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DuPage County family law attorney order of protection

While you are in a relationship, it may difficult to recognize the signs of domestic abuse. However, just as you may recognize the symptoms of an illness, there are signs to be aware of that show that you may be a victim of abuse. It is important to recognize these signs and take steps to protect yourself and your family from harm. 

What Is Domestic Abuse?

In Illinois, physical harm, willful restriction of personal liberties, threats, harassment, and stalking are all considered domestic abuse. Accusations of abuse are very serious, and they could lead to criminal consequences such as jail time or fines, as well as decisions in family court that affect divorce proceedings and a person’s parental responsibilities regarding his or her children. 

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DuPage County living will attorneyIt is understandably difficult for many people to consider their own end-of-life health care decisions. They may convince themselves that they will have plenty of time to think about such things when the time comes. What if you do not have plenty of time, however? What if, for example, you are suddenly diagnosed with a fast-moving illness or terminal injuries? Being prepared is always the better option, and a power of attorney for health care and a living will can help you stay ahead of life’s unpredictability.

What is a Power of Attorney for Health Care?

While a living will and power of attorney for health care can be used in conjunction with each other, it is important to understand the basic differences between the two. A power of attorney for health care grants an individual or entity of your choosing—known as an agent—the authority to make medical and health-related decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so. This typically applies to situations of mental or physical incapacitation. The power of attorney may include specific directions for the agent regarding your wishes, and any health-related concern you have not specifically addressed will be decided at the discretion of your appointed agent.

What Can I Include in a Living Will?

Compared to a power of attorney, a living will is a bit more specific. The Illinois Living Will Act provides the applicable guidelines for such documents, or declarations, as they are statutorily known. A living will is sometimes called an advance medical directive and is used to outline your wishes regarding “death-delaying procedures” in the event you are suffering from a terminal condition. A declaration would only take effect if you were unable to give directions related to your care.

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Lombard IL estate planning attorneyMore than half of all Illinois households include at least one family pet. Of course, in many homes, a companion animal like a dog or cat is much more than a pet; they are a part of the family, with their own personality, temperament, and individuality. But, have you considered what will happen to your beloved animal friend in the event that you are no longer able to care for them? Through the estate planning process, you have probably begun to address your home, car, and the guardianship or care of your children. However, it is also important to plan for the ongoing care of pets. Fortunately, there is a tool known as a pet trust, that when used properly can offer you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your dog or cat will be well cared for, even if you cannot provide the care.

Why Not a Will?

According to the law, pets—even domestic animals—are considered property. However, in various applications, including divorce, courts have begun recognizing that there are some special considerations that must be made. While pets are not quite human, they are certainly different from property like furniture or artwork. For the purposes of estate planning, the Illinois legislature has created the ability for a pet owner to establish and fund a pet trust to provide for the care of companion animals after the owner’s death. As property, pets can also be included in an owner’s will, but given that a will has to go through the often time-consuming and messy process of probate, a trust allows the animal to be settled into its new home and environment much faster with less hassle.

Elements of an Illinois Pet Trust

You should, of course, work with a qualified estate planning attorney when developing the terms of your pet trust, but the law in Illinois provides some basic guidelines. When deciding how much money to set aside for the care of your pet, it is important to realize that the court may reduce the amount if it is deemed to be unreasonable. Setting aside too much could also give rise to a will contest by disgruntled would-be heirs claiming that you were not mentally competent during the estate planning process.

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DuPage County family law attorney parenting time

There used to be just two options for married couples: Stay together or get divorced. Now there are conscious uncouplers, bird-nesters, and even those who turn their traditional marriage into a “parenting marriage.” This last non-traditional family unit—the parenting marriage—is gaining a lot of traction lately, particularly among those who are at a deadlock in their marriage but still want to see their children every day. Could this model realistically work for your family as an alternative to divorce?

What Is a Parenting Marriage?

