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DuPage County power of attorney lawyersWhen you look to the future, you probably understand that a time might come where you are no longer able to make sound decisions for yourself. Nobody likes to think in such terms, but the reality is your health could deteriorate to the point where you cannot express your desires about your money, belongings, or even your medical care. In order to account for this possibility, the law in Illinois allows you to choose a person to act as your power of attorney for important decisions like these. The selected person will have legal authority to make decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them for yourself.

Characteristics of the Right Person

Under Illinois law, the person you choose as your power of attorney is actually called an “attorney-in-fact” or an “agent.” Your agent must have the necessary skills and ability to handle the responsibilities associated with a good power of attorney. A solid candidate must:

  • Be detail-oriented;
  • Be organized and financially responsible;
  • Be educated and/or experienced in dealing with finances, insurance, and/or healthcare, depending upon the duties you are asking of him or her; and
  • Be able to work well with accountants, lawyers, doctors, hospitals, and other professionals to protect you and your best interests.

In addition to being capable, your selected agent must also be willing to take on the responsibilities associated with powers of attorney. A person who only agrees out of a sense of obligation is not likely to be very helpful. If you ask someone to be your agent and they seem unsure, you might want to ask somebody else.

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DuPage County Divorce AttorneyAccording to the American Psychological Association, more than 90 percent of individuals from Western cultures marry by the age of 50. Sadly, in the United States, 40 to 50 percent of these marriages end in divorce. However, while the nationwide average is high, not every state has such a high divorce rate. Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau found that Illinois has some of the lowest divorce numbers in the country, with there being 9.41 divorced individuals for every 1,000 married couples in the state. Other states, such as Hawaii, New York, Vermont, and New Jersey, have similarly low divorce rates.  What common factors do these states have that causes the divorce rate to be so low?

Why the Reduced Numbers?

It can be difficult to determine what the variables in a good marriage are. Studies of these states have found that there are commonalities they all share:

  • Reduced Student Debt: A common cause of divorce is financial stress. A couple’s financial state can sometimes make or break their marriage, depending on their situation. This is especially common for couples in which one person works while the other stays at home. Large amounts of student debt can be an immediate burden added to a marriage, particularly if the working individual is using their paycheck to pay off their spouse’s debt. Many of the “top five” low divorce states had lower average amounts of student debt owed.
  • An Age Range Change: Getting married young is not as common as it once was. Unlike their parents and their grandparents, millennials are choosing to get married at an older age. This has been attributed to higher education levels and increased opportunities, especially for women. Marriages that are officiated when the individuals are older have been proven to last longer. Many of the individuals in these five states wait until closer to age 30 to tie the knot.
  • Higher Income: Similar to the first reason, less financial burden equals less conflict about monetary constraints. The Census Bureau reports reflect a correlation between high divorce rates and large numbers of people who live below the poverty line. The opportunities that are available to people with higher incomes can reduce stress for couples, thus making them happier in their marriage.
  • Fewer People are Tying the Knot: Do not let the statistics fool you; fewer overall marriages means fewer divorces. In Illinois, less than 65 percent of people are married. This may also be attributed to higher education levels and greater independence for all genders, reducing the social requirement to get married. 

Contact a DuPage County Divorce Attorney for Assistance

Illinois divorce rates may be some of the lowest in the country, but many marriages within the state do still end in divorce. It is important to seek out an experienced attorney to help you with the legal issues that must be addressed during your divorce thus allowing you to focus on the life changes you are about to experience. If you are considering filing for divorce, contact a Lombard, IL divorce attorney at 630-426-0196.

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DuPage County Wills and Trusts AttorneyThe instructions contained in a person’s Last Will and Testament are deeply personal. An individual usually thinks long and hard about how he wants his estate divided among heirs before putting these decisions in writing. According to Illinois law, wills produced through undue influence, coercion, force, or fraud are not legally-binding. If you believe that your loved ones will does not reflect his or her actual final wishes, you may be able to challenge the validity of the will in court. Challenging a will can be a complex legal endeavor. Help from an experienced estate planning lawyer may be necessary in these cases.

Did Your Loved One Have the Mental Capacity to Understand the Will?

