When and how should you update your estate plan?

When and how should you update your estate plan?

Updating one’s estate plan is usually not a complicated act when working with an estate-planning attorney. Depending on what has already been drafted, there are different options available. I recommend to all my clients that they should review their plans periodically. A very general rule to go by is that you should change your documents any time they are no longer what you want. Some obvious times when you should review you estate plan is any major change in your family – such as marriage, divorce, death, adoption, birth, etc. If one of your successor trustees or guardians for your minor children can no longer fulfill his or her responsibilities (because of a move away, become ill or die or change their mind), you should replace them. It is important to know that when you do need to change something in your estate plan, do not write on the original documents. Once you have signed the documents and it has been notarized, it must not be altered. If you need to change anything, an attorney will need to prepare an amendment to your documents that will be signed by you, have the proper amount of witnesses, and notarized to be valid in the state of...
Big News…We are expanding

Big News…We are expanding

It is with great pleasure and excitement that I announce a second office location for my clients. Over the past couple of years I have tried my hardest to give my clients a great legal service along with a friendly and accepting environment. Well, my past clients have spoken loud enough with numerous positive reviews and the professional world has noticed. Starting immediately, I have taken a position as, Of Counsel, for VLK Law Firm located at 200 West Main Street, Suite 102, St. Charles, IL 60174. What does this mean for you and for me? It means that you will be getting a better client experience with the option of meeting me at two different locations: downtown Elgin or downtown St. Charles. It means that I will have a better support staff with VLK on my side. And finally, it means that if you have a legal problem of any kind, think of Lauren Jackson Law, and we will be able to find the right attorney for your...
How to protect your family with no savings?

How to protect your family with no savings?

When sitting down with concerned parents, one topic that often arises: How do I protect my family if I have no savings? If you do not have a lot of savings in the bank but are concerned with, or just want to make sure that your family is taken care of (financially), life insurance could be the answer. You have insurance for your car, you have insurance for your house, and you have insurance for your property, but what about your most important asset, your life? I do not sell life insurance but I can tell you what I learned while shopping for life insurance after having my first child. First, there are multiple types of life insurance. The two most common types are term life insurance and whole life insurance. Of these two types, term life will be your much cheaper option. With term life insurance you can get a large policy, 1 million dollars or more (depending on your age and health factors) for around $50 a month. This type of insurance is very simple. You pay your monthly fee for every month for the length of the term that you choose and once you hit the end date of the insurance, your policy cancels. Whole life insurance is a policy that you could have for the remainder of your life. This type of policy has many benefits. You can actually borrow money against the policy, or at a certain point if there is enough money in your account, you will be able to stop making contributions but your policy will stay intact. The only downside with...
What is the attorney review period for a real estate transaction?

What is the attorney review period for a real estate transaction?

When you are buying real estate you have to sign a contract. Once the contract is signed by the seller time becomes of the essence. People believe that once you sign a real estate contract, everything in the contract is final. That is not true. Although I tell my clients to let me know before they sign a contact, the fact of the matter is, once you sign a real estate contract an attorney has five business days for a “review period” and to propose modifications. During the review period the attorney reviews the contract, makes sure all the appropriate signatures and initials are in the proper places, and verifies the contract states what was intended. If the contract does not state what you wanted, it may be cancelled. Also, during this time period, you (the buyer) should get an inspection on the real estate. Once we have the inspection report, we will review the inspection and use that report to ask the seller to fix any items that are covered. If you are unable to get an inspector out within five days, I am able to ask for an extension of the review period. As long as you have something scheduled, asking for an extension should not be a problem. In summary, once you sign a real estate contract you still have time to change the contract if you are within the attorney review period. When considering whether to sign a contract, please get a copy over to my office as soon as possible....
How much should I own before it’s worth it for me to have a revocable trust?

How much should I own before it’s worth it for me to have a revocable trust?

There really is no set dollar amount before it makes sense for you to incorporate a revocable trust into your estate plan. Whether you are married or single, old or young, have a small or large estate, just about everyone can derive some benefit from a revocable trust. A properly drafted, fully funded revocable trust can eliminate probate costs; and depending on the size of your estate, it can also reduce federal estate taxes (Currently the federal estate tax is $5 million dollars, however Congress could lower that amount at any time to try and capture more taxes from smaller estates that are not organized to protect them). Generally, the larger your estate, the more money a trust can save your family. The biggest reasons individuals or families choose to use a trust is that regardless of the size of the estate, probate is slow and expensive and does not provide any creditor protection after your death; nor does your family have any privacy or control, and it can easily be contested in court. An additional benefit of using a trust is the protection it provides you against probate court while you are still alive. If, unfortunately, you ever become physically or mentally incapacitated, which is a real concern for millions of older Americans, having a trust prevents a court conservatorship because your successor trustee may step in at that point and handle your finances for you. If you have any questions about your Estate Plan, please don’t hesitate and contact me...
What you need to know to refinance a home if the home is in a trust

What you need to know to refinance a home if the home is in a trust

With mortgage rates still around historic lows, I have had a few clients this past year where banks have given them trouble when trying to refinance their mortgage on property in a trust. The situation usually goes like this: the client’s home is in a revocable trust for estate planning purposes and they want to refinance their existing mortgage. The bank says they will not refinance the mortgage unless the house comes out of the trust. So, what should they do? The easiest and cheapest thing that I would do for my client is draft a quit claim deed transferring the client’s property out of the trust back into their name individually. The client can take that deed back to the bank and continue the refinance process. The bank will record the deed as part of the refinance transaction. Once all of that has transpired and the new mortgage recorded, I can draft another quit claim deed transferring the property back into the trust. Now, this might seem like a headache, but for the small cost of the deeds and recording fees vs. the benefits of a lower interest rate and the long term estate planning, it makes sense. Too complete both deeds, it would only cost a couple of hundred dollars. For that price, you would receive the benefit of the lower interest rate (after you refinance) and you will still get the benefits of having your real estate owned by your trust (once I complete the second deed). If you are thinking about refinancing and your home is owned by your trust, contact me for help....
What’s the difference between an owner’s title policy and a lender’s title policy?

