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Lombard estate planning attorneysFor many, estate planning is similar to doing your taxes. You know you should do it, but you put it off or procrastinate. Estate planning is especially difficult because it forces you to face your own mortality and have what can be uncomfortable conversations with loved ones about a time when you are not around anymore. Creating a comprehensive estate plan is critical to ensuring that your property and assets are distributed according to your wishes and that the end of your life is how you intend it to be.

Unfortunately, only four in 10 American adults have a will or living trust. The other 60 percent will have significantly less control regarding their property and final wishes than those who plan ahead. Luckily, there is no wrong time to start planning for the future, and there are estate planning steps that you can take at each stage of your life.

In Your 40s and 50s


Lombard family law attorneyToday, families in the United States come in all varieties. More single parents and unmarried parents are raising children than in the past. Same-sex couples are also raising more children than they did twenty years ago. Families are often blended, with children from several relationships living together under one roof. Grandparents are also increasingly taking the place of biological parents in children’s lives. 

Voluntary Relinquishment

There are several ways that grandparents can get custody of their grandchildren. The first way is through petitioning the court for custody of the grandchildren. Both parents of the child must voluntarily relinquish their parental rights to the child unless there is another issue like abuse. Parents may give up the rights to their children for many deeply personal reasons. Sometimes addiction issues or mental health concerns make a parent unable to raise their child. Other times, very young parents relinquish their parental rights so that a grandparent or grandparents can adopt the child.


Lombard estate planning attorneysIt is never too soon to start planning for your future. At every age, there is an opportunity to make estate planning decisions and preparations that will benefit you and your family in the future. The most financially successful individuals among us will tell you that it did not happen by accident. It is important to be aware of your financial situation and to be intentional about the way your plan for the future. At every stage of life, there are some estate planning steps that you should take in order to minimize complications or expense in the future.

Over the next few weeks, we will discuss how you can consider the future, no matter how old you are right now.

In Your 20s


Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneysThere is some confusion in the general public as to the extent that a spouse’s adultery can affect a divorce case. Television and movies often show an enraged husband or wife discovering that their partner is having an affair and yelling about how they are going to take the house and have full custody of their children. Although adultery is still frowned upon by society, it is usually irrelevant to divorce proceedings.

No-Fault State

Since the beginning of 2016, Illinois has been what is called a “pure no-fault state.” A no-fault state is one which does not require divorcing couples to report the reason or “grounds” that they are seeking the divorce. In the past, things like mental cruelty or adultery could be reported as the official reason that the marriage ended. Today, all divorcing couples in Illinois as assumed to be divorcing on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.”  More specifically, a divorce will only be granted when “irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the court determines that efforts at reconciliation have failed or that future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.”


Lombard estate planning attorneysImagine this scenario: Your elderly grandmother has lived with a caretaker for several years. She passes away and upon reading her will, you find that your grandmother has left all of her assets and belongings to the caretaker and none to her children or grandchildren. For many people, this would raise red flags. There are countless scenarios like this which lead to families contesting the validity of a loved one’s will.

When Should a Will Be Contested?

If you think that your loved one’s will does not accurately reflect his or her final wishes, you should contest it. Contesting the will means that you are asking the courts to deem the will invalid. Probate courts in Illinois can invalidate a will for several specific reasons. Firstly, a will can be thrown out if can be shown that the deceased person, or the decedent, was unduly influenced by someone during the will's creation. For example, in the hypothetical scenario above, the caretaker could have coerced the elderly grandmother to leave her property to him instead of her family.


Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneysNo matter how old or young you are, if you are married, there is the possibility that you could get divorced. Most people, however, tend to think of divorce as a reality that mostly affects couples who are relatively older. These notions may be linked to movies and television where a wandering eye or a mid-life crisis drives spouses apart when they are in their early forties or older. Divorce, however, can also become necessary for couples who are far younger, and those who get divorced in their 20s may face years of potential complications. This is especially true for 20-somethings with children.

Finding a Niche

Human beings are social creatures, and most of us derive a sense of belonging when we find a peer group where we feel comfortable. If you are recently divorced with no children, it may be relatively easy to socialize with other younger singles. If you have children, however, you may feel stuck in the middle. On one hand, our parental responsibilities may not allow to you enjoy the spontaneous, carefree lifestyle of single people your age. On the other hand, you may not feel very comfortable among other parents, especially those who might be a bit older or whose marriage is still intact. It is, however, important to avoid cutting yourself off completely from social situations. Find a sitter every now and again, and go out and a have a good time.