When we age, both our bodies and our minds tend to weaken. In order for a person to be able to legally enter into a contract such as a will, he or she must have the mental ability to understand what he or she is agreeing to. This so-called “testamentary capacity" includes an understanding of the value of the property addressed in the will, an understanding of who should logically inherit this property, and the consequences of signing a legally binding document. Not everyone with dementia or another mental disability is unable to legally consent to a will, however. It is up to the person challenging the validity of the will to prove that his or her loved one could not consent to the document. In situations like this, the validity of the will may hinge on testimonies of the witnesses to the will signing, medical evidence, or an adjudication of incapacity.

Was Your Loved One Under Duress When Signing the Will?

Legal documents, such as wills and trusts, which are entered into through coercion or force are not legally valid. This means that if your loved one only agreed to the terms of the will because he or she was afraid not to, the will may be unenforceable. Duress can include threats of harm to the testator or his or her loved ones, intended harm, or other stress put upon the testator intended to get them to do something they would not otherwise do. Only estate planning documents signed and agreed to by the testator’s own free will can be enforced.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard, IL divorce lawyers

Whether you call it empty nest syndrome or a mid-life crisis, many couples struggle when their children leave home and they go back to their previous “empty house” lifestyle. This life change can be a tough adjustment since a parent has gotten used to having their child living under their roof for 18+ years. Spouses are used to focusing on their child’s schedule and activities. This can make an empty house feel lonely and uncomfortable, sometimes so much so that divorce enters the equation. 

What is Empty Nest Syndrome?

Although it is not technically diagnosed, the commonality of empty nest syndrome illustrates its wide-reaching effect. Feeling a strong sense of sadness and loneliness after your children have moved out is the telltale sign of empty nest syndrome. Other symptoms include a lack of identity, extreme remorse, and a lack of self-worth. This lifestyle change can lead to clinical depression and apathy toward your spouse. Many feel as if they no longer have anything in common with their spouse since they have shared their child and the duties of parenting for the past decade. Although this can create a distance between spouses, there are various coping mechanisms for those who feel their emotions may be causing conflict.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyTelevision and movies are partially to blame for vast misunderstandings about wills, trusts, and other estate planning tools. On TV, the only people ever talking about a will are older wealthy individuals. Some people may even believe that only the rich should make estate plans. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Estate planning is a step that everyone should take, regardless of wealth or status.

Estate Planning Saves Your Surviving Family Members Burdensome Decision-Making

One of the most overlooked elements about wills and trusts is the benefit that they bring to the surviving family members of the deceased. When a person without a will passes away, their surviving family and friends are left to guess what the deceased person would have wanted regarding property and final wishes. This is a lot to ask of people who are already suffering the grief of losing a loved one. Even if your will only covers a few small pieces of property, putting your wishes in writing saves your loved ones from the emotional burden of making inheritance decisions on your behalf.

Estate Planning Ensures that You Have Power Over Your Future

Estate plans do not only involve what happens after your death. Several estate planning tools—including powers of attorney and advance medical directives—address issues that could arise while you are still living. For example, a power of attorney for property is an estate planning instrument which gives a representative of your choosing the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf. This is vitally important if you ever become incapacitated through illness or injury.

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Posted on in Divorce

DuPage County family law attorney

Seeing your child receive a college acceptance letter is a proud moment for many parents. You get to see how your parenting, your child’s education, and their hard work helped them get an opportunity to pursue higher education. This can also bring financial stress. It is no secret that college is costly, especially for divorced parents.

Can the Court Make You Pay?

The Illinois court system, like various other states, was previously allowed to require a child’s parents to contribute a certain amount of money toward their child’s college fund. There is not an exact formula for calculating each parent’s required contribution. However, the amount parents can be ordered to pay cannot exceed the amount of tuition, room, and board for that particular year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Determining these obligations can become even more complex in the case of multiple children, and depending on which parent the children live with, it could be difficult to determine who should pay what amount.

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Arlington Heights, IL child support lawyer

When going through a divorce with children, setting up child support payments are an important facet for most divorcing couples. This is often legally required to try and balance the parental responsibilities and expenses of both parents. There is no set algorithm used by judges, however, there are a variety of factors that consistently play a role in determining child support. 

What is Considered in Child Support Calculation?

The first part that is considered, aside from a parent’s finances, is the amount of time being spent with the child. Most parents share custody but do not equally divide their child’s time between one another. This can be too difficult on the child and the parents since a consistent schedule is important for a child’s success. As a result, judges have the parent who spends less time physically caring for the child to pay a set sum to compensate for the disparity.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysNearly everyone appreciates saving money on a good deal. However, when it comes to do-it-yourself estate planning, not every “good deal” is as good as it appears. Online estate planning services are more prevalent than ever, but many legal professionals worry that some of these websites are not being honest about how beneficial their services really are. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of DIY wills as well as how you can ensure that your estate planning documents will be legally binding.

