Category Archives: Estate Planning Basics

Living Without a Will


A recent Gallup Poll has indicated that at least 56% of U.S. citizens do not have a will in place. Taking a closer look at the numbers, certain trends emerge. Older people are more likely to have a will, as are the more affluent and those with advanced degrees. This is not surprising, as there is a common misconception that only the wealthy need estate plans. However, every U.S. adult should have some sort of plan in place – at the very minimum a will and powers of attorney for healthcare and property (although for many, a trust may be a more appropriate option).

A will offers a number of necessary advantages over the State’s default designation (known as the laws of intestacy), including the ability to appoint guardians of minor children, the ability to choose an Executor of an estate, and the ability to direct where (and to whom) assets shall be distributed upon death. These designations are often very personal, and most people when pressed have some sort of preference that may or may not align with the State’s default law. If you are one of the many people without any estate planning, now is a good time to speak with an attorney to put a plan in place. Contact Matlin Law Group, P.C. for a free initial estate planning consultation a 1-847-770-6600.

Pen Paper Blue Shirt

___________________________________________________

[1] http://www.gallup.com/poll/191651/majority-not.aspx


Michael A. Goldberg

michael_goldberg A blog article by Michael A. Goldberg ©2017. Michael is an Attorney at Matlin Law Group, P.C. Please feel free to contact Michael Goldberg regarding this or any other matter. Phone number 1-847-770-6600.

Disclaimer – The content of this article is not intended to be legal advice and does not create an attorney client relationship with the person reading it.

Spring Cleaning – Getting Your Documents Organized for Your Estate plan


spring-cleaning

It is officially spring!  When many of us awaken from our long winter hibernation just in time for annual spring cleaning, the perfect opportunity arrives to whip our homes and lives into shape.

  Ideally, estate planning is the perfect catalyst for organization. The more you know about what you own, the more complete your estate plan will be. Organizing your paperwork and your mind may seem like a daunting task, but the resulting relief and satisfaction are worthwhile from not only a practical but a psychological and emotional standpoint.

An aversion to lawyers and arcane legal documents, or even a case of papyrophobia may leave you paralyzed. Perhaps a serious paperectomy is in order. If you cannot muster the organizational energy to sort your piles of paper, consider hiring someone or seeking the help of a professional, friend or relative. You will find it worth the effort and expense. Do not wait for a wake-up call – you may not get one.

If the mere thought of planning your estate and all of the work entailed triggers panic, this questionnaire may get you on the right track. If such a detailed questionnaire is itself a major obstacle and you are meeting with a lawyer for the first time, ask the lawyer what s/he needs for a get-acquainted meeting. You may find that you can accomplish a lot with minimal advance preparation.

Matlin & Associate, P.C. offers a free estate planning consultation. This consultation is a great opportunity for you to ask one of our attorneys what documents you may want to get organized. Please feel free to give us a call at 1-847-770-6600.

 

Top 12 Reasons People Delay Estate Planning


calendar_family_01

January is as good a time as any to contemplate your goals for the new year and begin to fulfill new (or old unfulfilled) resolutions. Like doing estate planning. If you did your planning years ago, your goal might be to tune it up, making sure that when it is actually needed, it benefits you and your family as optimally as possible. Your estate plan may be stale if your personal or financial circumstances have changed, including the birth, death or increasing disability of a family member; marriage or divorce; change in net worth or assets; or simply the passage of time.

For sure, estate tax laws changed significantly January 1, 2013. State estate taxes can now be as important as federal estate taxes and capital gains considerations may trump both.

A  properly planned estate will give you peace of mind that your assets go where you desire, with the right people in charge, and keep your family out of court.

If this month turns into the next and so on without completing your estate plan, maybe you fall into one of my top-twelve reasons why people delay estate planning. Do any resonate with you?

12. Most people don’t like to think about death or money. Wills and trusts force you to confront mortality and money, two issues that can be difficult to face. This is particularly true if you are healthy and don’t feel you have much money.

11. Estate planning is something most people are unfamiliar with or feel uncomfortable about. Because you don’t know much about estate-planning documents, you may experience anxiety or struggle with feelings of inadequacy when confronted with the subject. You know how to be a good plumber or schoolteacher or police officer or how to run a restaurant, but you don’t know estate planning.

10. There’s no hard-and-fast deadline. Many people can’t accomplish anything until a deadline looms. But when it comes to wills and trusts, the crucial and final deadline often comes without warning.

9. It’s not much fun. True, but life isn’t always fun, especially if you are an adult. If you need fun, plan a party to celebrate finishing your estate plan.

8. People hate lawyers. But not all people hate all lawyers; you can find one you can relate to.

7. People are afraid of massive amounts of paper. If you understand the paperwork, it becomes less intimidating. Be prepared to ask questions about anything you don’t understand.

6. You won’t live to see the largest benefits of your estate plan. The main beneficiaries will be your heirs. It can be difficult to devote yourself to this task until you accept your family’s priorities as your own.

5. It might mean making decisions that could arouse negative feelings in loved ones. Maybe you’re concerned your family will be angry when they learn the details of your estate plan.

