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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.


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.


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


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:


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.


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.


Lombard family law attorneyPeople tend to forget or overlook things when they divorce. Dotting every proverbial “i” and crossing every proverbial “t” can be a difficult endeavor, especially when there are children involved. One of the most commonly overlooked issues—especially if a divorce is complex or acrimonious—is estate planning. Updating or re-drafting documents like wills and trusts can make all the difference in ensuring that your assets go to those who you have expressly chosen.

Make a New Will or Trust

Illinois probate law can be quite complex, particularly if you are trying to modify an existing document. This is made even more confusing by the fact that Illinois law, upon divorce, revokes any gifts or positions of authority given to an ex-spouse. For example, if you named your now-former husband as the executor of your estate, that designation will be void upon your divorce. Sometimes this can be advantageous, but in certain cases, you may want to keep your ex-spouse in the will. Doing so may be beneficial in situations where young children are involved as potential beneficiaries.


Lombard estate planning attorneysUnless you are one of those rare, fortunate individuals who inherited a great deal of wealth or hit the Powerball jackpot, you have most likely worked very to accumulate the property and assets that comprise your estate. You have put in the hours, made intelligent financial decisions, and were generally careful when making purchases both large and small. When it comes time to decide what will happen to your estate after your death, it is your right to make such decisions as you see fit.

It is important to understand, however, that while you have the right to make estate planning decisions completely on your own, doing so could lead to problems down the road. For this reason, estate planning experts and legal professionals recommend discussing your intentions with family members and loved ones before finalizing your estate plan.

Preventing Misunderstandings


Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyFor most people, the primary goal of estate planning is make sure that their wishes are carried out regarding their assets and property upon their death. Wills, trusts, and other instruments can help you do so, but the real challenge, in many cases, is figuring out exactly what you want for the future of your estate. An estate planning attorney cannot make such decisions for you, but we can give you some things to think about in making your choices.

Include a Variety of Heirs

Too often, people make the mistake of naming their spouse as the sole beneficiary of their estate. What if he or she outlives you? What will happen your estate plan then? You may also be tempted to leave everything you own to one of your children. As you develop your will, you must remember that you are looking toward the future, and the future is always full of uncertainty. If you choose a single beneficiary and something happens to him or her, the disposition of your estate could depend on that person’s estate planning decisions instead of your own.


Lombard estate planning attorneysIt is never easy to think about our own mortality. In the back of our minds, we realize that we will not live forever, but the topic can certainly be uncomfortable and overwhelming. Unfortunately, this leads many people to procrastinate when it comes to estate planning, convincing themselves that they will address the issue when they are a little older or closer to retirement.

Sometimes, individuals need a wake-up of call of sorts in order to get motivated in their estate planning efforts. If you have not completed an estate plan yet, consider questions such as:

If you and your spouse both die, who will raise your children?


Lombard estate planning lawyerDo you have a written plan for what will happen to your assets and debts upon your death? Is there a documented contingency plan in place for your children in the event that something happens to you? If the answer is yes to either or both of these questions, you have made excellent decisions in being prepared for the unexpected. If the answer is no, it is time to start looking ahead. For those that do have an estate plan in place, it is very important to revisit it from time to time, checking to make sure that the terms of your plan continue to be applicable to your current state of affairs. Estate planning is not a “one-and-done” type of affair; it is an ongoing process that you must continue to address to a certain extent for the rest of your life.

More Assets and Wealth

Assuming that you are still of working age, you will likely continue to accumulate wealth each year. You may set additional savings aside for retirement, or you may invest what you are earning in the hopes of a substantial return. As your wealth and net worth grows, you may wish to amend your estate plan to properly account for your added assets. There may be new tools or tax advantages available to you now with your additional wealth that were not available at the time your estate plan was created.


Lombard estate planning lawyersIn the weeks and months following the death of a loved one, you are likely to experience a wide range of emotions. Grief and sadness, of course, are often the most common, but you may also feel twinges of anger, guilt, and regret over missed opportunities. If your loved one was very sick or in pain, there may even be a sense of relief. All of these feelings are a normal part of dealing with a significant loss and are to be expected.

If your loved one had a will or another type of estate planning document, the emotional rollercoaster may resume when it comes time to execute the will. Many of the same feelings may come flooding back, possibly accompanied by a great deal of surprise if the will contains unexpected terms and provisions or is not the same document you discussed with your loved one prior to his or her death. When such surprises occur, it is worth trying to find out if the will was the product of undue influence and whether contesting the will is appropriate.

What Is Undue Influence?


Lombard estate planning attorneyIt is not uncommon for multiple areas of the law to converge all at once for in a particular situation. For example, a person facing charges of domestic violence may soon find him- or herself in family court regarding the limitation of parental rights. Such is often the case as well with many issues related to estate planning, as a failure to prepare for the future may leave the door open for a number of potential problems to arise. An example of this is now making headlines as the estate of a pop music icon is suing a digital streaming service and its parent company for copyright infringement.

Background Details

Since the death of pop superstar Prince—born Prince Rogers Nelson—in April, there has been a great deal of confusion surrounding the status of his multimillion dollar estate. Much of the controversy is related to the rights to play, perform, and distribute Prince’s music, as the artist himself was extremely selective about how his work should be made available.


