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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyOur society is becoming more accepting of non-traditional families which means that many couples no longer feel pressured to get married before starting a life together. In fact, the number of live-in couples in the U.S. rose 25 percent from 2000 to 2010. If you are in a committed relationship with someone but you are not legally married, you may miss out on some of the legal protections and advantages provided through marriage, particularly those related to inheritances and estate planning. However, with some preparation, it is possible to create an accurate estate plan which reflects your wishes even if you are not married.

Create a Will

An important step for anyone is creating a last will and testament. It is especially crucial for unmarried couples to be deliberate about their wills. In order to ensure that your assets are passed to your significant other when you die, you must specifically name your partner as your beneficiary on all pensions, retirement accounts, and insurance policies. Some retirement accounts have rules against nonfamily beneficiaries, so double check with an estate planning attorney that you are able to legally name your partner on all necessary accounts. You may need to designate your significant other as your power of attorney and sign an advance care directive if you wish him or her to make decisions about health care and finances if you ever become unwell.

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyOne of the greatest things about our country is that we have the freedom to define what family means to us. Some families consist of only one mother or father, others are the classic nuclear family, while still others contain step-parents and stepsiblings, half brothers or sisters, or even adopted members. If you have a large blended family, there are special considerations you should keep in mind when it comes to estate planning.

Remarrying With Children

The number of remarriages has been increasing over the last several decades. In 2013, 40 percent of unions included at least one spouse who had previously been married, and many of these unions involve children. One consideration for large or blended families to think about is how a person’s assets will be distributed in the event that he or she passes away. It is vitally important if you remarry that you change your primary beneficiary from your former spouse as soon as possible. Another common mistake happens when a parent names their new spouse as the primary beneficiary and names their biological children from another marriage as contingent beneficiaries expecting that they will all receive a portion of his or her estate upon death. What instead happens is that the primary beneficiary receives all the assets and becomes free to share or not share them with the children. One possible solution to this is to name multiple primary beneficiaries who each receive a percentage of your estate.

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Posted on in Estate Planning

DuPage County estate planning lawyerWhen someone asks you to be the executor of their last will and testament, you may feel both honored and also overwhelmed. What exactly does an executor do? Who can be an executor? Being an executor of someone’s will is a huge responsibility, but with some research and help, most are able to take on the challenge.

An Important Role

The overall job of an executor is to make sure a person's last wishes are granted with regards to the disposition of their property and possessions. He or she is responsible for paying the deceased's debts and creditors, and distributing any remaining money or property according to the deceased’s wishes. The law does not require an executor to be a lawyer or financial expert, however, it does require than an executor fulfill their duties with honesty and diligence. This responsibility is called "fiduciary duty," which means that the executor must act in good faith and in the best interests of the deceased person’s estate.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersIf you watch television at certain times of the day, you are likely to see occasional advertisements for reverse mortgages. These ads often run in similar timeslots as commercials for arthritis medication and electric scooters. It is clear that they are intended to reach a certain demographic—namely, seniors who are starting to consider the reality that they will not live forever. As with most television pitches, it understandable that the audience would be skeptical, but a reverse mortgage may be an option for certain individuals and families.

Reverse Mortgages Defined

Most people understand that a standard mortgage is a financial arrangement in which a lender provides a borrower with money to buy real estate, including a home. The property itself is the collateral used to secure the loan. The borrower makes regular installment payments until the amount borrowed and any accumulated interest is repaid.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyOlder men and women are often among the most vulnerable members of our society. Children, of course, are also vulnerable, but as a whole, we have been historically more likely to aggressively protect children than adults and seniors. Unfortunately, this means that is relatively easy for elder men and women to be exploited—often by those who have been entrusted with guardianship or other responsibilities. With proper estate planning that includes contingency clauses and protections, it may be possible to reduce the likelihood of such abuse. A new federal law will also provide additional help in the battle against elder abuse and exploitation.

Bipartisan Efforts

The Elder Abuse Prevention and Protection Act was drafted by Representative Elizabeth Esty, a Democrat from Connecticut, and Representative Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican. The bipartisan measure passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Donald Trump earlier this month.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen most people think about estate planning, they often focus the transfer of assets from one generation to the next. Wills and trusts—the most common vehicles for transferring such assets—represent a significant part of the estate planning process, but there are many other considerations that should be addressed. One of the most often overlooked aspects of estate planning is preparing yourself and your home to make life easier as you age, and doing so often takes time, money, and self-awareness regarding your current and possible limitations.

A Glaring Need

According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 12 million Americans over the age of 65 live alone. A disproportionate 69 percent of that number—nearly 8.3 million—are women. While independence among senior citizens is often a desirable alternative to assisted living or nursing facilities, the reality is that a home that is suitable for a healthy, able-bodied adult may not be convenient or safe for an aging senior.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyMost people are familiar with the concept of different “stages of grief.” While you may not necessarily be able to list the five stages as they were introduced in 1969, you are most likely aware that grieving, for most people, is a process with fairly distinct elements. While there are other situations that could cause a person to go through the grieving process—such as a divorce or giving a child up for adoption—the most common is during the period following the death of a loved one. When you die, your children, grandchildren, and other family members will almost certainly experience a great deal of grief, which makes responsible estate planning all the more important.

What Are the Five Stages?

In 1969, a Swiss-American psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published a book called "On Death and Dying" which introduced the stages of grief as she saw them. Based on her experience and study, she identified the five stages as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Despite being laid out as linear—suggesting that one stage leads into the next—the reality is much more complicated. A person who is largely in the Anger stage of grief is likely to experience moments or days of Denial and Depression. He or she may even skip a stage and effectively come back to it at a later point.

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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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