4. The size of the job can be daunting. Estate planning can be, but isn’t necessarily, a big, time-consuming task. The perceived enormity of the task can prevent some people from even starting the job.

3. Not doing your estate planning can be a form of passive-aggressive behavior. If you’re not happy with your future heirs, failing to complete necessary wills or trusts can be a subconscious way to punish them.

2. Some people just like to live for the moment. Some procrastinators simply can’t—or won’t—force themselves to pass up short-term pleasure and sit down to complete their estate planning, even if at some level they understand that doing so will provide them with far greater long-term satisfaction.

1. Guilt feeds upon itself. The real number one excuse for not doing an estate plan, when you know you need one, is the wall built from guilt about not doing estate planning, adding to any depression you might have about procrastination in other areas of your life and leading, ironically, to further delay. If you can’t move from that state, a psychologist or counselor with experience working with procrastinators might help you.

All of these reasons to delay are perfectly understandable—but that doesn’t make them any less harmful. Fortunately, you can benefit by simply recognizing them. Once you do that you realize that doing nothing can make your worst fears come true you can weigh the very real dangers of delay against the fear of thinking about money or mortality. You might discover that doing your estate plan is easier–not only in the long-term, which is obvious, but also in the short-term — since the whole subject can then be put behind you.

We offer a free initial estate planning consultation to help you make the first step in completing your planning goal this year.

Eric Matlin

Eric G. Matlin

A blog article by Eric G. Matlin ©2014. Eric is an Attorney and President of Matlin & Associates, P.C. Please feel free to contact Eric Matlin regarding this or any other matter. Phone number 1-847-770-6600

Disclaimer – The content of this article is not intended to be legal advice and does not create an attorney client relationship with the person reading it

Eric G. Matlin, author of Penguin Group Publishing’s 2004 “The Procrastinator’s Guide to Wills and Estate Planning” has been writing about procrastination now for 10 years and is eager to change direction. Look for Eric’s new book “Not Dead Yet,” featuring a graphic novel book-within-a-book, to be published later this year.

Are You Covering Your Children’s Health Insurance Costs Without Any Access to Their Medical Information?


The Affordable Care Act requires plans that offer dependent coverage to make the dependent coverage available until the adult child reaches the age of 26.  While many parents are covering the costs of their adult children until the age of 26, many of these parents are unaware that they have no access to that adult child’s medical records and/or no one has been appointed agent under power of attorney for healthcare for the adult child.

College_Girl_Sick_Small

Imagine: Your daughter is in college, a thousand miles away. You pray that she is safe in her new environment, but if she is hurt you can find yourself in a nightmare world. You get a call from a hospital: “She’s here, in stable condition.”

You ask, “What happened? What’s happening?”

The worker at the other end of the phone may feel legally restricted in what information she can give you without conflicting with HIPAA regulations, so you receive no clear response and are denied basic information. She believes that she is honoring your daughter’s federal right to privacy under HIPAA and minimizing her potential liability; but her “take it up with our legal department” response leaves you in a lurch.

HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act) authorizations and Powers of Attorney for Health Care (POAHC) are examples of estate-planning tools that are valuable to people of all ages and means. Every competent person age 18 and over should have them.  HIPAA authorizations allow access to your adult child’s health information to whomever your adult child chooses.

POAHCs provide for the appointment of an agent who can make the personal and medical decisions on your behalf of your adult child, should they become incapacitated. It is a type of “advance directive” that helps to avoid a guardianship over their person, keeping your family out of court, and provides a forum for your adult child to articulate end-of-life philosophies, addresses organ donation issues and disposition of remains.

Think of a HIPAA Authorization as your loved one’s answer to the voice at the medical emergency end of the phone saying, “Sorry, I’m not authorized to discuss her condition with you — if you have a problem with this, take it up with our lawyers.” The penalties for health workers (physicians, nurses, hospital administrators and others) who violate complex HIPAA privacy rules can include fines and jail time.

If your adult child is in the area over the winter break, please have them contact our office to schedule an appointment to execute their health care power of attorney and HIPAA authorization.  We are running a special from December 20-January 20 for $100.00 to complete this work.

eric_matlin     johannah_hebl
Eric G. Matlin      Johannah K. Hebl

A blog article by Eric G. Matlin and Johannah K. Hebl.  Eric and Johannah are Attorneys at Matlin & Associates, P.C.   Please feel free to contact Eric Matlin or Johannah Hebl at Matlin & Associates, P.C. regarding this or any other matter.  Phone number 1-847-770-6600.  Our attorneys have the experience to guide you through your estate planning needs.

Disclaimer – The content of this article is not intended to be legal advice and does not create an attorney client relationship with the person reading it.

WHAT IS CAPACITY, AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?


Capacity and Estate Planning

Mom is 78 years old, living alone after the death of Dad.  She was recently diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Mom doesn’t have a will, or powers of attorney for health care or property, and you have heard that these are important. You have also heard that if Mom lacks mental capacity, she can’t sign these crucial estate planning documents.