Posted on in Estate Planning Blog

Lombard estate planning attorneyAlthough he was not the first to make such an observation, Benjamin Franklin wrote to a friend in 1789, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” The tongue-in-cheek quip was not really a commentary on death or taxes, but on his hope for a new country in its infancy. What his contemporaries may not have predicted is that some 240 years later, there may actually be a type of death tax. While “death tax” is not exactly an accurate description, it is possible for the government to claim a portion of a recently deceased person’s estate.

Estate Tax Defined

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the federal estate tax is a formal tax on your right to transfer your assets and property upon your death. The estate tax applies to those the portion of an estate that exceeds a minimum value standard. The standard is increased every year to account for inflation, and, in 2016, that minimum is $5.45 million per person. Those with an estate valued at more than that amount could be subject to the estate tax.


Lombard estate planning attorneyOne of the most important decisions in the estate planning process is selecting who will be named as executor of the estate. The executor is the person who is responsible for overseeing and protecting the assets of the deceased person. He or she is responsible for ensuring that the wishes of the decedent are carried out, as well as maintaining any property of the estate until disbursement, paying the debts of the estate, and any taxes owed. It is critical for the person who is appointed executor to understand how to manage the estate. If they mismanage estate assets that add up to a loss to the beneficiaries of the estate, they can be held liable for those losses.

Important Duties

Unless arrangements have been made before the person’s death, it is typically the executor’s responsibility to handle the financial arrangements for the deceased’s funeral and burial expenses. The funeral parlor also provides copies of the death certificate to the executor. It is important to obtain several copies of the death certificate since a copy will be necessary in order to access financial accounts and canceling government benefit checks (i.e. Social Security). A copy is also required to be filed with the final federal tax return of the estate.


Lombard estate planning lawyersIn a recent post on this blog, we talked a little bit about how to decide if and when you should challenge the will of a recently-deceased loved one. Such a decision is never easy and must be made with great care. But, what about the other side of the equation? Is there anything you can do to help prevent a contest of your own will, if and when the time comes? In fact, there are a few things that can be done, including a provision that can be included right in the will itself. It is known colloquially as a non-contest clause and can be a useful tool in simplifying matters after your death.

What Is a No-Contest Clause?

A no-contest clause is sometimes referred to as an in terrorem provision. In terrorem translates from Latin as “about fear,” and such a clause in a legal document provides some sort of penalty to a party who challenges the document and loses. In the realm of estate planning, no-contest clauses may be used in the creation of wills or trusts to discourage most challenges from named heirs or beneficiaries.


Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen most people think about estate planning, they think of wills, inheritances, and other ways to pass down a person’s property and assets to their heirs. Such an image is not necessarily wrong, but it certainly does not tell the whole the story. There are a number of reasons for estate planning that have very little to do with money and possessions, which makes the process important for every family, regardless of wealth or net worth.

1. Control Over Privacy

Without proper planning, your estate will be required to go through the process of probate, which is often long, cumbersome, and unpredictable. Probate is also a matter of public record, meaning your family’s affairs are made available to the general public. By taking steps in advance, you can limit the impact of the probate process and possibly avoid it altogether. In doing so, you can keep your personal details within your chosen circle.


Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyerIt seems that, with each generation, the golden age of retirement increases. Decades ago, many people retired at 62. Then that number was pushed to 65, where it hovered for quite some time. However, over the past few years, many people are encouraged to keep working until they are at least 67 years old, or even older. But, does working past 65 help or hurt your retirement objectives or your estate planning goals.

There are benefits to continuing to work past 65. You will be adding more funds to your retirement accounts and allowing the interest to accumulate. The longer you are earning income, the shorter the time will be that you will actually be relying on retirement funds to support you. If you do keep working, however, there are definitely issues you will have to address in order not to be penalized.



Lombard family law attorneyAlso referred to in the state of Illinois as a POLST—practitioner orders for life-sustaining treatment—a do-not-resuscitate order can give you and your loved ones great peace of mind knowing your health wishes are officially documented should you be unable to make decisions about your own health matters. In the event of severe injury or illness, a DNR becomes a valuable advance directive document, so you may decide to include one when making your other estate planning arrangements.

How a DNR Is Different

Generally, federal law requires that every person admitted to a health care facility is informed of their to right to make an advance directive. The Patient Self-Determination Act requires not all, but many, providers to present information on advance directives to patients under their care. Unlike other advance directives, such as a power of attorney or living will, a do-not-resuscitate order exists to specifically address the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should your heart or breathing stop. Additionally, its purpose is to express your desires regarding any life-sustaining treatment.


Lombard estate planning attorneyAs with most estate planning arrangements, you, thankfully, have a say over who you appoint as your “agent” when it comes to your health care power of attorney. Under this planning tool, you are considered the “principal” and the person you appoint as “agent” is granted various permissions regarding your health care.

In short, a health care power of attorney, or POA, is a type of advance directive which allows you to designate someone you trust to make decisions about your health, on your behalf, in the event you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself due to illness or debilitative condition. You can create a binding power of attorney for your health by using the standard state form or by writing your own.

How the Powers Are Determined

Illinois State Bar Association DuPage County Bar Association Northwest Suburban Bar Association American Inns of Court DuPage Association of Woman Lawyers National Association of Woman Business Owners Illinois Association Criminal Defense Lawyers DuPage County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
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