Recently, the office of the Illinois State Treasurer was tasked with handling one of the most bizarre and complicated unclaimed estate cases ever recorded in U.S. history. Chicago resident, Joseph Stancak passed away in 2016, secretly leaving behind $11 million in his estate. Fast forward to October 2022, 119 of Stancak’s relatives have now received a portion of his wealth more than five years later.
With no siblings, children of his own, or nephews and nieces, his lineage had to be traced by going all the way back to his parents before coming back to these relatives who are located in multiple states and even countries. That is a life-changing amount of money, and there is not much information on how he accumulated the wealth, but there is an important lesson to be learned here…
The best time to begin estate planning is as soon as possible. It basically starts with going through “what-if” scenarios, some financial housekeeping and then bringing in professionals to finalize the process.
The biggest error you can make is thinking that estate planning is only for those worth tens of millions of dollars and doesn’t apply to your family. Anyone with assets owned in their own names may be subjecting their heirs to a long and expensive probate court process to simply inherit their assets.
Steps you can take to start the process
Other important considerations
In urging you to begin estate planning as soon as possible, we do so with the knowledge that the current estate tax exemption has been set at $12,920,000 and the annual gift exemption will be $17,000 per person for 2023. It’s not a guarantee that those amounts will not decrease at some point. With a dynamic political environment, the tools available to your family now to minimize tax liability may not be available tomorrow.
If your family net worth is above the available exemption, there are many strategies to consider implementing to transfer growth outside of your estate today, as well as others to reduce or eliminate your exposure to estate taxes upon your demise.
Our dedicated estate and trust specialists have more than 25 years of experience assisting clients with estate and gift tax matters. Utilizing that knowledge and understanding each situation is not the same, we craft a unique and effective estate plan to maximize savings and create peace of mind for each client.
Download the 2022 UHY estate planning guide to get started