In many ways, a parenting marriage is a lot like a traditional marriage. The couple is (usually) still legally married, and they continue to live in the same house. However, their marriage is no longer an intimate relationship. Instead, it is a platonic one. They do not share the same bed, there is little to no physical intimacy, and most have separate finances and accounts. The sole function of their marriage is to raise their children together under the same roof without the stress of trying to mend a relationship that is no longer working.

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DuPage County estate planning attorney wills and trusts

If you were to ask your children or other family members what you should do about dividing your assets and property upon your death, you would likely get a variety of answers. Some may suggest that you just divide it equally—without offering ways to determine what “equal” means. Others may remind you that you can make any arrangements that you want since it is your property. Of course, chances are also good that the same family members telling you to do whatever you think is best could be the same ones who are offended when they discover that their inheritance is not what they expected it would be. Fortunately, a qualified estate planning lawyer can offer a great deal of insight into planning for the future and, based on previous experience, can even provide advice on how to prepare your family for what is ahead.

Determine Your Priorities

Those who remind you that you have the right to do with your estate what you wish are exactly correct. You certainly have that right. However, it is important to consider how dividing your assets could affect your family and loved ones over the long term. You may decide that you do not really care if family members are upset or offended by your choices since you will be gone, and that too is your right. For many people, the specific property and assets that each heir receives are far less important than maintaining stable, trusting family relationships. Although it is not true in every situation, you may have the power with your estate planning decisions to positively or negatively affect your surviving family. Use it wisely.

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DuPage County divorce attorneyEnding a marriage is a difficult endeavor with many possible financial pitfalls from which a person may spend years trying to recover. In fact, one study suggests that it may take as long as five years to overcome the financial impact of a divorce. In some cases it may take even longer, possibly decades. However, there are ways to minimize the financial risks of divorce, especially if you are well prepared and you have the guidance of a qualified divorce attorney.

The Intersection of Divorce and Debt

Most Americans have debt. Some fail to manage it responsibly, but others are diligent about only taking on obligations they can afford. However, both groups are at risk of financial difficulties after a divorce. This is due, in part, to the splitting of one household into two. Each party must now cover their own separate bills, housing expenses, and utilities. They must also be able to pay the share of the marital debt that was allocated to them, which can be difficult to manage on a single income. The more debt a couple has going into the divorce, the higher their risk typically is.

How Divorce Planning Can Help

Instead of leaving themselves open to financial risks during and after divorce, couples can plan for the event and adjust their situation accordingly. This might mean putting off the divorce until debts are paid, or determining who will be responsible for each debt ahead of time. This can be done through mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Alternatively, if an agreement cannot be reached, it may be necessary to take an aggressive litigated approach to protect your interests during the divorce process. In either case, the assistance of an attorney is highly encouraged.

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Lombard estate plan lawyerEstate planning can be a complex matter, with state and federal laws to consider, but the initial steps do not have to be complicated. In fact, almost anyone can complete an effective estate plan with the right mindset and good advice from an experienced estate planning attorney. While some estates are more complicated than others, there are basic concepts that apply to virtually every situation.

Know Your Assets

From your real estate property, to the remainder of your retirement plan, to your beloved baseball card collection, it is crucial that you know what you own before you start the estate planning process. Start by gathering detailed documents for all of your financial accounts, including bank accounts, savings bonds, and retirement accounts, as well as your real estate, vehicles, and other large assets. Then make a list of family heirlooms and property that may have value. If necessary, have items appraised so that you know how much you are leaving to each of your heirs.

Determine Who Will Inherit From Your Estate

There are many ways to determine how your assets are distributed upon your death. For example, you could lay out detailed terms of inheritance in your will, or you could establish trusts that give you greater control of the distribution and allow your assets to bypass the probate process. It is also important to determine how you will prioritize your spouse, children, grandchildren, other relatives and friends, and possibly charitable or community organizations. How you distribute your assets is up to you; just make sure you have a plan, because it can save you both time and money when meeting with your attorney.

