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living trust illinois

If you’re starting to think about your legacy and creating a plan for your estate, a living trust is one way to protect your assets and make life easier for your heirs. If you’re living in Illinois and thinking about creating a living trust, this guide will take you through the process and give you the information you need to know about the pros and cons of living trusts.

Whether you’re thinking about forming a living trust or you simply have some financial planning questions, you may benefit working with a financial advisor. SmartAsset offers a free financial advisor matching service that can help you find an advisor in your area who suits your needs.

How to Create a Living Trust in Illinois

Here are the steps you’ll need to take to create a living trust in the Land of Lincoln:

  1. Figure out which type of trust you need. Single people only have the option of a single trust. If you’re married you have the choice of each spouse getting a single trust or getting a joint trust together. A joint trust probably makes sense if you co-own property like homes or vehicles.
  2. Take stock of your property. It’s important to know exactly what you own and what you want to place into your trust. You can place anything from bonds and bank accounts to artwork and antiques into a living trust. You should also gather all relevant paperwork for your property, including proof of home ownership and car titles.
  3. Pick a trustee. You might want to name yourself trustee, but you can also pick someone else. People typically choose their children or a trusted relative. If you choose yourself, you’ll also want to select a successor trustee who will take over management of your estate when you die. The trustee is also responsible for ensuring your property is doled out to your beneficiaries as your trust specifies, which is another matter you’ll have to decide.
  4. Create a trust document. You can either do this using an online service or with the help of an attorney.
  5. Sign the trust document in the presence of a notary.
  6. Lastly, you’ll need to fund your trust by moving your property into it. You can do this yourself, but it might be beneficial to get the help of an attorney, as it does require some paperwork and can be complicated.

What Is a Living Trust?

A living trust is a legal framework in which assets and property can be stored. The trust is established by a document. A trust has a trustee who is in charge of managing the trust and distributing the property to the trust’s beneficiaries according to its instructions. You can name yourself as trustee or you can give that job to someone else.

There are two types of living trusts. An irrevocable trust is permanent, and a grantor cannot remove property placed in it unless he or she gets permission from every person named in the trust. The trust assumes control of all property and taxes are paid via the trust itself.

There are also revocable trusts, which have some flexibility and can be modified after they’re established. With this type of living trust, the grantor maintains ownership of the assets placed in the trust and pays taxes as usual.

How Much Does It Cost to Create a Living Trust in Illinois?

living trust illinois

The cost of creating a living trust in Illinois is dependent on how you set it up. You can choose to use a program on the internet, which will likely run a few hundred dollars or less. If you choose to use an attorney, the attorney’s fees will determine the price you’ll pay. You could end up paying more than $1,000 to create a living trust with the help of an attorney.

Though DIY estate planning is obviously less expensive, there are risks to DIY trusts. Trusts can be tricky to set up, so you’ll need to invest plenty of time in researching and making sure you do things properly. If you choose to work with an attorney, make sure to ask about his or her fees and ensure you understand how much it will be cost so you aren’t surprised. Another important factor to consider if you decide to hire an attorney is whether the attorney is a trust specialist, not merely an estate planner.

Why Get a Living Trust in Illinois?

The most common reason for getting a living trust in the state of Illinois is to make matters easier for your family when you die. Any property that’s stored inside the trust will not be subject to probate court, a process that estates must go through when a person dies to ensure the person’s property is properly distributed. This process can be very time-consuming and costly, as well as a potential invasion of privacy. The probate process can be especially lengthy in Illinois, as the state does not use the Uniform Probate Code. In other states, this code streamlines the probate system.

Using a living trust can also be helpful if you’re leaving property or assets to a minor child. With a living trust, a trustee can take ownership of the assets until the child comes of legal age. Additionally, a living trust can be useful in the event you become incapacitated. If this were to happen but you had a living trust, you’d avoid conservatorship because you’d already have designated a trustee.

Who Should Get a Living Trust in Illinois?

Living trusts are not just for the wealthy. Especially in Illinois, which does not use the Uniform Probate Code, a living trust can be helpful even for smaller estates, as it allows your heirs to circumvent the probate process. Note that in the state of Illinois, estates that have a total value under $100,000 and don’t include real estate don’t necessarily have to go through the probate process. In those instances, a living trust may not be especially useful.

There are downsides to using a living trust. For instance, trusts are more complicated to set up, and they tend to be costly than wills. Also, they can cause issues after you’ve died, as living trusts offer families a larger window of time to contest the estate than a will does. Regardless of whether you choose to create a living trust, remember that everyone needs an estate plan.

Living Trusts vs. Wills

Even if you get a living trust, make sure to also make a will. A will can direct the fate of any property that does not end up in the trust. Moreover, a will has some capabilities that a living trust does not, including:

  • Establishing guardianship for children who are minors
  • Selecting managers for children’s property
  • Providing instructions on how to pay taxes and debts
  • Naming an executor

Here’s a deeper dive into the the legal abilities of both documents:

Living Trusts vs. Wills
Living Trusts Wills
Names a property beneficiary Yes Yes
Allows revisions to be made Depends on type Yes
Avoids probate court Yes No
Requires a notary Yes No
Names guardians for children No Yes
Names an executor No Yes
Requires witnesses No Yes

Living Trusts and Taxes in Illinois

living trust illinois

A living trust probably will not have much of a tax impact. Still, you should look into the Illinois estate tax and Illinois inheritance tax when you are thinking about your estate plan.

The estate tax in Illinois applies to estates that are worth more than $4 million. The tax is progressive, and rates range from 0.80% to 16%. The federal estate tax could also be relevant. This tax applies to estates that are worth more than $11.18 million, or $22.36 million for couples.

There is no inheritance tax in Illinois.

The Bottom Line

It isn’t difficult to make a living trust in Illinois, but it does require some level of time and planning. A living trust might be especially useful in Illinois because the state does not use the Uniform Probate Code. This means that a living trust has the potential to save time and money for your family.

When it comes to creating a living trust, you can choose to do it yourself or you can work with an attorney. The first option might be less costly, but a lawyer may be helpful as you navigate the complexities of  creating a living trust.

Estate Planning Tips

  • If you’re planning your estate or are just trying to create a financial plan, it might be a good move to find a financial advisor. It’s important to choose an advisor who is a good fit for you and your situation though. SmartAsset makes it easier to find a suitable advisor with our free financial advisor matching service. Just answer a few questions about your financial situation. Based on your answers, our platform will pair you with up to three advisors in your area. You can then read the advisors’ profiles, interview them and decide if you want to work with any of them.
  • Make sure to update your will and other aspects of your estate plan. Things change, and your estate plan should change along with them.
  • While you can’t transfer ownership of your retirement account to your a trust, you can name your trust as a beneficiary. If you do this, your 401(k) or life insurance benefits will automatically go to your trust.

Photo credit: ©, ©

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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