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Lombard estate planning attorneysDo you have a signed and executed will or any other elements of an estate plan in place? If so, you are already ahead of more than half of American adults.

Next question: Have you had in-depth discussions about estate planning with your children and other important family members? If so, you and your family are well prepared for unexpected surprises—assuming your estate plan addresses all or most of the details that are significant to you and your loved ones.

Final question: Would your children agree that you have had the necessary conversations and do they know where to find important documents, passwords, and account information? Unfortunately, serious disconnects in communication are all too common when it comes to estate planning.

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Posted on in Adoption

DuPage County adoption attorneysAdoption can be a wonderful and happy event for everyone involved. However, there are times when the process becomes quite complex, especially when an adoption involves a parent who ostensibly could assert parental rights, yet is nowhere to be found. There is a very specific process to go through before a child with an absentee parent (or two absentee parents) may be adopted into a family where he or she will receive the kind of attention he or she deserves.

Abandonment and Desertion

In most situations, a child is presumed to have two parents, but this is not always the case. However, this may be untrue in certain cases. Illinois allows paternity to be legally established immediately following the birth of a child, by one of four methods:

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Lombard family lawyersIt is almost too easy to send a text message on your cell phone. It takes only a few moments to type out a quick hello or make plans with friends and family. More than six billion messages are exchanged every day in the United States—that is over 2.2 trillion each year! Unfortunately, the ease of sending a text message can sometimes get people into trouble, as they may send a message without thinking or in the heat of a moment. This can cause problems for those involved in legal proceedings such as a divorce or child custody battle.

Text Messages Last Forever

An individual who is going through a divorce or other matter of family law may experience a wide range of emotions. He or she may feel betrayed, spiteful, confused, and upset. Often, there is animosity and tension between spouses who have decided to end their marriage. Divorce is an especially emotional process, and there may be many things left unsaid between two former romantic partners who have called it quits. There may also be things that are said but that should have been left unsaid. This is when the ease of pulling a cell phone from a pocket and quickly sending a nasty text message can cause problems.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersEvery person deserves to have control over the medical care they receive, including that which is provided at or near the end of their lives. Advance medical directives, such as a living will, give you the power to make certain decisions about your end-of-life care in advance, taking into account the possibility that you may not be able to make such decisions if and when they are necessary. Unfortunately, many advance medical directives are open to interpretation which could result in a decreased quality of life and unneeded suffering. There are some things you can do, however, to ensure that medical care is provided in accordance with your wishes, regardless of your condition at the time care is needed.

Death-Delaying Procedures

A living will is used primarily to specify the types of death-delaying procedures that you wish to be provided if you are ever diagnosed with a terminal condition and are unable to make care decisions for yourself. Death-delaying procedures refer to treatments and care that are postponing death in situations where healing or curing the condition is not possible. Such procedures include blood transfusions, artificial respiration, dialysis, and intravenous feeding or medications.

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyersThere are many things to consider when you are creating your Last Will and Testament. One you may have not considered is what will happen if your will is contested. A will contest is a lawsuit that an individual files in order to invalidate a deceased person’s will. Someone might file a will contest because they don’t believe a family member’s or friend’s will accurately reflects their true final wishes. Any intestate heir or beneficiary named in the person’s will can file a will contest.

In previous blog posts, we have talked about challenging the will of a recently-deceased loved one using a will contest. Today, however, we will look at how you can help prevent your will from being challenged. There are a few things that can be done to protect your will. One of these is a provision included in the will known as a “no-contest clause.”

What Is a No-Contest Clause?

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Posted on in Adoption

DuPage County adoption attorneysDespite the occasional controversy on the subject, U.S. citizens adopt foreign-born children fairly regularly. The regulations differ when negotiating depending on the country, as one might expect; however, the requirements that must be met upon reentry to the U.S. are the same. It is sadly common for a foreign-born adoptee to experience citizenship-related issues, though many can be solved by going through what is referred to as a readoption. It is usually not required to do so by law in Illinois, but it can prevent future issues for you and your adopted child.

Was the Adoption Completed?

