Estate And Gift Planning Basics

Wills and Trusts

  • In Illinois, assets titled in an individual’s name must go through probate unless there is no real property in the individual’s estate and the assets total less than $100,000.
  • Probate is the court process that allows assets to be transferred upon one’s death.
  • In Illinois, if you die without a will, the Probate Act determines who gets your property once you die.
  • Assets that are held jointly or have a TOD designation are not included in the probate estate.
  • Assets held jointly or that have a beneficiary normally do not pass under the Will or Trust.
  • A “Trust” is a legal document designed to hold your assets either during your lifetime or upon death. You can arrange to set up living trust while you are still alive, in order to avoid having the assets in the trust go through probate court when you die. In this type of trust you can be both trustee and beneficiary and instruct how the property under trust is to be managed when you die.

Power Of Attorney

  • Illinois has statutory power of attorneys for healthcare and property.
  • A healthcare power of attorney gives your agent authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are not able to make those decisions.
  • A property power of attorney gives your agent authority to make financial decisions for you if you are not able to make those decisions for yourself.
  • Do not confuse “living wills” with wills. A “Living Will” is a document in which you state whether you would want life supporting medical treatment if you became severly disabled or were placed on life support, however, the healthcare power of attorney often replaces a living will in modern estate planning.

Planned Giving During Your Life-time

  • Planned charitable giving can include one-time gifts or ongoing Donations, including tithing.
  • Charitable donations are tax deductible and there is no limit on the amount of charitable donations you can give each year or during your lifetime.
  • Charitable IRA rollover.  Through 2013, if you are 70 1/2 or older, you can donate up to $100,000 from your IRA directly to a qualified charity of your choice. This amount counts towards your required distributions and is not included in your adjusted gross income, however it is not tax deductable. (See this article for more information).
  • You can also gift privately during your lifetime tax-free. However, there are limits. Each individual can gift up to $14,000 each year ($28,000 as a couple). If you exceed this annual amount, it will be deducted from your lifetime gifting exclusion of $5.25 million.

Legacy Gifting: In this type of gift, you set aside a portion of your estate for charitable use to be distributed after your death.

  • You can amend a Will or Trust to include specific bequests.
  • Perhaps one of the simplest methods of legacy gifting is to remember a charity or organization by donating a life insurance policy or changing the beneficiary on a life insurance policy.
  • You can also change the beneficiary to the planned organization on TOD accounts.
  • Or you can add a charitable organization as a contingent beneficiary of estate plan.

It is always a good idea to have an attorney help you with estate planning documents so that your intentions are manifested.  Please call our office right away for a consultation: 815-459-8800.

For more information, you can find The Probate Act at 755 ILCS 5 and statutes relating to trusts at 760 ILCS.


Posted by: Heather B. Kroencke