What is mental capacity? The answer depends upon what type of decision Mom needs to make, and what type of document Mom needs to sign.  “Capacity” is not a one-size-fits-all concept:  the legal standard for capacity is lower for executing a power of attorney for health care than it is for signing a contract or a deed.  What follows is an outline of various levels of capacity:

MEDICAL DECISIONS:

Every adult in Illinois is presumed to have the capacity to make their own health care decisions, assuming they are in a conscious state.  A diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s will not necessarily overcome this presumption, but a diagnosis of advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s could.

POWERS OF ATTORNEY

The level of capacity required to be able to execute a durable power of attorney has not been determined in Illinois. The standard of capacity for powers of attorney for health care would most likely be similar to those outlined above under “medical decisions,” while the standard for powers of attorney for property would most likely fall somewhere between “testamentary capacity” and “contracts and deeds.”

TESTAMENTARY CAPACITY (WILLS)

The standard for testamentary capacity is less exacting than the ability to transact ordinary business.  Mom may not be able to balance her checkbook or pay her bills on time, but if she can meet the following standards, she is competent to make her will:

  1. The ability to know the nature and extent of her assets;
  2.  The ability to know the natural objects of her bounty (typically close family, friends and charities; and
  3. The ability to make a disposition of his property in accordance with some plan formed in her mind.

It is not necessary that the person actually knows these things.  It is necessary only that she have the mental ability to know them.

TRUSTS

Neither Illinois statutes nor Illinois case law clearly establish the level of capacity needed to execute a trust.  The key is determining whether the trust in question is more like a will or more like a contract.  An irrevocable trust (such as a special needs trust or a life insurance trust) is more like a contract or deed than a will, because it disposes of the person’s property immediately and forever.  A trust that delays making a gift to another person until after the client dies is more like a will, and requires a level of capacity similar to that required to make one.  An irrevocable trust requires a level of capacity similar to that for a contract, as discussed below.

CONTRACTS AND DEEDS

The requirements to execute a contract or deed are the highest on the capacity spectrum.  The person must have sufficient mind and memory to comprehend the nature and effect of her actions, to exercise her own will, cope with her adversaries, and to protect her interests.

WHY DOES CAPACITY MATTER?

If Mom lacks the capacity to sign a will, then any will which she signs during her incapacity will be subject to legal challenge.  For example, a contested estate matter could revolve around the issue of whether a person lacked capacity to favor one child over another or to give her estate to her hairdresser.  If Mom lacks even the capacity to sign a power of attorney for health care, then you may have no option other than having her declared a disabled person, and appointing a guardian to act on her behalf.

GUARDIANSHIP

Guardianship requires filing a petition with the court to have a guardian appointed to handle the day to day financial and/or health decisions for a disabled person who is not able to fully manage her affairs.  Guardianship can be avoided if the incapacitated person has signed valid powers of attorney for health care and property. Individuals who have been declared to be disabled may still have testamentary capacity that may be exercised with court approval.

ASSESSMENT OF MENTAL CAPACITY

If you are in doubt about a relative’s mental capacity, you should have an assessment made by a qualified physician, (preferably a geriatric psychiatrist, or geriatrician in the case of an elderly person).

CONCLUSION 

If you have a family member whose capacity is diminishing, don’t delay in taking action to get his/her affairs in order.   Encourage your family member to contact an attorney to put estate planning documents in place.  Since capacity usually diminishes over time, it is important to take care of these issues as early as possible before capacity is lost.

Mary Vanek Attorney At Law

Mary E. Vanek Attorney At Law

A blog article by Mary E. Vanek.  Mary is an Attorney at Matlin & Associates, P.C.  Mary’s practice is focused on estate planning, estate administration, guardianships, contested estates and other contested matters, as well as business law.  Please feel free to contact Mary E. Vanek or any of the attorneys at Matlin & Associates, P.C. for a free consultation regarding this or any other matter.  Phone number 1-847-770-6600.  Our attorneys have the experience to guide you through your estate planning and/or guardianship needs.  We not only have the professional legal experience, but have confronted the challenges of dementia, Alzheimer’s and a myriad of other aging issues within our own extended families. Our goal is to provide you legal solutions for your legal challenges and will refer you to our broad community contacts for your non-legal needs and support.

Disclaimer – The content of this article is not intended to be legal advice and does not create an attorney client relationship with the person reading it.

Why Do Estate Planning?


Just a little Friday piece of estate planning philosophy. I’m tired of talking about the non-existent estate tax, so here’s today’s serving:

In most cases, an estate plan simplifies the transition for your family and serves as a tool to defuse foreseeable problems. Few things can tear families apart as easily as dividing an estate. Think carefully about your relationships and envisage things that can go wrong in your aftermath. You may have simple, prosaic estate planning issues to address. On the other hand, your thoughts may drift toward the bigger picture of your literal and spiritual place in the world you will someday leave behind. Either way, you gain insights into yourself via the process. This alone makes estate planning worth the effort. Simple or complex, it is your life and your estate plan.

Question: “What can I do right now to prepare for what follows my death?”

Answer: “Plan my estate.”

Another question to answer is:

“I’m not doing estate planning for myself. I’m doing it for

_______________________________________.”