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Lombard estate planning attorneyIn life, there are few absolute truths; the fact that things change is one of them. When such change includes divorce or remarriage, other aspects of your life—including your estate plan—must be adjusted to accommodate. Failure to do so can result in negative consequences, particularly for those who stand to inherit. So, if you are planning a major life change, it is important to know how you can address it accordingly in your Illinois estate plan.

Estate Planning After a Divorce

After a divorce, all of your financial documents must be reviewed and updated as needed. This, of course, includes all aspects of your estate plan, including your health or financial powers of attorney, beneficiaries, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts. Keep in mind, however, that these changes should be done according to the agreement made during your divorce. In some instances, the judge may rule that your ex-spouse remains a beneficiary on certain policies or accounts—possibly as security for maintenance or child support payments. Clarify these agreements whenever possible, and always request written confirmation from insurance companies or life insurance companies to ensure they have received your change requests.

Also, remember to make considerations regarding any family members of your ex-spouse. Under Illinois law, any provisions in your will and many other estate planning documents that pertain to your spouse are automatically voided when your divorce is finalized. However, this is true for your spouse only. Any provisions that you made in your estate plan regarding your spouse’s family will remain in effect until you change them. Failure to do so could mean that your in-laws will inherit a portion of your estate upon your death, and there will be little anyone can do about it at that point.

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DuPage County divorce attorney child custody

In most cases in which a child has two known, living parents, Illinois courts will determine that it is in the child’s best interest for both parents to share custody. In fact, in 2016, the state of Illinois changed the laws and language surrounding child custody so that the term “custody” is no longer officially used. Instead, these decisions are now referred to as the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, out of recognition of the benefits of a cooperative arrangement. However, there are still situations in which a parent or another party acting on the child’s behalf can legally challenge the other parent’s rights to parenting time and parental responsibilities.

When Can a Parent Be Denied Parenting Time or Responsibilities?

First and foremost, an Illinois court will seek to establish a parenting agreement that serves the child’s best interests. It may be considered in the child’s best interests to restrict or deny one or both parents’ rights to parenting time and decision-making responsibilities if the parent:

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Lombard estate planning lawyerEvery day, our world becomes increasingly reliant on digital technology. In many ways, it has made life easier to manage. We can transfer money from savings to our checking accounts through our phones. We can deposit checks with the simple click of a button. We can change our investments in the blink of an eye. But, there are some blind spots when it comes to technology and the way we use it, especially when it comes to estate planning.

Overlooked Assets

One of the biggest issues with the digital era is that there are so many accounts in so many places, from social networks to music and video libraries, and even smartphone-accessible investment accounts. Sometimes, those planning to pass on their assets forget to list some of their accounts. In other instances, they simply did not understand the importance of their account. Alternatively, they may acquire the account after creating their estate plan and forget to update their plan to add it. Regardless of the reason, the end result of a forgotten account is the same: money that should have gone to one’s heirs is left on the table.

The Password Protected

Most accounts—whether they be social, personal, or financial—require that the owner set up a password to protect their account. Even when various accounts are connected, family members and estate executors must access the initial account. Unfortunately, if such individuals do not have the passwords, they are likely to experience a great deal of trouble gaining that access—so much so that the courts may not even be able to untangle the matter.

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Lombard, IL divorce attorney parenting time

A divorce can not only change the lives of you and your spouse, it can affect your whole family dynamic. Your children will have to adjust to living in two different households, and the nature of your relationship with them may change, especially if you will not be spending as much time with them as you used to. However, your relationship does not have to deteriorate, especially if you continue to make an effort to foster love, trust, communication, and quality time with your children. Working with your co-parent can also help your children feel more at ease during this major life transition. 

How to Keep a Close Bond With Your Children

As you and your children acclimate to life after your divorce, here are some things to keep in mind that can help you maintain a strong relationship:

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Lombard estate planning lawyerThere is nothing wrong with a little do-it-yourself (DIY) work. In fact, there are few things that are quite as satisfying as a job that you have done well. However, there are times when a particular job is best left to the professionals. You would not try to completely rewire your house if you had no experience in electrical work. Similarly, estate planning should be done with the help of someone with working knowledge and experience in the industry. Granted, an estate plan gone wrong may not pose the same physical threat as an electrical DIY project, but there are still dangers that can and should be avoided.

