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Lombard divorce attorneysIf you and your spouse are having serious problems in your marriage, one of you may decide to find another place to stay while you figure out what to do next. You might, for example, stay with a family member so that you can gather your thoughts about how to proceed. This practice is so commonplace that most couples would not even consider a divorce while still sharing a home.

Just because something is a common practice, however, does not mean that it is a legal requirement. In fact, it may come as surprise to learn that Illinois law does not require any period of separation in most divorce cases.

Knowing the Law

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Posted on in Estate Planning

DuPage County estate planning attorneyIn the comedy show Parks and Recreation, there is a scene where Ron Swanson is being lectured about how his impressive estate is not covered by a will. He replies that he does have a will and that he wrote it when he was eight years old. To the horror of his financially-savvy colleague, Ron pulls out a small folded note with a few scribbles on it. If you have thought about creating your last will and testament, you may have wondered if you can simply write the instructions down in a notebook or on a piece of paper. The answer varies depending on where you live, but it is important to note that Illinois wills must meet certain criteria to be legally binding.

States Vary on Rules Regarding Handwritten Wills

The enforceability of a handwritten will depends on state law. Many states do accept handwritten wills that meet other criteria, but each state’s laws vary with regard to witness requirements. The purpose of having witnesses sign off on people’s wills is to ensure to the court that the will’s creator, called a testator, signed the will of his or her own volition. Testators must have the mental capacity to understand what they are signing and cannot be coerced into signing a will. Having witnesses also helps guarantee that the signature on the will is that of the testator and is not forged. Nevertheless, in some jurisdictions, witnesses are not required to be present for a handwritten will to be legal. This is known as a holographic will. Two witnesses must be present when the will is signed in other jurisdictions.

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Lombard divorce attorneysAlthough it is not required, the majority of women who get married change their last name to match that of their new husband. This can lead to an unexpected challenge if the marriage ends. If you are planning to end your marriage through divorce, you may be wondering what you should do about your last name. Some women choose to keep their married name post-divorce while others go back to their maiden name. Still, others come up with completely unique solutions to the dilemma of what to do with their last name as a newly-single woman. Whatever you decide, make sure to consider both the short-term and long-term effects on your personal and professional career.

The Decision to Keep Your Married Name Is Completely Your Own

Except in very rare circumstances, the choice of whether a divorcing woman changes her last name from her married name to something else is completely up to that woman. The vast majority of divorce decrees do not include requirements about names. The decision is a deeply personal one and can be influenced by a wide variety of factors. One thing many women consider is what the name symbolizes to them. For some, keeping their ex-husband’s name may bring up too many painful emotions. Other women are able to separate the name itself from the memories of their marriage or for other reasons do not feel negatively towards their married name.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersIf you have started the process of planning for your family’s future through a comprehensive estate plan, you have probably considered where many of your possessions will go. Perhaps your car will be gifted to a grandchild, while your home will be sold and the proceeds split between your children.

When deciding what will happen to physical property, many otherwise-dutiful estate planners forget about their digital assets. Have you considered what should happen to your personal documents and data stored online after you pass away? What about your social media accounts? The world is becoming more and more digitized with each passing day, and it is important we account for this in estate plans.

What Exactly Is Considered a Digital Asset?

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Lombard spousal support attorneysIf you will soon be getting divorced, you may believe that you have the right to receive spousal support—also called maintenance—payments from your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. Spousal support, unlike child support, is not automatically assumed to be necessary in every Illinois divorce. Under Illinois law, the court must take each case individually to determine if a maintenance award is actually needed to promote an equitable outcome. This means that if you think you are entitled to support, you will probably need to ask for it explicitly.

Marital Misconduct Is Not a Factor

Unless you and your spouse included behavior clauses in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, the court will not consider the conduct of either party when deciding whether to award maintenance. While your spouse’s behavior may leave you feeling like he or she owes you some type of restitution, the law in Illinois specifically prohibits marital misconduct from being a factor in maintenance proceedings. Spousal support is meant to help you meet your financial needs and obligations, and is not intended to be used as a punitive measure against your spouse.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersOne of the most important steps of creating a last will and testament is choosing the personal representative—or executor—who will oversee and manage your estate after you pass away. This individual will have several important responsibilities, so it is important that you choose someone who is competent and able to handle the job. There is no perfect way to choose the right executor, but there are some guidelines you should keep in mind as you create your estate plan.  

