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What is estate planning?
Estate planning includes several facets. In its simplest terms – it is helping clients do what they want to do with their assets. It includes protecting resources from predators and unnecessary taxes. It often involves transferring assets to family members and, in the case of family businesses and farm interests, moving assets to loved ones in the most efficient and low-tax manner possible while also making provisions for family and loved ones who are not involved in the family enterprise. This process requires extraordinary legal and tax planning skills which we offer to our clients in an individualized manner.
Has the reduction in estate or death taxes eliminated the need for extensive tax planning?
No. While some of the heavy burden of estate taxes has been reduced by recent legislation, many farm and business owners are still confronted, to their surprise, by the imposition of estate or death taxes. Furthermore, planning requires a thorough knowledge of income taxes, both federal and state, since the methods of asset transfers can materially affect the imposition, timing and amount of taxes levied and collected on future generations. We are able to provide clients with personalized estate plans to reduce potential estate or death taxes.
What is included in my estate?
In general, all of your assets at the time of your death are included in your estate. Your estate often includes assets held solely in your name as well as jointly held assets, such as bank accounts, real estate or stocks and bonds. Assets for estate planning purposes also often include life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts, expected inheritances, and occasionally assets you do not think you control. The value of your estate is crucial in calculating potential federal and state estate taxes due after your death and whether beneficiaries will incur capital gains taxes. We are able to formulate estate plans that minimize or eliminate the amount of taxes owed at your death or later by beneficiaries. We try to ensure that there are sufficient resources available for your loved ones to pay any expected taxes and, more importantly, to provide for all intended beneficiaries, whether or not they are participants in your family enterprise.
I have a family farm or business and want one of my children to take over after I am gone, while at the same time providing for my other children that are not interested in participating in my family enterprise. What should I do?
Simply put, one plan does not fit all cases. Certain plans require specific family members or third-party persons to maintain control of the family enterprise and place into various management positions the most appropriate individuals. In many cases, long-term planning is needed to provide the liquidity necessary to make available benefits to persons not directly involved in the continued operation of the family business or farm. The earlier a strategy is considered, the easier it becomes to fully advance a good plan. We have the experience and commitment necessary to assist you in developing and implementing a well thought-out and fair plan providing for all of your family and loved ones whether or not they are involved in the family enterprise.
I already have an estate plan, how often should I review my plan?
In this area, there is no hard-and-fast rule. That being said, it is advisable to review your plan any time there has been a significant change to you or your family’s circumstances such as disability or death of a family member. In addition, changing legislation affecting federal and state transfer and tax laws may necessitate reviewing your plan in order to best protect your family or wealth. Our proactive planning will help you minimize or eliminate the tax burden on your estate upon your death.
My loved one passed away with a considerable amount of wealth and I was named executor in their Will, what should I do?
In the event you are named executor in your loved one’s Will, you should immediately contact our office for assistance. When an individual passes on with a Will, the probate court administers the estate pursuant to state probate law. Illinois probate law dictates the processes that an executor must follow in order to distribute the deceased’s assets, pay their bills, and wrap up their affairs. In most cases, a streamlined process is available under Illinois law to expedite settlement of an estate. We understand these processes and have experience addressing not only simple probate matters but also complicated and disputed cases.
How can I protect my disabled or dependent family member through my estate plan?
There are several devices that can be used to protect and provide for a disabled or dependent loved one. For example, special needs trusts can protect a disabled child while preserving their public benefits. Careful planning is necessary to ensure a special needs trust does not unintentionally disqualify a disabled individual for government benefits. We are able to create estate plans that protect disabled or dependent loved ones from predators and, in some cases, from themselves. Our plans help provide for a disabled or dependent family member for his or her lifetime; in turn, providing our client peace of mind that their loved one is protected.
I do not have a lot of money, can I do my own estate planning?
Yes, there are many resources that provide forms for wills and trusts. However, the proper use of any form calls for specific subject-related training, experience and skills. These attributes can only be obtained through years of education, oftentimes beyond that ordinarily obtained through a law school education or systematic law firm experience. The knowledge and tools that a competent planner brings to the estate planning process are not limited to knowledge of wealth transfer and taxes, but also include the necessary experience and training to deal with situations involving disabled or dependent family members and transferring asset control to the appropriate people to protect your loved ones.
How are my fees for estate planning calculated?
Generally, the initial consultation fee with a new estate planning client is discussed with the client before the first meeting. Clients will receive an extensive questionnaire to complete and return to our office prior to our first meeting. The first meeting will help identify the needs and expectations of the client. Fees are determined based on the complexity of the services to be rendered and our hourly attorney’s fees range from $250-$300 per hour plus costs. Following the initial consultation, we send an engagement letter to the client setting out our recommended work, as well as the expected amount of service and time needed to complete our plan. If the engagement letter terms are acceptable, the form is signed by the client and returned to our office. We will then undertake our planned work.
Why is your firm more qualified than other lawyers to do my estate planning?
We have the necessary education, experience and commitment to properly plan your estate. In addition to law degrees, we either have or are working to secure Master of Laws (L.L.M) degrees in taxation. Our undergraduate educations were in business and finance. We have an exceptional amount of experience in these areas and are extremely proud of the recognition we have received from our peers and the public.
As a longtime Kendall County resident and farm owner, Mr. Dickson has working knowledge of farm management practices and the unique problems that farms present. We understand that oftentimes farms and businesses have been in a family for generations and occasionally there are disagreements or disputes within a family. To this end, it takes a great deal of understanding and compassion to prepare a plan for the future that addresses the needs and wants of our clients.
Please refer to our attorney profiles for more specific information.
Do you provide services other than estate planning?
Yes. Although many of our estate plans call for the formation, structuring or liquidation of existing entities, we often form businesses for reasons other than estate and income tax planning. Much of our work involves establishing appropriate entities for business operations. The choice of business entity will affect liability exposure, decision making capabilities, concentration of management to the most appropriate people, and ease of operation. Depending on your unique situation, we may recommend a form of corporation, Limited Liability Company (LLC), limited or general partnership, or other business entity.
Please contact us with any specific questions or for more information.