Estate Law

Estate Planning

Estate Planning

Providing Accurate and Timely Legal Advice – Chicago Area Estate Planning Lawyer

Many people fail to develop a comprehensive estate plan despite its valuable role in protecting the financial legacy that took a lifetime to build.  Estate planning is vital to ensure the smooth transfer of your assets to your loved ones, protection of your assets from creditors, and the honoring of your wishes regarding extraordinary medical procedures and end-of-life decisions.  Chicago Estate Planning Attorney Richard J. Arendt has been providing sound legal advice, effective estate planning strategies, and artfully drafted estate planning documents for 38 years.

Legacy Succession Planning & Asset Protection Based on Thirty Years of Experience

While some people worry about the expense associated with constructing an estate plan, this sum often is nominal when compared to the cost of not having an effective estate plan.  When a person dies intestate (i.e. without a will or trust), surviving family members frequently are saddled with the expense associated with contested probate proceedings and avoidable tax consequences.

At the Law Office of Richard J. Arendt, we carefully analyze your goals and concerns which permit us to customize an effective estate plan that protects your assets from your creditors or the creditors of your heirs upon your death.  A well-conceived estate plan also will include the necessary documents that indicate who you want responsible for your business and financial affairs, as well as medical decisions if you should become incapacitated by a serious accident or illness.  Finally, a will or living trust can ensure that the wealth that you have spent a lifetime building is transferred to your loved ones according to your wishes when you pass away.

Experienced estate planning lawyer Richard J. Arendt drafts critical estate planning devices like wills and living trusts, which can save your family members money and time when they are coping with the emotional hardship of mourning your loss.  When you die without a will (or a living trust), your family is forced to deal with the legal complexities, costs, and delay of the probate process without clear direction regarding your intentions.  Mr. Arendt will meet with you to discuss your goals while reviewing your assets and financial affairs, so he can devise an estate plan that provides financial security for you and your loved ones.  While some people presume that they do not need an estate plan because they do not have substantial assets, almost anyone can benefit from asset protection and reducing the costs associated with legacy succession.

High-Quality Advice and Drafting for the Full Spectrum of Estate Planning Documents

Some of the types of estate planning documents that a Chicago Area Estate Planning Attorney at the Law Office of Richard J. Arendt might be able to draft as part of your estate plan include:

Simple Wills v. Trusts: Wills become effective when you die and specify how you wish your property and assets to be transferred upon your death.  Wills must be submitted for probate, which can be costly and time-consuming.  The often lengthy probate process can delay the availability of assets that your family may need to provide for their household expenses.  While a simple will often is part of a comprehensive estate plan, other documents like a living trust might provide a mechanism to transfer assets that reduces the delay, administrative hassle, and cost associated with the probate process.

Living Will: The function of a living will is to indicate what medical procedures and extraordinary medical care you wish to have performed if you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious.  A living will provides a mechanism for you to specifically articulate life-sustaining procedures you want performed and those you do not want performed.

Power of Attorney: A power of attorney may deal with financial affairs or medical issues.  The function of a power of attorney is to permit you to designate someone to act on your behalf when you are unavailable or incapacitated.  A health care power of attorney allows you to specifically empower someone to act and make decisions in your place if you should become incapacitated.  By contrast, a financial power of attorney can cover a broad spectrum of financial affairs, including signing contracts, paying bills, filing taxes, disposing of assets, etc.

Committed to Protecting Your Legacy, Personal Dignity & Financial Security

These are merely a small number of examples of the types of estate planning documents that experienced DuPage County Estate Planning Attorney Richard J. Arendt can formulate and draft as part of your comprehensive estate plan.  The decisions covered by an estate plan are some of the most important decisions a person must make including:

  • Which of your assets should pass to which loved ones at death?
  • Who should care for your children if something should happen to you?
  • How do you wish your dignity to be respected in terms of end-of-life decisions?
  • What person should be entrusted to step into your shoes and make financial and medical decisions if you are temporarily unable to do so?

Because an estate plan deals with such fundamental and important issues, the Law Office of Richard J. Arendt focuses on personalized service and careful attention to your wishes and goals.  We offer a no obligation free consultation so that we can evaluate your situation and determine your needs.


Probate & Trust Administration

When a loved one passes away, family members face the prospect of navigating the court-supervised administration process guided by state intestacy law or the decedent’s will. Many people devise a living trust to avoid the expense, delay, and lack of privacy associated with formal probate proceedings. Although a living trust is administered outside the courtroom, trust administration still involves management and distribution of the trust by the successor trustee. Chicago Estate Administration Lawyer Richard J. Arendt has nearly forty years of legal experience, which includes providing legal advice and guidance to executors and trustees engaged in performing their fiduciary duties.

Our Illinois probate and trust administration law firm represents clients in the following legal matters:

  • Probate of Estates
  • Guardianships
  • Administering Trusts
  • Preparation of Estate Taxes
  • Contested Probate

Attorneys Administering Probate Estates in Illinois

At the Law Office of Richard J. Arendt, we recognize that efficient handling of the probate process can facilitate the disposition of a decedent’s assets according to his or her preferences promptly. While the process can seem complex and confusing, probate in Illinois in basic terms involves the distribution of assets of a decedent under the terms of a will or state intestacy law in the absence of a will or trust. The will administration process is coordinated by a personal representative (referred to as the “executor”) under Illinois law. The executor has a fiduciary duty to distribute assets according to the terms of the will to creditors, heirs, and legatees (those designated to receive an inheritance from the will).