DIY Wills Are Not Personalized to Your Unique Needs

One of the biggest differences between DIY or online estate planning services is that these programs are almost always one-size-fits-all solutions. Because these services have to work for a wide range of individuals, there is very little personalization to the plans. If you have complex assets, a blended family, a second marriage, or other unique circumstances, you are not likely to have these specific needs addressed by an impersonal website. Some of these online programs do offer personal advice from professionals, but this is often an additional service which costs quite a bit more.

It Can Be Hard to Know Which Estate Planning Documents You Need  

Most estate planning attorneys suggest that individuals have a will and/or trust, power of attorney for financial decisions, and an advance health care directive or living will. However, each individual has unique needs that may not be met by the most common estate planning documents. A licensed attorney can help you figure out which documents you need in order to meet you and your family’s needs. Furthermore, working with a professional means that he or she is considering the tax implications of your decisions and can help you choose the course of action which decreases financial loss to taxes as much as possible.

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DuPage County adoption lawyer

Historically, same-sex couples have had difficulties adopting children. In the past, this could be attributed to the lack of social acceptance of homosexuality. This social misunderstanding and form of discrimination have significantly faded in recent years.  

The State of Michigan Takes Action

Adoption agencies are a helpful resource many couples utilize when they hope to grow their family. Although there are secular agencies, many adoption agencies are religious-based, and thus let their faith’s beliefs determine who can or cannot adopt a child. It is common for religious agencies to deny same-sex couples. This is the case in Michigan for couples from Dimondale and Detroit.

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Lombard trusts attorneyEven if you do not know how to write one that is valid, you probably know what a will is. Or, maybe you are more familiar with the longer name of a “Last Will and Testament.” There is a good chance that you know that most people create a will to direct how their property will handed down to the next generation after they die. You may also have heard of trusts, but you may be unsure as what a trust actually is. Fortunately, we can help you develop a better understanding of trusts and how they can be used in estate planning.

Trust Basics

All trusts are formal instruments that allow the creator of the trust—called a “grantor” or “trustor”—to transfer ownership of his or her property into the trust to be managed by another person or entity—called a “trustee”—for the benefit of a third person or persons—called “beneficiaries.” Several different kinds of trusts can be used for estate planning purposes, each with its own set of rules, requirements, and potential advantages. All of them, however, are similar in structure and hold assets to be transferred at a later time—usually after the death of the grantor.

Revocable Trusts and Irrevocable Trusts

Most trusts fall into one of two primary categories. They can be either revocable or irrevocable. A revocable trust—often known as a living trust—allows for the transfer of assets, but the terms of the trust can be changed at any time while the grantor is still living. The entire trust can even be revoked; hence the name. In most cases, the grantor of a revocable trust will appoint himself or herself as the primary trustee so that he or she can remain in control of the trusts property during his or her lifetime. Upon the grantor’s death, a contingent or successor trustee will assume the role.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyAs you get older, your needs are going to change. Many people require more medical and personal care in their later years than they did when they were younger. If this happens to you, your loved ones and family members will probably be on board with helping as much as possible, but they might not be able or equipped to provide the level of care that you need. In such a situation, you might need to rely on an independent caregiver—someone that you are not related to or do not really know in any other capacity. While a caregiver might be a stranger at first, it is possible that you will become closer with him or her over time. Depending on the circumstances, your caregiver might do so much to help you that you even think about adding him or her as an heir in your will.

What the Law Says

Several years ago, lawmakers in Illinois updated the Illinois Probate Act of 1975 (755 ILC 5) to address inheritances left to non-related caregivers. The 2015 amendment addressed situations in which an estate planning instrument, including a will or trust, left more than $20,000 to a caregiver who was not related to the decedent. Under the amended law, a transfer of property greater than $20,000 is presumed to be fraudulent in the event that the transfer is subject to a challenge. The presumption of fraud will invalidate any instrument making the transfer.