Illinois does not require any further adoption proceedings if you completed the process abroad and abide by all immigration regulations. Yet, a readoption is the easiest way to quiet any potential citizenship issues before they even happen. It is sometimes referred to as an official recognition of a foreign judgment, which gives a clue to its purpose. If you travel to a foreign country and adopt a child, completing the process overseas, that is usually good enough for U.S. government to consider that child a citizen. However, if you are able and choose to bring the child to the U.S. for the purpose of completing the process (and, obviously, coming to live), recognition of the foreign judgment is usually required, because the process has not yet been completed to the satisfaction of the U.S. government.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen most people are asked about the concept of estate planning, they immediately think about a will and how it can be used to determine what will happen to a person’s assets and property upon his or her death. A will is certainly one of the cornerstones of a comprehensive estate plan, but on its own, a will is not always enough. There are four major elements of estate planning, and an experienced attorney can help you address each one properly.

Protecting Your Property During Your Lifetime

While estate planning is largely focused on what will happen after you die, the process also includes ensuring you have enough financial security to live out the rest of your life as you see fit. Investment strategies and savings, of course, are important, but you may also want to take steps toward protecting your family business or income-generating real estate holdings. You should also consider assigning power of attorney for property to a trusted person who can make decisions regarding your affairs in the event that become incapacitated and unable to make such choices for yourself.

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Posted on in Family Law

Lombard guardianship lawyersIn Illinois and indeed all over the country, there are children and disabled people who require a bit of extra help to have their needs met. While most often, people have family members to act for them, those who do not may need temporary or permanent guardians. There are specific procedures one must follow to become one and specific rules to be followed once one has the position.

General Guardianship Information

Most guardianship proceedings are conducted through the probate court. However, guardianship of a child differs slightly from seeking the guardianship of a disabled person in that guardianship of a minor automatically ceases when that child turns 18. Able-bodied adults over 18 are entitled to a rebuttable presumption that they can handle their own affairs. As such, obtaining guardianship for a 17-year-old may be more difficult and less practical than seeking guardianship over a 10-year-old simply because it would expire so quickly.

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Lombard divorce lawyersThe process of property division is often a challenging part of any divorce. However, when high net worth comes into the equation, things can get extremely complex and very contentious. It is a good idea to engage a qualified attorney to help guide you and your soon-to-be-former spouse through with a minimum of trouble.

“High Net Worth” Defined

The term “high net worth” divorce is actually somewhat of a misnomer, because a couple does not necessarily have to be particular wealthy to fit this category in divorce law. Rather, they must have assets that can be complex to divide; it just so  happens that in many instances, complex assets include many that are extremely valuable. Not everyone has assets such as specific types of retirement accounts, antiques, or complicated investments, and it can require more skill and time to handle them effectively.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen you get divorced, virtually your entire life is affected. Your relationship with your children changes, your living arrangements are different, and even your outlook on the future is likely to evolve. A divorce can also have a dramatic impact on the viability and the appropriateness of your existing estate plan. If you have recently gone through a divorce, it is a good idea to sit down with your lawyer and go over the details of your will, trusts, and any other estate planning tools you have in place.

Changes in What You Own

One of the most important reasons to update your estate plan after a divorce is the potential change to the property that comprises your estate. According to Illinois law, marital property must be divided equitably between divorcing spouses, which means that you probably own less now that you did when you were married. If your estate plan only makes general references to the property in your estate, the existing terms may be sufficient. Many estate plans, however, contain provisions for specific items or assets such as a particular vehicle or the family home. In the wake of your divorce, you may no longer own these assets, thus making an update necessary.

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Lombard estate planning attorneys“It’s what he would have wanted.”

We have all heard this phrase used by surviving family members of a recently deceased person as a justification for taking certain actions. Too often, we say such things to make ourselves feel better about the decisions we are making on behalf of the decedent, rather than knowing for sure that what we are doing is what he or she actually wanted. Unfortunately, many families are left to figure out what their loved would have wanted because that loved one never wrote down his or her wishes as a part of an estate plan. This is especially common regarding funeral arrangements as the thought of making such decisions can be extremely difficult.

Save Your Family the Trouble

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneysIn the past, divorce proceedings were often heavily biased against wives, for a multitude of societal and anthropological reasons. Society has changed over time, as one might expect, but there are still very different issues that women face after a divorce than those affecting men. Women—especially older women—are often put in positions they are unfamiliar with and may require help in handling.