Lombard estate planning attorneyWhen you hear or read the phrase “estate planning,” what comes to mind? If you are like most people, you probably think about wills or maybe trusts that are used to protect a person’s property and distribute it to the person’s heirs upon his or her death. While the protection and transfer of assets are certainly a major focus of estate planning, there are other elements that deal with the quality of a person’s life as he or she gets older. Unfortunately, many of these important subjects are uncomfortable or difficult for many people to talk about, leading to assumptions and misunderstandings that can create serious problems in the future.

Deciding on a Caregiver

Most of us are hesitant to consider a time when we are no longer able get by on our own. The reality, however, is that many of us will need someone to help us with the activities of daily living, especially as we get older. A large number of American adults assume that their children will step into the role of caregiver when the time comes. In fact, according to at least one survey, about three-fourths of parents expect at least one of their children to provide physical or financial help as they get older, and 60 percent of those parents expect to be their daughter.


Lombard divorce attorneysParents who get divorced almost always share the same top concern: how will the divorce affect their children? Divorce is a deeply stressful even for children of all ages to go through. They are losing the only reality they have ever been familiar with and plunging into the unknown. However, there are also many benefits to children when their parents’ divorce, some of which may surprise you.

Decrease in Household Tension May Come as a Relief to Children

Researchers from UCLA looked at 47 studies that connected children’s experiences in tension-filled home environments to later problems in adulthood. The researchers found what many would suspect:  Children that experience high levels of conflict at home had more physical, emotional, and social issues later in life compared to control groups. As adults, those who grew up in homes with intense arguments or feuding parents, were more likely to report vascular and immune problems, depression, substance abuse and addiction, loneliness, and problems with intimacy that those who did not grow up in high-conflict households. Research also shows that it is not only households with a lot of overt aggression or yelling that cause these issues for children. Stonewalling or a parent giving the other the “silent treatment” were also destructive actions with regard to children’s long-term mental health.


Lombard estate planning attorneyMany people realize at some point in their lives that they need to start planning for a time when they are not around. It could be the addition of a new baby in the family, retirement, or a medical crisis that spurs a person’s interest in estate planning. For those seeking the cheapest estate planning process possible, using online legal document services may seem like a good idea. Although some do use these types of products with success, relying on an online service to plan your final affairs can be a risky move.

Do Not Be Fooled By a Professional-Appearing Website

Online legal document services may appear to offer the same benefits as a law firm, but they do not. These types of services do not hire attorneys, but instead “document assistants”—individuals who do not have nearly the extensive education and training an attorney has. A document assistant cannot help you choose the best legal option for your unique estate circumstances or warn you if you are making a grave mistake while creating your plans. Because the people involved in these online service websites are not lawyers, they cannot give you legal advice of any kind. In fact, the websites cannot even promise that legal documents drafted though the service will be valid or that there will be a usable result from the time, effort, or money spent on these online services.


Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneysUpon reading the title to this blog post, you may be thinking to yourself that all divorces are high in conflict. This is certainly true. Divorce is the second-most stressful life even a person can endure and it often brings out the worst in people. However, although many who divorce have feelings of resentment, guilt, or anger, they are still willing to work toward a common goal. In high-conflict divorces, one or both spouses are not willing to work together and instead work to tear each other down. In this type of divorce, a couple engages in hostile confrontation instead of legal negotiation about the issues at hand. This can be nearly unbearable for a spouse who actually does want to reach conclusions about spousal support, child support, parenting time, or property division.

Reasons to Hope

If you are currently experiencing a high conflict divorce, or you might be in the future, know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. While there is no way that you can change how you spouse reacts to a divorce, you can change yourself. There are a few guidelines that experts suggest can help spouses manage high-conflict divorces and reach the conclusion they desire.


mistakes-man-upset-planning-failure.jpgThe true purpose of estate planning is to protect your assets and to provide for your family- even after you pass away. Planning for your future now can save your loved ones months of frustration and uncertainty in the future. There exists some misinformation regarding estate planning, and this can lead to mistakes. Those who are not aware of all their estate planning choices and the benefits and drawbacks of each choice may not be informed enough to avoid these common missteps.