The law, as it now stands, might seem harsh, but it was passed with good intentions. A caregiver often has virtually unrestricted access to a person whose health, age, or mental capacity might leave him or her especially vulnerable. A dishonest caregiver could fairly easily exercise undue influence over the person and convince him or her to write a new will or to add provisions that will benefit the caregiver. Family members and other would-be beneficiaries might not even know about the changes until after the person dies.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysAlthough the law considers pets to be property, pet owners often think of their pets as family members. If you have a beloved pet, you may want to include him or her in your estate plans. If there is a possibility that your animal companion may outlive you, you may want to include provisions as to how your pet should be cared for after you pass. Read on to learn about how you can plan for your pets future through estate planning.

Why Include Pets in Estate Plans?

If you are an animal lover, you probably worry about your pets often. You may especially worry if your pet requires special care or has a health concern. One reason many people include pets in estate plans is to plan for the possibility that they become incapacitated or pass away before the animal does. Sometimes, when a pet owner dies, their beloved pet can end up at a shelter – especially if no surviving family members are available to care for the pet. Surviving family members may be unable to care for their deceased loved one’s pet due to pet restrictions in their apartment or home, allergies, expense, concern for the children or animals already living in their home, or other reasons. It is best not to assume that your family will care for your pet without making formal arrangements.

Illinois Pet Trusts

Illinois law allows you to create a legal arrangement to provide care for your pet after your death via a pet trust. The person who creates the trust, called a “grantor”, can design the pet trust to take effect during his or her lifetime or upon death. Through a pet trust, a trustee will hold money “in trust” for the benefit of the grantor’s pet. The trustee is expected to use the financial resources to care for the pet in accordance with the instructions contained in the trust agreement. After the animal dies, any remaining funds are distributed as provided in the trust. Trusts, unlike informal arrangements, are legally enforceable. This means that the trustee cannot simply take the money provided through the trust for himself or herself, although he or she can retain a fee for carrying out the decedent’s wishes.

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Lombard, IL prenup lawyer

Remarrying an ex-spouse is fairly uncommon but it does happen. This typically happens with couples who married young and have been divorced for a significant period of time. People grow older and wiser, realize their mistakes, and change their futures based on the experiences they have acquired since the end of that relationship. 

According to research conducted by Nancy Kalish, a professor emeritus at California State University, 6 percent of couples claim to have married, divorced, and remarried the same person. Of these individuals, 72 percent stay together after remarrying. 

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Lombard estate planning attorneyOne of the most important estate planning decisions you will make is choosing the executor of your estate. In most cases, the executor of an estate is usually a close relative or friend, but it does not have to be. The job of an executor includes managing and protecting the property of the decedent. The executor of your estate will be responsible for making sure that your final wishes are fulfilled and that your property is maintained until disbursement. He or she will also be responsible for paying estate debts and any outstanding tax obligations.

The person you select as executor of your estate has a tremendous responsibility. It is imperative that you choose someone who is capable of managing your estate effectively. Mismanagement of estate assets can result in losses to your beneficiaries as well as family arguments.

Executor Duties and Responsibilities

One of the first things an executor should do following the death of the estate’s original owner is to obtain at least several official copies of the state-issued death certificate. He or she will need these in order to fulfill executor duties. The executor must use these to access financial accounts and cancel government checks from programs like Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). A copy of the death certificate must also be included with the estate’s final federal tax return. It might also be the executor’s responsibility to handle the funeral and burial financial arrangements if arrangements were not already made.  

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DuPage County law firm

Some parents are forced to have a relationship with their child from hundreds of miles away. This is common for military members, individuals who travel often for work, separated couples, and those going through the divorce process. No matter the circumstances, trying to care for a child with a long distance between you is not easy. The transition is usually the most difficult part, especially if this is a recent lifestyle change. You start to miss the little moments and sometimes the big ones, too. Gone are the days of dropping your child off at school each morning and putting them to bed at night, and while you try not to miss the big events, life sometimes gets in the way. 

Here are a few tips about how to maintain a healthy parent-child relationship when many miles separate you.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyWhen a person dies, the impact of the death can be great on the person’s surviving family members and friends. The emotions associated with a loss—especially one caused by a premature death—can make a grieving survivor act in uncharacteristic ways. Such behavior can lead to disputes over all sorts of matters, including the terms of the deceased person’s will. A battle over inheritances can be devastating to a family, and the resulting scars can last for years, if not forever. If you are currently drafting your will, you may want to think about including a no-contest clause to reduce the chances of such problems after your death.

What Is a No-Contest Provision?