Responsibilities of the Executor

The legal representative named as the executor of a will has several duties. Firstly, he or she must estimate the value of the deceased person’s (testator’s) estate. A list of property and assets including bank accounts, retirement accounts, real estate property, fine art or expensive jewelry, stocks and bonds, and other items must be drafted and assessed during probate. Additionally, the executor must pay the deceased person’s taxes and debt as well as file a personal income tax return on their behalf. He or she will also have to pay estate taxes and distribute the testator’s remaining property to beneficiaries as per the directions stated in the will.

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Lombard divorce attorneysIf you are considering ending your marriage, you probably have a thousand different concerns. Will I be too lonely living by myself? How will the divorce affect my children? How will I tell my friends and family? Unfortunately, there is no way of getting through a divorce pain-free, but there are some steps you can take to help you cope with the emotional burden of ending a marriage.

Strategy 1: Do Not Take It Personally

It is reasonable to assume that if your marriage was unhealthy, the divorce will not be the most cooperative or collaborative process either. Often, couples getting divorced continue to struggle with the same issues they struggled with when they were married. If your spouse attempts to sabotage efforts to end the divorce efficiently and amicably, do not take it personally. Someone acting out in childish or hurtful ways toward you does not reflect on your character; it reflects on theirs.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneysWhen one thinks of estate planning, the main legal tool that most often comes to mind is the last will and testament. Of course, having a will in place is tremendously important. Not only does a will give you the peace of mind that your possessions and property will end up in the right hands after your death, it also helps your loved ones wrap up your estate much more quickly and efficiently than would otherwise be possible. Even though wills are vital, they are not the only estate planning documents we should be concerned about. As you plan for your future, make sure not to overlook these other important legal and financial implements. 

Advance Health Care Directive

An advance health care directive is a plan that is made ahead of time in regard to a person’s health care. Illinois law allows citizens to create four different types of advance directives: a medical power of attorney; a living will; mental health treatment preference declaration; and a Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR)/Practitioner Orders For Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). Depending on your circumstances, you may wish to use more than one of these types of documents to plan for your future.

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Posted on in Adoption

Lombard adoption attorneyIf your spouse has a child from a previous relationship, you know how sensitive and complex issues related to parenting can be. While you may not be the child’s biological parent, it is understandable that you would wish to offer a positive, reliable adult influence for the child—not to mention an authority figure with whom the child is comfortable sharing concerns and problems. With time and effort, you are likely to find a sense of family starting to develop. In some situations, the bond becomes so strong that the stepparent is willing to take on the legal responsibilities of parenthood through the adoption process.

Is the Adoption Appropriate?

When you are thinking about a potential stepparent adoption, you must be aware that the decision to adopt affects the child as much or more than it affects you. You might ready, willing, and able to accept the duties of a legal parent, but that is not enough to make the adoption the right choice. If the child has a healthy, productive relationship with a second parent—other than your spouse—there is little reason to try to cut that parent out of the picture, and a stepparent adoption would probably not serve the best interests of the child. If, however, there is effectively no second parent or the other parent has shown to be uninterested in being a parent, your adoption might serve the child well.

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Lombard living trusts attorneyWhen you are beginning to prepare an estate plan, it is important to remember that you are not just planning for the time after your death. An estate plan is necessary for more than just the rich—though that designation can be quite misleading. An estate plan is an outline set up by anyone—including those in lower- and middle-class income sectors—that determines what will happen to one’s assets and property. For those who may tend toward the higher end of the socioeconomic spectrum, it may be in your best interest to establish a living trust, which is a tool that can be used to manage your assets while you are still alive. Among other benefits, living trusts can useful in protecting certain assets and maintaining eligibility for government financial aid programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Two Types of Living Trusts

There are two main types of living trusts: irrevocable and revocable. The vast majority of living trusts are revocable, meaning that they can be amended or revoked at any time by the creator. When you create a living trust, the assets you select are transferred to the trust and ownership is in the trust’s name rather than in the name of an individual. Your designated trustee then administers the trust, meaning that the trustee makes decisions for the leveraging, sale, or gift of any assets in the trust. Most people name themselves the trustee of their own living trusts, meaning that there is essentially no difference in the way that one administers his or her own assets—only that they are now technically owned under the umbrella of the trust.