The Importance of a Clear and Valid Estate Plan

When it comes to mistakes in estate planning, the future of your loved ones may be placed at risk. Efforts to save money in the short-term—such as using commercially available kits or DIY programs to create your estate plan—could end up costing your heirs more down the road. Unclear or improperly executed estate plans can take months, if not years, to hash out in probate court. All the while, your estate dwindles as a result of attorneys’ fees, taxes, court costs, and other administrative expenses. In some cases, this could take a sizable chunk out of your estate, which means you will be leaving behind a lot less than you had intended.

Common Mistakes Made in DIY Estate Planning

The opportunity for mistakes in estate planning are nearly endless. Some are more common than others, however. For example, many DIY estate planners use the wrong documents or make critical errors in their preparation. Others fail to accurately consider the tax implications of their estate. For example, a DIY estate planner may draw up a plan according to federal tax laws but fail to factor in how local state taxes will affect their estate. Or, they may attempt to consider both state and federal tax implications but improperly calculate their earnings or the value of their estate.

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Lombard, IL divorce attorney parenting time

Divorce may be difficult for children of any age, but it can be especially confusing for toddlers who cannot fully understand their parents’ separation and the reasons for the change in their routine. If you decide to get a divorce while your children are still very young, you should be aware of the effects it may have on them and do everything you can to make the transition easier for them and continue providing them with a happy and healthy life.

Effects of Divorce on Young Children

Due to the stresses placed on your toddler both during and after your divorce, you may see some concerning changes in his or her behavior, including:

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DuPage County estate planning lawyer

You do not have to be materialistic to become sentimental about a loved one’s possessions or to feel slighted by the contents of his or her will or estate plan. In fact, even the most down-to-earth people may feel a sense of injustice when a will or trust appears to have been altered, coerced, or otherwise manipulated. The good news is that if you have the right information and the right resources, you may be able to contest the will and put things right again.

Grounds for Contesting a Will

While any “interested party” may contest a will (siblings, children, spouses, etc.), the contesting party must have valid grounds for doing so. In other words, you cannot simply challenge a will because you feel like it was unfair, insulting, or mean-spirited. You can, however, contest a will if you believe one of the following is true:

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DuPage County estate planning attorney wills and trusts

When a married person decides to develop an estate plan, the person’s spouse will almost always be involved in the process. But, what happens if you are ready to start making a plan for the future and your spouse is not? You know your spouse better than just about anyone else does, so you probably realize that nagging him or her about it will probably not work. Begging or threatening is not likely to be successful either. There are, however, some things you can do to start the estate planning process despite your spouse’s reluctance. In doing so, you might just be able to convince your spouse that there is no time like the present to plan for what lies ahead.

Start On Your Own

Obviously, it would be best for everyone involved if your spouse decided to get on board before you start your estate plan, but if he or she continues to refuse, you should look for the things that you can do by yourself. For example, you can draft a will that addresses the assets that you own and specifies what will happen to them upon your death. If your solely owned assets are substantial, you might consider working with an attorney to create various types of trusts as well. Additionally, you can appoint a power of attorney for health care or property without your spouse’s input.
At this stage, you should also compile a list of your joint accounts and investments. If you outlive your spouse, there is a good chance that you will be responsible for these assets—especially if your partner never makes an estate plan. This will also be helpful to your heirs and loved ones if you and your spouse were to both die within a short period of time.

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DuPage County family law attorney prenuptial agreement

Before your marriage, you and your partner may have given significant time and consideration to the creation of a prenuptial agreement that clarifies each of your interests in and control over marital and non-marital properties. A thoughtful prenuptial agreement can be useful not only to smooth the process of a possible divorce but also to reduce uncertainty and increase comfort throughout your marriage. However, you may find in the years following your marriage that your original prenuptial agreement is insufficient or no longer relevant to your current situation. In this case, you may want to consider legally amending it.

Reasons to Amend Your Prenuptial Agreement in Illinois

As long as you and your spouse agree on the need to amend your prenuptial agreement, you can do so at any time. It is often a good idea to revisit your prenuptial agreement whenever there has been a significant change in your financial or family circumstances, such as:

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Lombard estate planning attorneyMany people assume that estate planning is for the rich or for those nearing the end of their life. Is this really true, though? Does everyone need to create an estate plan, or is it just for certain people? Is there a correct time to start? Or are these just common misconceptions that get in the way of planning for the future? At our firm, we are here to help you better understand the purpose, intent, and timing of estate planning, and why you should consider creating one, regardless of your income level.

Not Just for the Rich

Despite the misconception surrounding estate planning, the process is not just for those that have a lot of money, property, or assets to leave behind. In fact, even those with relatively few assets can benefit from estate planning. There may be family heirlooms or sentimental items that your children or other heirs want. You may have final expenses, and you will almost certainly need someone you trust to close out your bank accounts, social media accounts, or other personal accounts. Additionally, if you have young children, it is important that you name a guardian for them to ensure they are raised by someone you trust.

