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The Drawbacks of Leaving Specific Items to Heirs in Your Illinois Will

Man holding house and calculating estate plan with document and coins surrounding

Drafting a will may seem like an opportunity to express your affection for your loved ones by providing gifts for them that show how well you know and understand them. For example, if you want to encourage a young nephew’s interest in learning how to repair and maintain cars, you may leave him your vehicle. You might leave your grandmother’s antique jewelry to a daughter who has long admired them. Without regular updates to your will, however, this approach to estate planning can have unintended consequences. Read on to learn more, and contact a skilled Illinois estate planning attorney for more information.

The doctrine of ademption

When writing a will, there are two popular approaches to devising gifts to your heirs: leaving each heir a designated percentage share of the value of your estate, and leaving each heir a specific gift in the form of a fixed sum of money or particular item. While the latter approach can have a more personal feel, it can sometimes result in ademption, with a loved one possibly left out of your will entirely. Ademption refers to the phenomenon of a gift left in a will that is no longer a part of the testator’s (a.k.a., the deceased person’s) estate at the time of their death.

Ademption can occur either by satisfaction, where the gift is given to the heir during the testator’s lifetime, or by extinction, where the gift has been sold or is otherwise no longer available when the testator dies and the heir has not received any part of it. To illustrate, imagine you’ve left your house to your son in your will and have listed your daughter as the beneficiary of a mutual fund. When you move into assisted living decades later, you sell your home and place the proceeds in your mutual fund. You never revise your will. When you pass, your daughter becomes the beneficiary of the mutual fund, and your son receives nothing—the victim of ademption by extinction.

Depending on the circumstances of the ademption, Illinois courts may find that an heir is still entitled to funds of an equivalent value to the item that is no longer in the estate, but this is typically available only where the ademption is the result of the actions of someone other than the testator, such as a guardian or someone with power of attorney for the testator.

Avoiding unintentional disinheritance of a loved one

There are many ways to create an estate plan that leaves your heirs feeling cared for while also avoiding the threat of unintentionally disinheriting a beloved family member or friend. One approach is to place all your property into a trust and make your heirs beneficiaries of a designated share of that trust. Aside from helping to avoiding ademption, this approach has many benefits, including helping your heirs receive their share of an estate without waiting for the probate process to be complete. If you’re still interested in providing certain heirs with particular items in your possession due to their personal meaning, you should consider making a habit of regular reviewing your will with a skilled estate planning attorney.

For assistance in crafting an Illinois estate plan that meets your loved ones’ needs in the most efficient and effective way possible, contact the knowledgeable and professional Chicagoland estate planning attorneys at MacDonald, Lee & Senechalle in Hoffman Estates at 847-310-0025, and in Des Plaines at 847-298-5030.

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