Our dad is a widower without a will. What will happen to his assets -- all in the state of Illinois -- if he passes without a will? We have been told the state of Illinois will take half of it. -- C.C., of Breese
Whoever told you that probably could land a good spot at that classic Three Stooges law firm of Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe.
Here's the deal: If your dad dies "intestate" (legalese for "without a will"), his assets will be divvied up according to the will that Illinois has provided for such people under the state's intestacy statute. You can find all the details in chapter 755 of the Illinois compiled statutes.
Section 5/2-1 describes a number of increasingly complex scenarios of how assets are split up among survivors -- wife, wife and kids, no wife or kids, etc. Right now, it appears your family would enjoy a straightforward distribution -- all assets will be divided equally among you and your siblings. (If, say, a brother died, his children would split his share.)
Under current law, you will pay no estate taxes unless your dad is a very wealthy man, Belleville attorney Mark Schrader told me. As of Jan. 1, the first $4 million of an estate is exempt from such taxes in Illinois. The federal exemption currently is even higher: It's now $5.25 million. I'm guessing anyone with those kind of bucks would have a detailed inheritance plan worked out and in force.
That doesn't mean you won't have some expenses, but it shouldn't be anything close to half the estate, Schrader said.
"If you're over $100,000 in personal property you may have to open an estate and have administration of the estate," he said. "So there's some administration expenses -- you know, the administrator having to do some of the legal work to liquidate the assets, pay the bills and distribute the assets to the heirs."
But to preserve as much of your estate as possible, wills are always advisable.
"Even a simple will can save your estate some expense," Schrader said. "You can waive the bond of the executor. In (Illinois), we're paying like $1,600 a year insurance premium for an indemnity bond because there was no will. If there was a will, it could say, 'I trust this person and they can serve as executor without bond.' But just to ensure that people don't run off with the funds it's state law that you otherwise must have an insurance bond in place."
Wills also allow detailed individual bequests. Are there children with special needs who need lifetime care? Do you want to leave a gift to a favorite hospital, library or orchestra? Has someone requested that antique clock? Without a will, none of these will be considered by an administrator.
Remember, your dad's grandchildren usually will receive nothing unless they are the surviving children of a deceased sibling. (In that case, they will split the share that your brother or sister would have received.) Your dad might also ask about setting up a trust to make the whole thing even quicker and smoother.
So, as Schrader says, it's "not the end of the world" if there's no will, but it might make what will be undoubtedly a sad time somewhat less burdensome for your family.
Why did Shop 'n Save stop giving those discount gas coupons that used to come with your grocery receipt? I really enjoyed those extra few cents off per gallon. -- H.W., of Belleville
It may have been good for your pocketbook, but when it came to the store's bottom line, the idea simply ran out of gas.
"After carefully reviewing the fuel program, we determined it just didn't best accomplish our goal of offering savings to all of our customers," company spokesman Luke Friedrich told me. "Plus there were significant administrative costs that were continuing to rise, so we made the decision to end the fuel program.
"Our commitment is to provide customers with products they want to buy at low prices, and we believe this decision will allow us to focus more of our resources on achieving that commitment."
So, after four years at the Belleville station for example, the discounts ended as of June 1, but any old coupons you can dig up will be honored until the end of July. If you haven't explored them, may I suggest a credit card with fuel rewards? Over the Fourth of July weekend, I used my BP card to fill up at $2.91 a gallon.
In 1954, Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, Pa., merged and took what athlete's name?
Answer to Wednesday's trivia: The subject of Thursday's column should have been a dead giveaway as to the actress with the most Emmy nominations for roles on a network comedy series. It's, of course, none other than Betty White, who in her 60 years on network television has earned 16, including five wins -- twice for "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," once for "The Golden Girls" and once each for guest appearances on "Saturday Night Live" and "The John Laroquettte Show." She also has won as best game-show host ("Just Men!" in 1983). White shares the record for most Emmy wins for comedy with Mary Tyler Moore and Candice Bergen.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org