No Time Like the Present

Waiting around to complete your estate plan is not a good idea. After all, tomorrow is not guaranteed, and the unexpected could literally occur at any time. Regardless of your age—be it 18 or 86—you should consider creating an estate plan now. While you are of sound mind, you can and should make decisions about whom should take care of your final matters, get your personal items, take guardianship of your children, and make medical decisions for you in the event that you become incapacitated in the future.

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Lombard, IL family law attorney adoption

When a child’s biological parents are unable or unwilling to care for him or her, it is important to make other arrangements to provide for the child’s basic needs and well-being. In some cases, it is necessary for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to become a child’s legal guardian, at least for a time. However, most children benefit from a more permanent arrangement in a home with parents or guardians who love and care for them. Depending on the situation, this can be accomplished through adoption or guardianship, and there are some important differences between the two that you should understand if you are looking to become a child’s legal guardian.

Adoption Versus Guardianship in Illinois

Guardianship and adoption arrangements can both be made directly with the child’s biological parents or through DCFS. In both adoptions and guardianships, the parent or guardian assumes the responsibility to care for the child and provide for basic needs, and may assume the right to make important decisions on the child’s behalf, including education, medical treatment, and use of assets, provided that these decisions are in the child’s best interest. However, adoption and guardianship are different in a few key ways.

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Wheaton estate planning attorney wills and trusts

There is no question that every American adult should put some kind of estate plan in place to protect themselves in the event of the unexpected. Even a basic will could offer a level of direction and security for surviving family members and loved ones if a tragedy were to occur. Unfortunately, over half of all adults in the United States do not have any type of estate plan, including a simple will.

Many possible reasons exist as to why a person might not have an estate plan, but procrastination is certainly among the most common. Nearly everyone realizes that having an estate plan is probably better than not having one, but relatively few make estate planning a priority. Sadly, those who drag their feet often become the unknowing targets of scams run by individuals and entities looking to profit from the uncertainty and fears of those who are simply seeking the peace of mind that comes with having an estate plan.

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Lombard, IL divorce attorney property division

The decision to get a divorce affects your entire family, especially any children that you and your spouse share. Throughout the divorce process, you will need to resolve important issues related to your children, including child support, parenting time, and the allocation of parental responsibilities. However, your children may factor into other important decisions as well, such as the division of marital assets. As you decide on the properties that will remain with each spouse, you should consider how certain properties may help you be a better parent and help your kids adjust to the changes that divorce brings.

Marital Properties That May Affect Your Children

In general, a fair distribution of assets is important so that both parents can continue to financially provide for their children as best as possible. However, certain tangible or physical properties may be especially important to maintaining a sense of normalcy for your kids. Some of those properties include:

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Wheaton family law attorney divorce

For children of divorce, the coping process often continues long after the divorce is finalized. Their parents’ separation is a major, usually permanent change in their lives, and it is only natural that they may struggle in the months and years that follow. One area that often suffers is the children’s educational goals and performance, but parents can help by showing support and understanding. The following are a few examples of how co-parents can encourage their kids to keep up with their schooling after divorce. 

Tips for Helping Your Children With School

A new school year is just beginning, and whether your divorce is recent or a few years in the past, this is likely to be a challenging time for your children. Here are some ways you can help:

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Wheaton estate planning lawyerTrust and estate litigation is a unique area of law, and it usually requires the services of an experienced estate planning attorney. This is because trust and estate litigation does not conform to the model of a typical lawsuit. The issues involved are generally motivated not by the specifics of a trust and how it is set up, but by the emotional content of the family baggage and conflict behind the dispute.

Danger Ahead: Unresolved Family Issues in a Court of Law

The most unique aspect applicable to many cases dealing with trust and estate law is that the clients are usually contending with a situation that is occurring in the context of an unfortunate family tragedy—that is, the death of a loved one. This adds a different dynamic to the needs of the client and how they will be best served by legal representation.

Among the initial concerns in a will or trust dispute are, in many cases, unresolved family dynamics. These unresolved issues (often years or decades in the making) must be addressed under very difficult circumstances, such as when somebody has recently passed away, and in the challenging forum of the courts. The attorney you retain to represent your interests needs to be sensitive to the family issues and be capable of resolving them in such a way that maintains family unity and prevents it from becoming fractured by bitter litigation.