Overlooking Living Trusts

Assuming that a last will and testament is the best choice for distributing assets after death is a common oversight. Although a will is more common, a revocable living trust may be the better option for some. A revocable living trust is a legal arrangement created to hold ownership of an individual's assets—similar to a will. However, assets left through a living trust do not have to pass through probate, which is the court system designed to prove the validity of a will. Probate can be lengthy and also makes the content of a will public information. The information contained in living trusts does not have to go through probate and stays private.


Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneysThere are many reasons why a couple’s marriage may break down. In some cases, the two spouses simply got married before they were ready for the commitment. Other times, one of the spouses is unfaithful and causes hardship in the marriage through his or her infidelity. However, one of the biggest causes of marital stress is money. Couples argue about whether to spend or save money, what to spend it one, or how their money should be managed.

Financial Stress Causes Friction in Relationships

A study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that about 75 percent of Americans are experiencing financial stress at least some of the time. Furthermore, almost a quarter of U.S residents are experiencing extreme financial stress. Couples do not have to be living paycheck to paycheck to experience this stress. Many financially-secure couples also experience the stress of not knowing which money decisions are right for them and their family.


DuPage County estate planning attorneysAlthough it is not necessarily a pleasant thought, even young parents who are in good health should not hesitate to start creating an estate plan. Parents of minor children need to plan for the possibility that they may pass away before their children reach adulthood. Because those under 18 years of age do not have the legal standing or rational thinking ability to make decisions about their care and finances, an adult must act on their behalf.

When parents of minor children create an estate plan, two of the concerns they should address are who will be the guardian of their children should they pass away and who will manage their children’s assets. By planning for the worst, parents can have the peace of mind knowing that if something ever happened to them, their children would be raised and cared for by individuals that the parent’s themselves selected.

Planning for the Future


Lombard family law attorneysThe Chicago Tribune recently published a story about child abuse that is so extreme, it is stomach-turning. A couple in southern California was found to have been keeping their thirteen children secluded in their home under horrific conditions. The siblings were found by police to be extremely malnourished and thin. Their skin was pale and looked as though the children had spent little time outside.

A “Private School”

The diminutive stature of the children led investigators to believe they were all under age 18 at first. Investigators were shocked to find that the children ranged in ages from 2 to 29. The religious parents of the 13 victims were holding the children prison in their own home. They called their home a private school and their children its pupils. The father was the principal of the school. Because no state agency regulates private schools in California, the state did not realize the atrocities that were happening inside the home.


Lombard estate planning attorneyResearch shows that only about half of Americans have any estate planning documents in place. Those without a last will and testament and other critical estate planning documents risk having their estate decisions made for them if they pass away or become incapacitated. One vital piece of estate planning that is important for anyone to have is a power of attorney. A durable power of attorney is a legal document which gives someone else the authority to act on your behalf if you cannot do your yourself.

Types of Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney assigns an agent which will be responsible for the medical decisions, legal choices, personal banking, investment, insurance and real estate transactions of the person signing the document (the principal) should they become incapacitated. A special power of attorney allows the principal to be more specific. He or she can narrow down the types of choices the agent(s) can make. It is possible to have several different powers of attorney for different purposes. An individual may choose their spouse or family member to make medical decisions on their behalf, but he or she may choose another individual to make financial or business decisions in the event they are incapacitated.


Lombard family law attorneysNo one wants to think about their own mortality, but it is an issue that must be faced eventually. This is especially true if you have minor children. Provisions must be made for them in case the unthinkable happens. While it may seem alarmist, it is actually quite common to draw up a plan or mechanism to ensure that your children are well cared for if you are suddenly removed from the proverbial picture. The most often used method of guaranteeing that stability is to set up a guardianship, but there are other possible options.

Superior Rights Doctrine

As one might assume, if you are married to your children’s mother or father (or once were), Illinois courts will usually grant custody to him or her under the so-called “superior rights doctrine.” There is a general presumption that a biological parent is the best person to raise children, and this will often be followed as long as the parent has not been found unfit. However, there is one doctrine that carries more weight than the superior rights principle, and that is the best interests of the child. Illinois public policy explicitly states that the best interests of the child are the primary concern when ruling on issues in family law, such as parenting time or allocation of parental responsibilities.