No-contest clauses are also called in terrorem provisions, which is Latin for “by way of threat.” In essence, no-contest clauses threaten any named heir who contests the will, and they are used to discourage family in-fighting after the death of the will’s creator. Most no-contest clauses hold that an heir who formally contests the will automatically forfeits the portion of the estate that was originally intended for him or her. Sometimes, a no-contest clause might reduce the inheritance of a heir who challenges the will to $5 or another nominal amount.

The basic idea is that if that if the possibility exists that the heir will receive nothing, he or she is more likely to accept the original terms of the will, even if they are not to the heir’s liking. Keep in mind that a no-contest clause cannot stop a will contest from being filed. It can only affect what might happen after the contest.

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DuPage County Divorce Attorney

Divorce may have been taboo in the past but it is far from uncommon in today’s society. Statistics fluctuate year-to-year, but divorce rates are actually decreasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state of Illinois had one of the lowest divorce rates in the country in 2017. From 1990 to 2017, Illinois’ divorce rate decreased from 3.8 to 1.9 divorces per 1,000 people. The number of divorces may be decreasing, but the common reasons for divorce have essentially remained the same.

Infidelity

This is one of the most common reasons for divorce because a single action, or a series of them, can break down an entire marriage. Cheating on a spouse often begins as an innocent friendship and eventually transforms into a physical affair. Infidelity usually results in divorce because many couples see this as an act of betrayal that can never be forgotten.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerThe number of remarriages has been gradually increasing over the past few decades. As a result, blended families have become more prevalent than ever before. Blended families face unique challenges when it comes to estate planning. If you are a part of a blended family or are remarried, read on to learn how estate planning can put you in control of your and your family’s future.

When a Relative Dies Without a Will

Although it can be a hard topic to discuss, it is crucial that blended families talk about estate planning together. Family arguments and other issues can arise when parents pass away without a will or trust to dictate how their property should be divided between children of different marriages. When someone dies without any estate plans, surviving family members are left to figure out inheritance dilemmas in probate court. This can be an incredible burden for a family to shoulder. Creating inheritance and estate plans now can give you peace of mind and a sense of control knowing that your family will not be forced to sort out your final affairs during an already challenging time.

Remarried Spouses Can Leave Assets to New Spouse as Well as Children

It is not uncommon for a parent to remarry later in life. Remarried couples may have children from previous marriages who they wish to ultimately leave their property to. However, a person who is remarried may also want to ensure that his or her new spouse will be financially secure if an unexpected death or incapacitation occurs. Through a comprehensive estate plan, you can decide exactly which family members will receive property and when they should receive it. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to help you find legal avenues to create a unique estate plan that meets you and your family’s specific needs.

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DuPage County Child Support Lawyer

Child support payments are among the most important elements that must be determined for most couples as they begin the divorce process. While many people associate child support with divorce, parents who share a child but are not legally married may seek or be required to pay child support.

Although child support payments are typically determined through the court, some families decide to settle their payments through a mutual agreement. According to 2016 data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, 89.9 percent of custodial single parents have formal agreements through the court, which means only a small percentage of parents maintain an informal agreement. 

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Posted on in Estate Planning

DuPage County estate planning attorneyWhether you have never written a will or you are decades into maintaining a comprehensive estate plan, everyone should be on the lookout for a new type of scam artist: the estate planning scammer. The complex nature of estate planning has given unscrupulous individuals an opportunity to scam money out of innocent victims.

Facing your own mortality when planning for your family’s future can be overwhelming and emotional. Sadly, it is this emotional vulnerability which scammers use to trick people into ineffective and unnecessarily expensive estate plan “assistance”. If you are planning to draft a will or other estate planning document, make sure to avoid taking legal advice from unqualified or untrustworthy individuals. A licensed estate planning attorney can help ensure that your estate plans are sound and legally binding.

Understand What You Need and What You Do Not Need

Everyone should have an estate plan of some kind. Many people make the mistake of thinking that only the wealthy or those with children need a will or other estate plan. Most people own items of value (whether financial or personal value) that they wish to pass on to loved ones after they die. Estate planning allows you to guarantee that your property ends up where you want it to be after you pass away. Estate plans can also include decisions about final arrangements. Making decisions like these in advance saves your surviving family and friends the burden of guessing what you would have wanted. If you have minor children, creating an estate plan allows you to choose a guardian to care for your children if you pass away before they reach adulthood. Individuals with greater or more complex assets will require more complex estate plans that those without much property.

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