your family. The executor handles the actual property in your estate, putting all of your affairs in order, like paying off debts, cancelling credit cards, and notifying the proper entities of your passing. Because the executor has the most important role in the administration of your estate, it is important to appoint someone who is honest, trustworthy, and well organized.

You can disinherit individuals

Although a Will is usually used to designate the recipients of your estate, it can also be used to disinherit individuals who would otherwise inherit your estate if you die without a Will. Because estates without Wills are distributed according to law, an ex-spouse with whom you had a bitter divorce may be entitled to a large portion of your estate. A Will can insure that your estate does not end up in the wrong or unintended hands.

You can make gifts and donations

You can use your Will to continue your legacy and reflect the values you held dear during your life. Each gift, up to $13,000 per year, is excluded from estate taxes which decreases the value of your estate and taxes. Not only will you support the causes you believe in, but you can help your family as well. That’s a textbook definition of a win-win.

You can avoid unintentional distributions

Without a Will, your property may transfer to someone who you may not expect. If you die without children, but have a father you haven’t talked in 35 years, your estate may transfer entirely to your father. Instead of your brothers or sisters, who are still a large part of your life, your estranged father will be receive everything you own. If you own community property, and have multiple children, there are other concerns. Under the law that governs community property, your surviving spouse will only inherit the property if all of your children are also the children of your surviving spouse. Ownership would pass to your children, who could conceivable force your spouse out of the home.

You can always change your mind

You can change your Will for any reason, at any time. Whether your child won the lottery, or just looked at you funny, circumstances change during your lifetime which can affect how you intend to distribute your assets upon your death. Changing a Will is not a complex task, and any lawyer drafting Wills in Chicago can easily assist you.

No day is guaranteed.

Death and taxes are the only guarantees in life, yet the fear of dying keeps most people from feeling they need a Will. More often than not, an unexpected death or disability forces people to realize that Wills are necessary, and sometimes it is too late. Even a simple Will can be beneficial, easily executed, and help with basic estate administration.

Regardless of the size of your estate, our experienced Chicago Estate Planning Lawyers can help you navigate the process of creating a Will to fit your specific needs. Whether you are looking for an Estate Planning Attorney in Chicago, or are have some general question, contact attorney Michael Rizo for more information. The lawyers of Bellas & Wachowski have the experience and knowledge to help guide you thorugh the process.