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DuPage County family law attorney divorce

When it comes to health complications, divorcees have the odds stacked against them. In fact, studies have linked divorce to everything from weight gain and depression to an increased risk of experiencing a heart attack. Granted, an increased risk does not mean you will experience a stroke, nor does it mean you should avoid divorce if it truly feels like the right path for your life. However, it does suggest that divorcees should know how to protect their health and mitigate against the risks.

Examining the Possible Link

Nearly anyone who has endured divorce can tell you it is an emotionally, mentally, and sometimes even physically trying experience. Thankfully, the stress usually diminishes over time, but the damage could already be done by the time things calm down. In fact, experts now believe that stress may be the driving factor behind all links to potential heart conditions. It certainly makes sense when you consider what stress does to the body.

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DuPage County family law attorney parenting time

The divorce process often involves challenging questions regarding how parents will fairly allocate parenting time and decision-making responsibility regarding important issues related to their children’s health and education. Sometimes, these issues must be resolved through trial litigation, while in other cases they can be settled out of court by parents who are committed to working together for the sake of their children. However, even the most cooperative and committed parents have been tested by the COVID-19 pandemic, and divorced parents who are healthcare workers face unique challenges when it comes to co-parenting and acting in the best interests of their children.

Co-Parenting Issues in a Health Crisis

If you or your former spouse works in healthcare, you have likely faced many of the following challenges in your attempts to co-parent effectively in the past year:

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DuPage County probate attorneyWhen an Illinois resident dies, his or her estate will often need to go through the process of probate. In Illinois, probate is required to validate and administer the decedent’s will, or to determine that the decedent did not have a valid will in place. Depending on the circumstances, probate can be a long and daunting process, and it may be a source of stress when there are arguments about the estate, but understanding the process can go a long way in helping you through it.

The Role of the Executor or Estate Administrator

During the probate process, an estate executor or administrator manages the assets and debts of the deceased. If there is a valid will, it will usually name the person who will serve as executor. In the absence of a will, the court will appoint an administrator, which will often be the closest surviving family member. Named executors can decline their duties if they are unwilling or unable to fulfill them.

Handling Creditors During Probate

During probate, the decedent’s heirs are not the only people who may be entitled to assets from the estate. Creditors may also come forward to pursue unpaid debts. By law, they must do so within the fixed time period allotted to them. In addition, the IRS must be paid any and all income taxes due. This cannot be avoided by selling assets—in fact, selling assets may be necessary to generate the necessary funds to pay the outstanding debts and taxes. Only then can the remaining assets be distributed to heirs. A final income tax return must also be filed for any assets that earn income during the probate period.

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Lombard IL estate planning attorneyEstate planning can be simple, but most often, it is a bit more complex than most people realize. Regardless of your situation, the best way to ensure your wishes are known and followed after your death is to have the proper documents in place by creating a will and appropriate trusts with the help of a skilled estate planning attorney. It also helps to know some of the most common mistakes made by those creating estate plans, including:

Failing to Plan at All

The statistics are alarming: more than half of all Americans do not have an existing will. Unfortunately, if you die without an estate plan, your assets will be divided according to the intestate succession laws of Illinois. Not only is it highly unlikely that this will happen according to your wishes, but the process of probate can end up chipping away at—and potentially decimating—the assets you have left behind.

Another concerning matter is that, if you should die without a will and have minor children, there is no guarantee as to who will assume responsibility for their guardianship until they become adults. Avoid this common mistake, and take the first steps in creating an estate plan today.

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DuPage County family law attorney guardian ad litem

Many of the most important issues that must be resolved during the divorce process are related to the couple’s children, including parenting time, parental responsibilities, and child support. Often, divorcing parents place their children’s best interests as a high priority, and they may even be willing to work together to agree on a parenting plan without the court’s intervention. However, sometimes child-related issues in a divorce can be much more contentious, and the court may enlist the services of a guardian ad litem (GAL) to ensure that all decisions made are in the best interests of the children. If the court has assigned a guardian ad litem in your divorce, it is important for you to know what to expect.

