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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyIt is understandable that many people are put off by the idea of sitting down and creating a will. Doing so requires a person to face the reality that he or she will not live forever. While this is something that we all know, it is often much easier to avoid confronting the idea in a direct way. Perhaps that is why as many as 60 percent of American adults have yet to draft a will or other elements of an estate plan. You should know, however, that by taking the time to write up your will, you could save your surviving family members a great deal of stress, aggravation, and money down the road.

At the risk of sounding cliché, the right time to draft a will is now. Every adult should have a written plan for what will happen to his or her property—no matter how simple or modest the estate may be—upon his or her death. That being said, there are certain events in a person’s life that should prompt him or her to think about the future and draft a will. If you already have a will, these same events should encourage you to review your will to make sure that it is up to date.

Obtaining New Property and Changes in a Financial Situation

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Posted on in Mediation

Lombard family law attorneysIn this day and age, divorce is no longer the exclusive province of family law courts. Many couples, especially if they enjoy a fairly civil relationship, choose alternative dispute resolution methods to achieve their objectives. Couples who use such methods are often driven by a willingness to move their case forward faster than would possible in court. If this avenue appeals to you, Illinois law provides several different options.

Mediation

Divorce mediation is not for everyone. In fact, it is definitively not appropriate for spouses who will not or cannot maintain a civil relationship. If, however, you and your spouse are able to talk and be in the same room, mediation could be an option. While most mediators undergo specialized training, they are not necessarily required to be licensed by any governing body or accreditation entity. This reality can sometimes be a deterrent for those who fear that something may go wrong. However, Illinois does have a Uniform Mediation Act, which sets out requirements and prohibitions that must be followed.

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DuPage County family law attorneysIndividuals and couples who are interested in adopting children obviously are advised to take the time to familiarize themselves with the Illinois Adoption Act (IAA) However, there are other areas of law in which the IAA can provide valuable input. One of the most common is when a parent or couple’s parental rights are at issue, especially when deciding whether or not a parent or parents should keep their parental rights. The IAA can provide guidance on such issues.

The Concept of Unfitness

Normally, Illinois courts prefer that if one or both of a child’s birth parents is to lose their parental rights, there should be another person able to step into the parental role. The state works very diligently to ensure that children have two parents as often as possible. The one rare occasion in which this does not always happen is when a parent is declared unfit under the Adoption Act. In these unusual instances, it is deemed more important to remove a child from a potentially dangerous situation. Sometimes, however, even if a parent is found unfit, their parental rights will not be terminated unless someone else is willing to adopt the child.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneysIn many ways, estate planning is similar to dieting and healthy living. We all know that we should eat better, exercise more, and spend fewer hours in front of computer and televisions screens. Compared to the total population, only a portion actually make a sustained, consistent effort at improving their lives. The same is largely true for estate planning. Most of us understand that it is important to have a formal plan in place for when we die. We know that it will be better for our families, and it could even benefit us during our lifetime. Yet, for some reason—or many reasons—more than half of American adults do not have a will or any other type of estate plan in place.

The similarities between estate planning and healthier living do not stop there. Have you ever been at the gym when someone pointed out that you were doing a particular exercise wrong? It can be frustrating, since doing something—even if your technique is not perfect—is better than doing nothing. Estate planning is no different in that regard, but there are several common mistakes that many people make as they go through the process, including:

  • Thinking an estate is too simple or small to need a plan. Are you over the age of 18? Do you have a car and a checking account? All adults should have an estate plan in place, even if the plan is very basic. Sure, you do not need a complex plan loaded with contingencies and endowments, but you should know what will happen to your assets upon your death. If you have children, planning for their future can also be part of your estate planning process;
  • Trusting that things will work themselves out. Life is full of surprises, both good and bad. Marriages, divorce, births, deaths, illnesses, addictions, new jobs, and financial windfalls can all create uncertain circumstances that should be accounted for in your estate plan. A well-developed estate plan can be created to include possible “what-if” scenarios, ensuring that your assets can be fully protected both now and in the future;
  • Choosing the wrong people to manage your estate. Your estate plan affords you the ability to choose an executor, as well as trustees or Powers of Attorney depending on your needs. Too often, people name someone just to get it done, with little thought given to the actual responsibilities in question. The results of doing so can be devastating not only to your estate but to your family’s stability as well; and
  • Forgetting the pets. You would not create an estate plan that failed to account for your young children, but many plans do not address family pets. Instruments such as pet trusts are available and relatively easy to set up so that your furry friends can be well provided for in the years following your death.