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Lombard family law attorneyAs a divorced parent, you have probably had to work through a number of difficult discussions with your child. You may have been the one to break the news of your divorce to him or her and, in the time since, you may have answered dozens—if not hundreds—of questions about the future. Now, as you consider getting remarried, you will need to address difficult topics with your child once again.

Every Family Is Different

Your approach to talking with your child about remarriage will depend on a number of factors, including how long it has been since your divorce, the role of the other parent in the child’s life, and your child’s age and maturity. The relationship between your child and your new partner is also a major consideration. For example, if your child was very young at the time of your divorce and has come to see your new partner as a member of the family already, the conversation may much easier in many regards. By contrast, if you only recently got divorced and your child is extremely close with your ex-spouse, your child may not be prepared to accept a new stepparent so willingly just yet.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneyThe time after the death of a loved one is almost always difficult, even if the death was preceded by a lengthy illness or years of health problems. When you are dealing with the grief and other emotions associated with loss, it can be especially troubling to learn that your loved one’s will was recently changed to benefit a particular beneficiary in a way that seems suspicious. If you have a reason to believe that the beneficiary—or anyone else—tricked or forced your loved one into amending his or her will, you may have the grounds to contest the will based on undue influence.

The Importance of Voluntary Testaments

Every person has the right to decide how his or her assets will be distributed on the person’s death. It is very important, however, for those decisions to be voluntary. A person who has been deceived or coerced into making certain choices about his or her property is not making them voluntarily. He or she is being manipulated.

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Lombard family law attorneyIf you are a parent who is in the midst of a divorce, you probably have many questions about the future. “Where will I live?” “Will I be able to make enough money?” “What will happen to my kids?” As you probably know, the laws regarding child custody have undergone substantial changes in the last few years. The changes were designed to reduce competitiveness and friction between divorcing or unmarried parents and to encourage cooperative parenting. But what if your former partner is uninterested in taking responsibility for your child? Or, what if it scares you to leave your children with him or her? Fortunately, it is still possible for you to seek an amended version of what used to be called “sole custody” of your child.

New Names for Legal Custody and Physical Custody

At the beginning of 2016, sweeping reforms to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) took effect. The updates largely eliminated the term “child custody” and replaced it with the more nebulous phrase “allocation of parental responsibilities.” Under the amended law, parental responsibilities are divided into two primary areas. “Significant decision-making authority” replaced the previous concept of legal custody, and “parenting time” replaced the old idea of physical custody. Sole and joint custody were two different types of legal custody arrangements as they were established to clarify which parent or parents had the responsibility to make important decisions about the child’s life.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysWhen you consider what life will be like for your loved ones when you are not around to care for them, you may have serious concerns about family members who rely on you for the most care. You may have a child, a sibling, or even a cousin with a disability or other special needs. These needs may leave the person unable to adequately look after themselves. If you have been caring for a person with special needs, your death could lead to serious challenges for him or her, and your best option may be to create a special needs trust in the name of your loved one.

A Powerful Tool

Also known as a supplemental needs trust, a special needs trust is an instrument that places assets under the care of trustee to be utilized to help provide for a person with special needs. The most unique aspect of a special needs trust is that the funds contained in the trust are not considered to be “available assets” for the disabled individual, which means they cannot impact the person’s eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other income-based government programs.

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Lombard family law attorneyWhen you are navigating the process of divorce, you and your spouse must be open and honest about your individual finances and those you share as a couple. Without both parties being forthcoming, you will not ever be able to divide your marital property as prescribed by Illinois law. Even the court will not be able to make such decisions without all of the necessary information.

Unfortunately, is not uncommon for one spouse to hide property and revenue streams in an effort to keep them away from the asset division process. While it may be possible to track down these assets before a judgment is entered, sometimes the property will remain hidden until the divorce has been finalized. If you have recently gotten divorced and you just found out that your ex was being deceptive during the process, you can still take action to remedy the situation.

Getting Your Divorce Reopened

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Lombard estate planning attorneysPeople can get uncomfortable when discussing the role finances play in how successful or fulfilling a marriage will be. However, the simple fact is that money is consistently found to be the number one cause of stress in marriages. Studies have even shown that couples arguing over finances is the top predictor of divorce. Marriage is a financial partnership as much as it is a romantic partnership. If you are tying the knot this summer or have recently wed, read on to learn the steps newlyweds should take to protect their financial future.