Lombard estate planning lawyerMany of us have seen celebrity disputes in the news regarding a deceased person’s estate. For instance, after music legend Michael Jackson died in 2009, his family became embroiled in financial and legal arguments regarding his last will and testament. Jackson’s siblings—who were not named as beneficiaries—claimed that pop icon’s will was fake. Another dispute arose when Anna Nicole Smith’s billionaire husband J. Howard Marshall died. In a series of dramatic court cases, Smith was at first awarded but then denied a share of her late husband’s estate. Smith died just a year after her late husband and the argument was not resolved.

Celebrities are not the only ones to experience the tension of an estate dispute. Every day, families whose names we do not know experience the pain and trauma of arguments over inheritance. There is no way to eliminate the risk that your estate plan will be challenged by a family member, but there are some steps you can take to minimize the risk:

  1. Talk to your family about your plans. Although it can be an extremely difficult to talk to your family about plans for after your death, it is also critically important. By explaining your estate planning choices to your family, you can help avoid disputes in the future;
  2. Do not wait until you are sick to create an estate plan. People often think that only older individuals or those with a terminal illness should take estate planning seriously. In reality, having an estate plan in place while you are physically and mentally well can lessen the chance of problems later on. An estate plan which is created when the testator is in ill health is more susceptible to being contested;
  3. Update your estate plan appropriately. Estate planning is an ongoing process. Plans should be reviewed and updated based on changes in your family.  When a beneficiary gives birth, gets married or divorced, or passes away, you must account for these changes in your plan. It is also imperative to monitor your assets and your beneficiary designations;
  4. Consider using a revocable living trust to avoid probate. A revocable living trust puts property and financial assets into a trust which are then administered for the creator’s benefit during their lifetime. After death, the assets in the trust are either distributed or held in trust for future distribution to named beneficiaries; and
  5. Do not try to navigate the estate planning process alone. An experienced estate planning attorney will be familiar with changing laws and court decisions. He or she will be able to guide you in your estate planning process and help you lessen the chance of a contested will or dispute.

Seek Skilled Legal Assistance


Lombard family law attorneyThe term “parental alienation” refers to the process through which a person psychologically manipulates a child into having ill feelings toward their parent. This most often occurs when parents divorce or separate. Parental alienation is a form of psychological abuse and it can be devastating to both the child and his or her parents. There is even evidence to suggest that a child who has been manipulated in this way will have a higher chance of mental and physical illness. Parental alienation is inexcusable.

Why and How Does Parental Alienation Occur?

Parental alienation most often happens to children whose parents are separating or divorcing. Of course, it can also be an issue for children of parents who were never married to one another. When the parents are in conflict, they can start to bring their child or children into the conflict. A parent who is jealous or angry toward the other parent begins to encourage their child to take “their side.”


Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyerA person’s last will and testament is a vitally important document. In it, an individual can record their wishes regarding guardianship of children and the distribution of assets and property. However, there are instances in which the directives set forth in a will are not carried out. If a judge determines that the person signing the will was not of sound mind or was illegally influenced, the court can disregard the will. In these cases, decisions about property and guardianship can become incredibly complicated.

The Person Signing the Will is Not of Sound Mind

Often, as a person ages, they experience changes in cognitive capacity and memory. A will must be written and signed by a person of “sound mind” in order to be considered valid. A person has “testamentary capacity” if he or she fully understands the instructions set out in the will and agrees to them. It can be extremely difficult to prove that the testator was not mentally capable of understanding the will that they signed. Often the strongest evidence of testamentary capacity comes from the people who witnessed the will maker signing the will.


Posted on in Divorce

Lombard family law attorneysSubstance abuse and addiction problems have touched most people’s lives one way or another. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 21.5 million teens and adults fought a substance use disorder in the United States in 2014. If you have ever been close to someone struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you know that the addiction can become all-consuming. Addicts can end up losing their jobs, resort to criminal activity, and be estranged from those who love them. Others with addiction issues seek professional help and are able to overcome the dependence. If you are married to someone with substance abuse issues, you know the toll those issues can take on the family.

Sometimes, a person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol becomes a danger to themselves or those in his or her household. How much should a spouse tolerate before they end the marriage? Every relationship is different and only the people in it know what is right for them. However, if you are married to an addict, there are a few things worth keeping in mind.

Is Your Partner Willing to Get Help?

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