What Does a Guardian ad Litem Do in Illinois?

One of a guardian ad litem’s most important responsibilities is to thoroughly investigate the case to which they are assigned and the issues at hand to gain an understanding of what would be in the child’s best interests. As part of this investigation, the GAL will interview the child and both parents, and they may also interview relatives, teachers, and other parties who have a relevant perspective, as well as request additional information regarding the child’s education and medical care and the parents’ criminal history.

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DuPage County family law attorney parenting time

After your Illinois divorce, you will most likely be spending less time with your children than you are used to, even if you have been granted the larger share of parenting time. Parents whose time is limited to weekends and the occasional weeknight or special occasion may find the aftermath of a divorce to be especially hard. With these limitations on time with your children, it is even more important to make the most of the time that you do have.

Tips for Quality Parenting Time

As you work to make sure that your parenting time is meaningful and to protect your relationship with your children, here are some suggestions that can help:

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Lombard IL living trust attorneyMany people associate estate planning with death, and as a result, they often miss out on a truly valuable instrument of asset protection and financial management during their lifetime. A great place to begin learning about and utilizing estate planning is what is known as a “living trust.” This estate planning resource can allow you greater control over the transfer of your assets to your loved ones when the time is right through a mechanism that bypasses the time and expense of probate. To begin benefitting from estate planning, whether through a living trust, a will, or other tools, work with an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney.

Functions of a Living Trust

Unlike a will or a testamentary trust, which become effective only upon your death, a living trust can become effective while you are living. For many, a primary reason to create a living trust is to protect assets from the probate process. This form of lawful asset protection is accomplished when legal ownership of the assets is transferred from you—the “grantor”—to the trust under the control of a “trustee.” The trustee holds the assets in trust for those you who have selected to benefit from them—the “beneficiaries”.

Importantly, the law even allows you to be named as the trustee of your own living trust, which permits you to retain full control of the assets held in the trust during your lifetime. You have the ability to add or remove assets, modify the terms of the trust, or revoke the trust as you see fit. It is also important to name a successor trustee who will take over management of the trust assets in the event of your death or incapacitation. After your death, the assets can then be distributed to your named beneficiaries according to your wishes.

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DuPage County family law attorney prenuptial agreement

Finding a new romantic partner and planning a future together is an important step for many people after the stresses of a divorce, and it has the potential to enrich your life in many ways. However, a remarriage is usually not as simple as a first marriage, and there are important matters that you will need to consider before making the decision to move forward. Your remarriage will not only affect your life, but also the lives of your children and even your ex-spouse.

Important Considerations for a Remarriage

The choice to remarry after divorce is personal, and you and your new partner will certainly have your own considerations that factor into your decision. That said, the following three issues are likely to arise in many remarriages, so it is wise to keep them in mind.

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DuPage County contested will attorneyIt can be traumatic when the loss of a loved one is coupled with shock and surprise over a will that transfers the estate’s assets in a way that appears inconsistent with the intentions of the deceased testator. If you are dealing with such a scenario in the wake of the loss of your parent, spouse, child, or another close relative, you may have the option to formally contest the validity of the will in question. In doing so, you should work closely with an experienced Illinois wills and trusts attorney.

 A Will Must Comply With Applicable State Laws to be Valid

Wills and trusts are serious business. As such, a will must comply with all formalities imposed by state law in order to be regarded as valid. For example, Illinois law requires that a will must be signed by the person whose estate it concerns, who is known as the “testator”. In addition, the testator’s signing of the will must occur in the presence and hearing of two valid witnesses. In most cases, in order to be a valid witness of a will, a person must not be a beneficiary of the will. If you have reason to believe that the will was not created in accordance with these requirements, you may have grounds to contest it.