Update Beneficiary Designations

Getting married can be quite the challenging and chaotic undertaking. Between choosing the venue, inviting guests, hosting the reception, and finding places for all those wedding gifts, some newlywed couples forget that there are certain financial steps they should take as well. Many unmarried individuals have their parents chosen as beneficiaries on things like life insurance policies and retirement accounts. When those individuals get married, they will need to change the beneficiary to their new spouse—presuming they wish to do so, of course. If the beneficiary designation is not modified and a tragic accident occurs, the surviving spouse will not receive any of that life insurance policy's payout. After getting married, each spouse should review financial accounts such as 401ks, brokerage accounts, IRAs, and bank accounts and update beneficiary designations as needed.

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Lombard fathers rights attorneysMany studies have shown that children do best with both parents in their life. Of course, this is not true for situations involving abuse or domestic violence, but generally, removing one parent from a child’s life is damaging to the well-being of that child. Fortunately, many parents who get divorced or who never marry are able to work out a shared parenting arrangement which includes both parents as full participants in their children’s’ lives. Unfortunately, a new study shows that Illinois fathers are at the bottom of the list when it comes to how much time they spend with their children.

Study Analyzes Shared Parenting Schedules Across the Country

The study, which was piloted by a software company that makes apps for divorced and separated parents, involved a compilation of data regarding the most common parenting time arrangements in each of the fifty states. Through a survey of legal professionals and judicial standards across the country, the researchers were able to calculate the average amount of time parents spend with their children. The study only included cases in which both parents wanted custody of their children, and there were no extenuating circumstances, such as long-distance separation or criminal convictions.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersThe passing of a loved one is almost always a terrible ordeal to endure. When a relative passes without a will, the process of managing the deceased person’s final affairs only adds to the difficulty. A person who dies without a will is considered to have died “intestate.” Illinois intestacy laws determine how a person’s property and debt are distributed after their death when a valid will is not present.

Laws of Intestate Succession When No Valid Will Exists

The rules regarding how a deceased person’s property should be divided are largely dependent on the deceased person’s surviving relatives. When a single person with no children passes away, his or her estate will go to his or her parents or siblings. If that person does not have living parents or siblings, their estate will go to nieces and nephews or more distant relatives. If an unmarried person with children passes away, their estate will go to their children. If a married person passes away, their spouse will usually receive the part of the estate which is considered marital property. Unfortunately, unmarried couples do not have any legal right to their partner’s property if that partner passes away without a will.

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Lombard divorce attorneysIdeally, every divorcing couple would be cooperative and amicable during the divorce proceedings and the time leading up to it. However, this is not how a large number of divorces go. Spouses are often at least partially resentful of each other or harbor negative feelings about their soon-to-be-ex. In most instances, these hostile feelings only result in a few sideways glances or muttered insults between the spouses. In more extreme circumstances, one spouse may try to “get even” or hurt the other spouse through excessive spending or squandering marital property. This wastefulness is called “dissipation of assets,” and Illinois courts take the matter very seriously.

What Exactly Does "Dissipation of Assets" Mean?

The concept of dissipation can be hard to understand. The formal definition of dissipation comes from the Illinois Supreme Court. Dissipation formally refers to “the use of marital property for the sole benefit of one of the spouses for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time that the marriage is undergoing an irretrievable breakdown.” In order to know if your spouse is guilty of dissipation, you need to determine what property has been misspent. Generally, marital property includes any property or income which was accumulated by either spouse during the marriage. So, if a spouse wasted money from a bank account which was used for shared expenses like bills and household expenses, he may be guilty of dissipation.

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Lombard family law attorneysMost of us are familiar with at least the basic concept of child custody. In most instances, we realize that the phrase refers to making arrangements for raising a child or children following a divorce or breakup between the parents. While it is possible for non-parents to gain custody of a child, the vast majority of child custody disputes are between a child’s biological parents.

In 2016, sweeping reforms to the family law statutes in Illinois eliminated the official use of the phrase “child custody.” The amendments introduced new terminology that was intended to be less divisive and more cooperative. For many years, parents sought to “win” custody of their children, rather than working together to find the best possible parenting arrangement. Today, the legal concept of child custody in Illinois is known as the allocation of parental responsibilities.

Two Primary Components

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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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