Contact a Skilled Lawyer

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Posted on in Family Law

Lombard family law attorneysWith the recent change in administration, many LGBTQ parents and family members have expressed concern over the possibility of modifications to current statutes and legal precedents that may affect them and their families adversely. Though many believe such fears unfounded, it is never a bad idea to double-check that all relevant legal documents, including adoption or birth certificates, marriage licenses, and travel documents are in order.

Marriages and Estate Planning

Perhaps the primary concern of many LGBTQ families is the issue of marriage equality. While a Supreme Court decision usually settles a matter, at least for some time, the new administration has given indications that it would like to see 2015’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges overturned. While a president cannot unilaterally overturn a Supreme Court decision, he may, in theory, appoint justices who can, and this causes real concern for many. President Trump’s appointment of Justice of Neil Gorsuch seemed to validate this concern among pundits and skeptics.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyThe ASPCA estimates that about 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats are owned in the United States. For many people, their pet is a valued member of the family. They think of their pet not as a piece of property, but as a beloved companion. If you are one of these people, it is important to consider what will happen to your cherished pet when you are not around to care for it. A pet trust is an estate planning tool which can give you piece of mind that your pet will be looked after even if you cannot be the one to do so.

What Is a Pet Trust?

A trust is an arrangement that holds property or money for a beneficiary, often for when the creator of the trust passes away. Since a person cannot leave money or property directly to an animal, a pet trust legally enforceable arrangement regarding how your pet will be cared for in the event that you cannot care for it.

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Lombard family law attorneysUsually, when a couple decides to divorce, the court prefers that the spouses create their own divorce agreement dealing with subjects like maintenance and child support. More often than not, couples are able to agree on these subjects and a divorce decree can be approved by a judge with minimal court intervention. However, there are cases when the agreement will be denied, and either the couple will need to fix a few things or the court will have to make a ruling in accordance with the current law.

Unconscionability

Illinois law holds that an agreement to divorce must not be unconscionable. Unconscionability is a doctrine dealing with contracts that prohibits terms that are so grossly unfair or skewed in favor of one party that it shocks the conscience. While this applies to all contracts, it is seen fairly often in divorces. The aim of a divorce settlement is to leave both spouses with the tools they need to live independently, and sometimes people create agreements that do not meet that criteria, whether they realize it or not.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyThe maxim that nothing in life certain except death and taxes has persisted in American culture since Benjamin Franklin used it as a quip in a letter more than two centuries ago. While death and taxes are undoubtedly certain for most people, it is the combination of the two that can be troubling for many individuals and families. Between estate taxes, inheritance taxes, and other tax obligations, it can be expensive when a loved one dies. Through proper estate planning, you and your family may be able to limit your tax liabilities, however, and a relatively new tool may be available to help you do so.

What Is an IDF?

Insurance dedicated funds (IDFs) were introduced in the early 2000s, and despite their bland name, they have quickly become a hot item in the world of finance and asset protection. Such funds are rather complicated and subject to complex rules and regulations, but their appeal is based primarily on their ability to legally avoid taxes by meeting certain requirements.

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Lombard divorce attorneysAsset distribution is a part of nearly every Illinois divorce, and it has unique potential to cause arguments and misunderstandings. Nowhere is this more common than in attempting to distribute assets with significant sentimental value. Both spouses may wish to retain an asset like a piece of art or jewelry that has good memories associated with it, and it can very often devolve into a fight over who will keep the item.