Financial Issues

One of the major issues that many women face, especially older women, is that financial concerns are often foreign territory. Especially in marriages among older people, finances are traditionally the responsibility of men, so women after divorce may find themselves at a disadvantage in handling their money. An experienced divorce attorney may be able to advise on how to keep your assets safe. For example, a living trust may be an effective way to keep your assets in a form that cannot be accessed by creditors.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerIn today’s world, you can Google a “how-to” on nearly anything. Want to build a playhouse for your children? There are YouTube videos to show you how. Trying to become a better writer? A quick search can offer you thousands of workbooks, prompts, and exercises. Need a will or a power of attorney document? Countless resources are available to help you skip the “hassle” of hiring an estate planning lawyer. Unfortunately, a do-it-yourself estate plan is rarely a good idea, as even a small mistake can have significant consequences.

Retaining an estate planning attorney may seem unnecessary, especially as you draft your documents. At the very least, however, you should have a lawyer review your will and any other documents before you sign them to ensure that you do not become a victim of:

Selecting the Wrong People

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Lombard family law attorneysDisabled adults are in a difficult position in our society. Some require extensive support in their daily lives. Others require far less, but still may have markedly different experiences than able-bodied people. Each person’s situation is unique, and Illinois maintains guardianship laws that allow for maximum flexibility. The goal is to ensure that some of the most egregious abuses of the disabled occur far less frequently in the state than in others with more traditional guardianship regulations. If you are the relative of a disabled adult and are considering applying for guardianship, it is imperative that you familiarize yourself with Illinois regulations.

Degrees of Guardianship

Illinois law makes allowances for the fact that there are varying levels of mental and physical disability, and that one level of guardianship is not sufficient to encompass the varied experiences of such people. Unlike many other states, Illinois law states explicitly that the mere existence of a mental or physical disability is not sufficient grounds to require guardianship. It must also be shown that the disabled person is incapable of making or communicating responsible decisions about their personal care, their finances, or both.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersIf you have taken the time to create a will or any other instrument of estate planning, you are already better off than more than half of American adults. When drafting a will, most people consider most of their physical belongings along with investments or savings kept in the bank or at other financial institutions. Digital assets, however, often go overlooked, as many people do not even remember that they exist when they sit down to develop their estate plans. Some may not even know what digital assets are.

What Are Digital Assets?

Do you have a library of e-books from Amazon? What about a collection of songs from iTunes or apps from Google Play? These are some of the most common examples of digital assets. With the advancement of online technology, there are more types of digital assets today than ever before. In addition to e-books, programs, and music, digital assets also include pictures, data, visual designs, artwork, and online accounts for gaming, entertainment, and social media. If you have even one these types of assets—and since you are reading a blog right now, you probably do—it is important to develop a plan for dealing with them after your death.

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Lombard family law attorneyToday, more and more couples are choosing to forgo marriage for a variety of reasons. Some are political, others economic, and still others simply out of lack of interest in legally validating the relationship. However, there are some areas of the law in which not being married can actually be a hardship, and the paternity of your children is among the most pressing. If you are not married to your child’s mother, it is imperative that you be aware of your rights going forward, especially if you want to be involved in your child’s life.

Establishing Paternity in Illinois

Illinois law defines paternity and the father-child relationship fairly extensively, and it is important to understand how to proceed. The Illinois Parentage Act lays out a list of methods by which a man’s paternity may be acknowledged and legally verified. Generally, paternity is established in Illinois when:

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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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Lombard family law attorneyIn Illinois, parenting time is established by your divorce decree or a stand-alone custody order and is not to be interfered with out of any misplaced belief that you are entitled to do so. What people do not understand, however, is that in many situations, attempting to interfere or interfering with your former spouse’s designated parenting time may actually render you liable for civil damages, and it may adversely affect your existing parenting situation. You must understand what constitutes interference and what does not.

Civil vs. Criminal Action

While interference with visitation is not uncommon, it rarely becomes a persistent problem because there are multiple remedies of both civil and criminal varieties that can be employed against the offending spouse. The Illinois Criminal Code classifies interference with parenting time as a petty offense, but if it occurs more than twice in the same circumstances, it is a class A misdemeanor. This may not sound like much of a punishment, but even a misdemeanor incurs fines, court appearances, other inconveniences that may cause a person to think twice about acting in such a fashion again. It may be difficult to convince prosecutors to file charges for such an offense, but the option exists in the law.

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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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