Comprehensive Representation through All Stages of Administration of a Will

The probate process informally begins once a person dies. If the decedent has a will, all copies of the will must be filed with the Clerk of the Court in the county where the decedent resided at the time of his or her passing. When the decedent dies without a will (or living trust), the distribution of assets of an estate will be distributed according to statutory priorities outlined in Illinois intestate succession law. While the probate process for every estate is unique, Mr. Arendt regularly guides clients through the common steps of the probate process, including but not limited to the following:

  • Filing of a petition with the proper court to commence the probate process
  • Providing required notice to heirs identified in the will or intestacy statute
  • Submission of a petition appointing an Executor of the will or Administrator for the estate
  • Gathering the assets of the estate and creating an inventory of the assets by the Executor/Administrator
  • Obtaining appropriate appraisals and valuations of the assets comprising the estate
  • Satisfaction of debts and obligations of the estate, including payment of creditors
  • Selling of estate assets
  • Paying of estate taxes (depending on the value of the estate and other facts)
  • Distributing net assets according to the terms of the will (or state law if no will or living to trust exists)

Administration of Trusts in Illinois

Mr. Arendt draws on his experience handling large complex estates during his 38 years practicing law to provide insightfully and skilled legal representation to beneficiaries and trustees. We recognize that efficient trust administration enables your loved ones to maintain their standard of living by ensuring that trust assets are distributed to beneficiaries promptly.

When a trust must be modified because one spouse pre-deceases the other, our law firm can help you navigate this process and make sure you understand your options. When the surviving spouse subsequently passes away, we provide assistance to trustees in performing duties that include management of estate assets as well as the distribution of real property, cash, investments, stocks, and other property. We counsel and work with trustees in the performance of their fiduciary duties which includes satisfying tax obligations and financial obligations along with making distributions to beneficiaries.

Chicago Area Trust and Probate Administration Lawyer Richard J. Arendt specifically customizes his representation to the pursuit of the express wishes of the decedent and the needs of his or her family. We offer a no obligation free consultation so that we can evaluate your situation and answer your questions.

Business Succession Planning

Businesses rise and fall based on who is at the helm. If the owner driving the business dies unexpectedly or becomes otherwise unable to fulfill his or her responsibilities, the establishment usually suffers because there was no plan in place to find an equally effective replacement or for ownership to pass from one set of hands to another. A well-crafted and thoughtful succession plan may be the key to the survival of business through the chaos of transition. Regardless of the size of the business, a succession plan that fits each establishment’s unique identity and business model can help a business thrive and mitigate potential losses when the unexpected takes place.

You should consult with an experienced counsel if you own business and want to ensure its continued success by creating a tailor-made succession plan. The Law Office of Richard J. Arendt has been serving clients in the greater Chicagoland area for over 38 years and can provide you with seasoned legal advice regarding the range of options available to you for business succession planning.

Closely Held Small Businesses

Closely held small businesses are unique establishments that are usually highly reflective of their owners and are, more often than not, family-owned institutions that are greatly loved by the communities they serve. However, one of the biggest reasons they fail is the lack of an orderly process by which ownership and management are transferred to the next generation in a tax-effective manner. Thus, closely held small businesses often don’t outlive their original owners and survive an unexpected transition. Small business owners fail to engage in succession planning for several reasons:

  • Refusal to acknowledge the possibility that they will not always be around or able to drive their businesses;
  • They feel that they have far more burning issues to take care of than prospective planning;
  • They believe that either key employees will always be there to handle future control of the business or that their children who are currently active in the business will always want them to be in charge;
  • Failure to recognize the serious implications of unplanned business successions to their overall estate plans, including estate tax issues;

Therefore, a well-rounded and thoughtfully considered succession plan often involves the business owner’s estate plan, the forward-looking strategic plan of the business, and the family’s financial plan if it is family-owned.

Estate Planning and Business Succession Planning

A business succession plan often begins with the hardest questions that the owner should consider regarding his or her future. These questions include:

  • What is the owner’s current role and what does the owner see his or her role in the future?
  • How much income does the owner desire from the business in the future and for how long?
  • Does the owner have enough retirement income outside of the business?
  • How long does the owner want to maintain control or stay actively involved in the business?

If the business is family-owned, then additional considerations have to be made concerning familial relationships. Different businesses have varied ways of sharing business information with family members. They also employ different ways of compensating those family members who are actively involved in the business. Issues of inheritance and ownership or management become readily apparent, such as who among the family members will inherit the business. Who will be responsible for the ownership and management of the business?

Succession planning allows owners to consider these issues along with the business issues regarding future leadership and ownership and distribution of earnings to owners. Planning will help owners identify key family members who may be prepared to take over the business once the appropriate time comes, and for appropriate measures to be attained before certain family members may take management roles. It also allows owners to consider whether a change in business structure is advantageous for tax purposes, governance issues with shareholders and boards, and the procedures for the execution of transfer. Finally, if the owner is unsure whether retention of the business within the family or sale to outside entities makes more sense for the estate’s future, a succession plan may also set forth conditions for when and how a sale will take place, or allow the family to retain ownership with outside management.

If you have a business, and you want to create a succession plan that ensures your business thrives in the future while preserving your estate’s financial security, the Law Office of Richard J. Arendt can help. Dedicated to providing expert counsel in the greater Chicagoland area, including Boone, Cook, Du Page, Kane, McHenry, Lake, and Will counties, Richard J. Arendt has decades of experience helping business owners create tailor-made succession plans.