When, How, and Why?

The little details can make a difference. For example, the date, or rough date, of acquisition can often decide who actually has ownership of the item. If you or your spouse acquired the item before your marriage, it is your (or your spouse’s) property, with no obligation to share it. Illinois law holds that nonmarital property encompasses all that you owned before your marriage, unless you actively take the step of making it marital property. For example, if you own a parcel of land before your marriage, and sign half the interest over to your spouse, that land would qualify as marital property, because you took the affirmative step of involving your spouse in its administration.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyFollowing a divorce, the terms and provisions of your estate plan may become obsolete, especially if your ex-spouse factored prominently in your plan. While there are laws that help prevent estate planning issues after a divorce, it is still a good idea to take another look at your will, trusts, and any other estate planning tools to determine if modifications are needed.  

Revocable Trusts

A revocable or living trust is the most common instrument that requires review during or after a divorce. In a revocable trust, the holder of property (called a settlor) confers that property to a trustee to hold for a beneficiary while still retaining the right to take the property back. It is very common for either the trustee or the beneficiary to be a spouse.

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Lombard family law attorneyIn the overwhelming majority of cases, when your or your spouse’s parental rights are terminated, there is no getting them back. Normally, if parental rights are involuntarily taken away, it means that evidence of abuse or neglect has been discovered, after which it is considered too dangerous to allow the child to remain in your home. However, if there are other reasons for termination, such as a parent’s abrupt deportation, it may be possible to have the determination reversed, dependent on several different factors.

Illinois Law

Illinois is one of only a handful of states to even countenance the possibility of reinstatement of parental rights after their termination. The law holds that if filed by the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) or by the minor child themselves, parental rights may be reinstated if certain conditions are met, namely that the motion is supported by “clear and convincing evidence.” This is not subjective; it is a specific burden of proof that a court will insist upon before granting the motion.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyWhen it comes to making decisions regarding the end of your life, there are many factors to consider. No matter how difficult it may be for you to think about, leaving such decisions to your loved ones to make can leave lasting feelings of guilt, regret, and wondering if they made the right choice. Fortunately, there are several ways you can prepare in advance regarding your desired end-of-life care. They represent an important but often overlooked element of the estate planning process.

Advance Medical Directives

There are two common ways in which you can make your end-of-life care decisions ahead of time, and both are considered types of advance medical directive. An advance medical directive, put simply, is contingency plan that specifies your wishes to be carried out if you are no longer able to make such decisions for yourself. Living wills and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders allow you to maintain control of your own life to the very end.

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Lombard family law attorneyDomestic violence is one of the most common family issues in the United States today, unfortunately, and it has an especially pernicious effect on children. If a parent who has committed domestic violence is permitted to continue seeing his or her children, studies have shown that that child has a greater propensity to perpetuate violence in the future. The state of Illinois considers it a high priority to ensure that children are not exposed to such behavior, and as such, if your spouse has charges or convictions, you may be able to mount a serious challenge to their parental fitness.

Domestic Violence Defined

Illinois’ Domestic Violence Act (DVA) of 1986 defines domestic violence as abuse, both physical and otherwise, as well as “interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation.” It also makes a point of identifying a victim as any family or household member, rather than just a spouse. Thus, the law encompasses spouses, but also family members related by blood, people who are (or were) dating or living together, and co-parents of a child who are unmarried. So, for example, if the mother or father of your child abuses you, the DVA still applies in your case, whether you are married or not.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerEstate planning in Illinois or any other jurisdiction is more than simply determining what legal documents are most appropriate to protect the value of your assets after death and achieve the goals and desires you have for the disposition of your property. Equally as important as choosing the right estate planning documents is choosing the right person to handle your affairs and exercise the powers those estate planning documents provide.

