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Park Ridge Estate Planning Law Blog

Dying Without a Will: What are the Legal Repercussions?

While most of us hope to live forever, the truth of the matter is that it's just not in the cards. Death is inevitable, and you have to be prepared for it.

When you die, all of your assets are passed to someone. Who that person is depends completely upon you, and whether you have acted to sign documents for what you want. If you haven't, the state where you live makes the decision for you because you've not acted.

If you've got a last will and testament effectively signed, your estate will go to the people whom you've specified in your will to receive it. If you don't have a last will and testament that is signed, your estate is subject to the laws of the land.

So, what does that mean exactly? Let's discuss.

These are the legal repercussions of dying without a will.

5 Situations in Which You Should Hire a Real Estate Attorney

Matters of real estate are almost always complex, and generally involve much more money than any other purchase or sale transaction you may conduct. You would think only the buyer and seller, the true parties in interest, are affected, but there are many other persons at the table with a financial interest in closing a real estate transaction. The only one in the room other than you who has your best interests at heart is your lawyer.

Real estate law and its effects can often be difficult for most people to process and understand completely. Virtually all persons engaged in buying or selling real estate, even other lawyers, would be best served by hiring a real estate attorney.

Questioning whether or not you should hire a real estate attorney? Here are 5 situations in which it would be wise to do so.

Limited Liability-Steps to keep you protected

Maintaining your limited liability umbrella, i.e. the "corporate veil".

Once you have formed your limited liability entity, it is also important to administer your day-to-day operations in order to maintain your limited liability umbrella, sometimes called the "corporate veil". If you don't do certain minimum things, your creditors can more easily "pierce the corporate veil" and reach your personal assets for debts of your company.

If you conduct business as a corporation, limited liability company (LLC) or limited liability partnership, you are paying for a structure to, among other things, protect your home, life savings and other personal assets from liability from a business debt. These can include suits from a business customer, employee, vendor, accident victim or other person that may result in a judgment against your business that is greater than your company's insurance coverage and net worth. The judgment creditor then wants to go against the business owner's personal assets, which is sometimes referred to as "piercing the corporate veil".

The Benefits of Keeping a Family Business Lawyer on Retainer

Starting and running a business is no simple task. There are many issues you must address and comply with if you're going to do it adequately. Not to mention that most aspects of business management come with a multitude of legal issues to be addressed, at least initially, and thereafter, on an occasional or exception basis.

Sifting through, sorting, and untangling these legal issues is a trying task for anyone. For someone who's trying to manage the commercial aspects of their business, it can be daunting to handle.

So, what can you do to simplify the process? Keep a small business lawyer on retainer, that's what. Here are 4 ways that doing so will benefit you.

What you can learn from Michael Jackson's estate planning mistake

The larger an estate is, the more prone it will be to errors and mistakes due to its complexity. Nevertheless, you'd think that a man like Michael Jackson would create the most rock-solid estate possible, but the King of Pop made a big mistake in his estate planning that everyone can learn something from.

Let's see what we can learn from Michael Jackson's estate planning mistakes.

How much will I pay in federal estate taxes?

Not too long ago, there existed the risk that much of your loved one's estate would get eaten up by the federal "death tax." However, large exemptions currently exist that protect the vast majority of estates from paying federal estate taxes. Let's take a closer look at this exemption to determine how much -- if anything -- your estate may need to pay after you die.

The current federal estate tax, or "death tax," exemption is set at $5.49 million. That means, if your estate is less than $5.49 million, the entirety of your estate will be exempt from federal estate taxes. Most estates will therefore be exempt from the federal estate tax.

What's a family limited partnership?

Large estates run the risk of getting hit with serious tax liabilities related to federal estate taxes. Even if the estate planner wants to give his or her wealth away before death, it could trigger gift tax liabilities. However, creating a family limited partnership (FLP) could be one way to bypass many common estate-related tax liabilities.

An FLP allows the estate planner to protect his or her wealth while staying in control of his or her assets. This estate planning strategy will treat your estate almost as if it were a business, with general partners and limited partners. Often, both parents will be general partners and the children will be limited partners. The general partners will manage the assets and make decisions about investments while the limited partners will maintain an ownership interest and share in income but may not have any control.

Holographic wills: One of the easiest wills to challenge in court

When a will is "holographic," it means that the will was handwritten and/or unwitnessed. This means that the testator may have written the will by hand in his or her own handwriting, and then signed the will without proper witnesses. Alternatively, the will may have been typed up and signed, but not in front of proper witnesses.

Holographic wills are some of the easiest estate planning documents for disgruntled heirs to challenge. For example, an heir might challenge the will and say that the testator in question didn't write the will by showing evidence that the handwriting doesn't belong to the testator. Alternatively, the holographic will could be discredited as a result of not having the appropriate witnesses.

Know the purpose and protections trusts can give your estate plan

When you are creating an estate plan, you might realize that you have to create trusts to get the assets disbursed in the way you want. Once you come to this realization, you will have to determine what type of trust you need to establish. This is a big decision that you need to make, because different trusts have different purposes and offer different protections.

Some people are concerned about creditors being able to come after their assets. An asset protection trust can help to prevent this from occurring. These trusts are irrevocable, so make sure that you understand how placing assets in this type of trust will impact you and the beneficiaries.

3 common estate planning mistakes

You know that quote that starts with, "The best-laid plans of mice and men..."? This quote can be used to describe a lot of Illinois residents' estate plans. Many estate plans are well-intentioned but, at the end of the day, they lay in waste and ruin and never serve to carry out the original goals of the person who created the plan.

This is often because estate planners who don't hire lawyers, or who leave their estate plans unattended and unreviewed for long periods of time, are not informed enough to avoid common mistakes. Here are few of these mistakes that have in many cases rendered an estate plan completely unworkable:

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