What’s the difference between an owner’s title policy and a lender’s title policy?

As we sit down on closing day to go through all of your real estate documents, you will notice on your closing statement that you are being charged for one of two different types of title insurance. Depending on whether you are the seller or the buyer you will be charged either owner’s title insurance or lender’s title insurance (presuming it is not a cash transaction). What is the difference and why do you have to pay for them? Owner’s title insurance, often called an Owner’s policy, is a one time flat fee that the seller pays to the title insurance company for the benefit of the buyer. The title company is where the closing takes place. Although it is only a one-time payment, the insurance policy actually lasts as long as the buyer owns the property. The buyer will receive the owner’s title insurance policy for the amount of the sale price after the closing and it will list all of the benefits and restrictions of the policy. As a buyer you should keep this document in a safe place. This insurance policy is to protect you from a third party later claiming some type of interest in the property. Should this happen, contact a real estate attorney immediately to file a claim for you against your title insurance policy. Lender’s title insurance, also known as a loan policy, is based on the actual dollar amount on the loan. As a buyer, your lender will require you purchase a title insurance policy to protect the lender from potential claims of prior third parties that may be senior to...
Are you mortgage shopping?  Annual Percentage Yield (APR) versus Interest Rate…What you need to know!!!

Are you mortgage shopping? Annual Percentage Yield (APR) versus Interest Rate…What you need to know!!!

When you are searching for a new home mortgage, many become confused as to what the annual percentage yield (APR) is vs. the interest rate. Using the comparison of these two terms is just another way one bank may try and confuse you to make you think its product is better. Remember, banks are in business to make money and they make their money buy “selling” their loans to people like you and me. When you are dealing with mortgage payments for possibly the next thirty years, the specifics really matter.   Of the two terms, interest rate is the more straightforward term. The interest rate on your loan is a rate, expressed as a percentage, at which you (the borrower) pay back on a loan that you took. When you are shopping around for loans, the interest rate should not mean everything to you. The banks or loan officer will try and show you a very low interest number to try and sell you their product. Maybe a more important question to ask is: what is the APR on the loan?   The APR or annual percentage yield is also expressed as a percentage. The APR includes the interest rate (as stated above) plus it bundles all the fees associated with your loan together. Every loan has different fees depending on the lender.  Some of the fees that can be included are the application fee, credit report fee, wire fee, loan origination fee, mortgage insurance fee, and e-mail fee. So, the APR includes the interest rate + all fees associated with getting the loan and “annualizes” that into...
In real estate, what is a owner financed sale a/k/a “a contract for deed”?

In real estate, what is a owner financed sale a/k/a “a contract for deed”?

There are different ways to finance the purchase of a piece of property, i.e. a home. Recently, I have been getting more questions and handling more deals for owner financed sales, a/k/a contract for deed transactions. Simply put, a contract for deed is when the seller of the property will act like the bank and finance the deal for the buyer. Based on the contract terms, the buyer is usually allowed to move into the house immediately and make payments directly to the seller to be applied toward the purchase price. The loan term is typically 30 years but the buyer only pays the seller for 3 to 5 years and at the end of that term must pay off the balance of the purchase price with a traditional mortgage (the balloon payment). This is a great strategy if the buyer’s credit is not quite good enough to qualify for a mortgage but should be in a few years. Helpful Tips If you are in the process of entering a contract for deed transaction (buyer or seller), here are some important items to think about before signing on the dotted line: The purchaser does not own the property until they pay off the full amount per the contract. The contract must specify which party will pay real estate taxes during the contract period (as well as who gets to claim the property for tax purposes). The parties must decide who is responsible for maintaining homeowner’s insurance. The last thing you would want is for your homeowner’s insurance to lapse. Without a bank paying the insurance out of an escrow...
Is there a minimum net worth you should have before making a will?

Is there a minimum net worth you should have before making a will?

As an estate-planning attorney I am often asked by potential clients, when should I make a will?  The simplest explanation that I give is: if you have anything of value and you want to leave it to a specific person. Long story short, if you own anything of value, if you die without a will, your estate is distributed according to the state’s rules. No one in your family has a say and they must follow the rules. Now, if you are married and you are the first to die, that makes it slightly easier in that everything other than jointly owned assets goes one-half to your spouse and one-half to your children in equal shares. If you have no children then everything goes to your spouse. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and things don’t always go according to plan. What happens if you are the second to die and you have three kids from two different marriages? Who would get what possessions? Or, you are divorced and never re-married? There are many scenarios that I have had to deal with as a probate attorney. One thing my probate clients often tell me is they wish their loved one had seen me for an estate plan before they passed away. As a parent myself, the reason why I drafted my personal estate plan was so that I could name guardians for my child in the event my husband and I pass away before she becomes 18. My child is the most valuable “thing” in my life, and if something were to happen to my husband...