The Dangers of Selecting the Wrong Individual

Regardless of whether you named an individual as executor and administrator of your will, as a trustee overseeing your trust, or as your power of attorney, your estate planning documents give the individual significant powers. In the wrong hands, this person could potentially:

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Lombard family law attorneyIn Illinois, the law presumes that anyone over age 18 is capable of making decisions and handling affairs for himself or herself. Yet, circumstances may arise where a person is not capable of doing so. If this has happened to one of your family members or loved ones, you may wonder what you can do to ensure that this person does not waste their resources or make harmful mistakes. Guardianship is one option you may wish to consider.

When Is Guardianship Appropriate?

Guardianship should be considered when a person cannot make basic life decisions or is not able to manage money or property. People of any age may require a guardian. 

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DuPage County estate planning attorneyAs you begin the process of estate planning, you are likely to hear that probate is a time-consuming, expensive series of proceedings that should always be avoided. This idea is prevalent in online resources about estate plans, but there is often little explanation given as to why—other than it can take a long time and costs money. Before you decide whether avoiding probate is necessary, it is important to fully understand the process.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a judicial process by which an individual proves in court that a deceased person’s will is valid. This process also includes taking inventory of the recently deceased person’s property, appraising the property, and distributing the property according to the will. If there is no will or other estate planning instruments in place, property will be allocated by the probate court in accordance with the state’s laws of intestate succession.

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Lombard family law attorneysPrenuptial agreements, or prenups, are becoming more common, as they acquire a solid reputation for safeguarding one’s interests and assets. However, they are not cure-alls for marriages. There are some things that simply cannot be addressed in a prenup. It can help avoid disagreements if your prenuptial agreement is crystal clear on what it disposes of and if you do not try to do too much with it.

DO: Distinguish Between Marital and Non-Marital Property

This is arguably the primary purpose of a prenuptial agreement. Illinois law lists it as the second right that couples have in the creation of such a document, and indeed, that is what most are used to accomplish. Dividing one’s property in a prenuptial agreement can save significant time and trouble in divorce court, which can provide a significant boost to post-marital relations.

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Lombard family law attorneySpousal support—also known as alimony or maintenance—is found to be appropriate in many divorce cases, and is usually paid to the spouse with lower income. The situation may change, however, when the paying spouse reaches retirement age. It can prevent confusion and lost time if you and your former spouse do your research before retirement becomes an issue.

A “Substantial Change in Circumstances?”

Depending on your situation, the paying party may seek to have their support responsibility reduced or even terminated upon retirement. However, it is not as easy as simply petitioning the court and expecting your request to be approved. As with other requests of this nature, you must be able to present evidence showing that your current support responsibility is unreasonable or excessive in light of the reality of your retirement and the resulting financial effects.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen a person dies without a will or any other instruments of estate planning in place, his or her property will be distributed by the Probate Court in according with Illinois laws regarding intestate succession. Such cases often create significant disagreements among surviving family members. Of course, families may also fight when they discover what they are to receive in a will as well—and in some situations, things can get completely out of control.

More Than Money

While people often throw their familial allegiances to the wind and try to take as much as they can, family disputes on inheritance are not always about money. Conflict can arise for emotional reasons as well. While a grandson may not care to inherit a particular pie plate that his grandmother used for 30 years, for example, that same item could mean the world to someone else in the family. It is worth putting time and careful thought into your plan regarding who inherits the sentimental assets that you own. In doing so, there are a few things you should consider.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard family law attorneyIn many divorce cases, the concept of marital misconduct is often discussed, if only to underscore the fact that any evidence of it is not applicable to most divorce-related discussions. While Illinois law expressly excludes it from playing a role in issues like property division, it is still important to understand exactly what constitutes marital misconduct and what is simply a difference of ideology or opinion between you and your spouse.

Marital Misconduct and Divorce

Marital misconduct is generally defined in the law as conduct of any kind that has helped erode the marriage. This can take many different forms, from the wasteful spending of marital money to adultery to domestic violence. In many states, this kind of conduct can have a negative effect on a spouse’s portion of the marital assets as well as on the amount of parenting time granted to them. The rationale behind such decisions is that someone who shows flagrant disregard for the marriage and its benefits should be entitled to less in a divorce.

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