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Wheaton divorce attorney mediation

Many divorcing couples recognize that although it is no longer the right decision for them to stay married, they both continue to share the goal of providing the best possible life for their children. This desire to co-parent effectively can be a major motivating factor toward pursuing a cooperative divorce, rather than allowing the process to devolve into destructive conflict. If you and your spouse are hoping to work together to establish a parenting plan that works for everyone in your family, divorce mediation may be the right choice for you.

Why Is Divorce Mediation Beneficial?

In divorce mediation, you and your spouse are able to make your own, cooperative decisions regarding the terms of your divorce. A neutral mediator guides the process so that discussions stay on track and both spouses have the opportunity to voice their perspectives. If mediation works for you, you may be able to reach a faster resolution and reduce expenses when compared to a trial, and you are also able to keep your divorce proceedings out of the public eye. Mediation can resolve a variety of issues in your divorce, including the division of property and spousal support, but it can be especially helpful for child custody and visitation.

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DuPage County estate planning attorney

In the state of Illinois, couples and life partners currently have more options for how they can legally define their relationship than ever before. Same-sex marriage has been recognized throughout the state since 2014 and across the country since 2015. While some couples may wish to have the legal recognition of marriage, others may not. This may be the case in a variety of relationships, regardless of the partners’ genders. What couples who do not wish to marry must understand is that “common law marriage” is not recognized by the state of Illinois. This distinction has a serious impact on the need that unmarried couples in Illinois have for estate planning.

What Is Common Law Marriage?

“Common law marriage” is the term that generally defines the status of two people who agree to marry and live together but have not actually taken the legal steps required to procure a marriage license and register their union with the state. Each state sets its own guidelines for recognizing common law marriages. In Illinois, there is no recognition of such unions. Regardless of how long a couple has been together, Illinois probate law essentially treats unmarried partners as strangers to one another. Neither party is presumed to have any rights to the other’s property upon his or her death.

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DuPage County divorce attorney parental relocation

During your divorce process, you likely devoted significant time and energy to establishing a parenting plan that was suitable to you and your ex-spouse and addressed your children’s best interests. However, as your children get older and all of your living situations change, it is sometimes necessary to revisit and modify your parenting plan to meet your current needs. One of the biggest changes that can affect a parenting plan is the relocation of one of the parents. If you or your ex are planning a major move, you should consider how you will need to modify your parenting plan to accommodate this substantial change in circumstances.

Modifying Your Parenting Plan After Relocation

It is important to note that when divorced parents share custody of their children, one of them may not simply move at any time. The relocating parent must provide the other parent with reasonable notice, usually at least 60 days, of his or her intent to move. Even then, the other parent can object, in which case, there will be a court hearing to determine whether the relocation will be permitted. One of the most important factors the court considers is the impact the relocation will have on the existing parenting agreement.

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Arlington Heights family law attorney estate planning

Make no mistake about it, estate planning is not just for the excessively wealthy. Anyone—even those with smaller estates—can have their assets eaten up by various types of taxes and other obligations, especially if the items being passed down have appreciated greatly since they were acquired. However, there are some solutions that could allow you to keep more of your money within your family regardless of the current tax laws.

Tip #1: Check and Update Beneficiaries Frequently

It is surprising just how many people end up having no beneficiary or a previous spouse listed on life insurance policies, investment accounts, and even their wills. To an extent, it is understandable—life is busy, things change often, and before you know it, years have passed and you still have not gotten around to updating your beneficiaries.

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Wheaton family law attorney parental rights

Whether they are divorced from their children’s mother or were never married, biological fathers usually have rights to some involvement in their children’s lives and responsibilities to contribute to their well-being. However, there are many situations in which a non-biological dad may also want to seek fathers’ rights after the relationship with the child’s other parent has ended. For example, you could have been part of a same-sex or opposite-sex couple in which a child was conceived through artificial insemination. You could be an adopted father or stepfather, or you could have raised a child believing you were the biological father and later found out otherwise. From a legal standpoint, these situations are not as clear-cut, but a recent Illinois court ruling has established that non-biological parents can have parental rights under certain circumstances.

Illinois Appellate Court Ruling on Non-Biological Parental Rights

In 2018, an Illinois appellate court heard a case involving a same-sex couple who conceived a child through artificial insemination and later separated. During the divorce, the child’s biological parent sought full custody, while the non-biological parent sought to assert parental rights including shared custody and visitation. The trial court initially ruled in favor of the non-biological parent, and the appellate court upheld the decision on the basis that there was a parent-child relationship and that the couple had made the joint decision to conceive through artificial insemination.

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