The Drafting and Execution of a Will Must Be Free from Undue Influence and Fraud

In addition to signature and witness requirements imposed by Illinois state law, the drafting and signing of a will must be free from undue influence and fraud. Undue influence exists when a testator is subjected to extreme pressure or severe duress to the extent that free will is suppressed. When mental or physical capacity diminishes with age, a testator may be particularly vulnerable to undue influence exerted by individuals lacking scruples.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerA last will and testament can serve as the backbone to any estate plan. It can be used to determine who will become the executor of your estate, who will inherit what, and who will assume guardianship of your children or your pets. But, there are some things that a will cannot do. In some cases, the limitations are set by state laws or federal regulations. However, there are also situations in which additional documents can be used to ensure your final wishes are carried out.   

When Incapacitation Precedes Death

Wills are meant to cover what happens after your death, but not all accidents, illnesses, or chronic health conditions lead to immediate death. When incapacitation occurs, whether it is short-term or long-term, physicians will follow standard protocols. If you have wishes that deviate from that standard of care, additional estate planning documents are needed. Examples include:   

  • Power of Attorney for Health Care: Also called a medical proxy, giving someone power of attorney over your health care allows him or her to make medical decisions for you, should you become incapacitated.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerIt seems that at least a dozen times a year, we hear of families fighting over the distribution of assets of a deceased person’s estate. At first glance, it may seem silly to squabble over such matters, but many underestimate the emotional value that can be placed on a tangible item. Maybe it is that china set used for family holiday dinners that everyone is fighting over. Or, perhaps it is simply easier to focus on the argument than the grief of losing a loved one.

Unfortunately, asset and estate arguments can also damage family relationships. Feelings get hurt. Words are said that are not truly meant. Resentment can live on long after the assets have found their homes. And, a good share of the estate may have been lost while trying to resolve the matter in probate court. Thankfully, careful planning can prevent family arguments before they start, regardless of any underlying issues.

Wills and Trusts – How They Differ

When people consider creating an estate plan, wills are what typically come to mind. However, there are many other tools that can be used when creating an estate plan—some of which may make all the difference between a family fight and a peaceful division of assets.

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Wheaton family lawyerLaws throughout the United States, including in Illinois, require both of a child’s legal parents to contribute to child support to provide for basic needs until the child reaches the age of 18. However, many children benefit from the financial support of their parents even after they reach adulthood, especially if they want to pursue a college education. In general, parents are not legally required to provide support under these circumstances, but Illinois law does include a provision through which both parents may be ordered to contribute to their children’s college expenses after a divorce or separation.

When Is a Child Eligible for Support for College Expenses?

Parents are, of course, free to make their own arrangements to contribute to their children’s higher education under any circumstances. However, after a divorce or separation, it may be best for a parent to pursue a legally binding order that ensures that both parents contribute. In these cases, an Illinois court will only consider issuing an order if the following criteria are met:

  • The child must usually be under the age of 23, but support may continue until the age of 25 if there is a valid reason.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyVideo wills are not a new concept. In fact, they have been around since the early 1980s—basically since video cameras became widely available to the general public. You may have even seen one featured in a show or movie, probably used for dramatic effect. Maybe the owner of the fortune cut someone out of the will at the last minute or made conditions through which an heir might receive their fortune. Are they really legally binding, though? More importantly, should you use one for your estate plan? The following explores this interesting and unique option, and provides some details on how to execute it properly, should you decide this is the right option for you. 

Video Wills and Your Family

One of the biggest reasons that individuals decide to read their will on video is because they want to give their family one last memory. For some, it is a way to heal broken bonds. For others, it is a way to comfort from beyond the grave. Whatever your reason, ensure your intentions are pure. No matter how angry or irritated you might be with a member of your family, no matter how distant the two of you might have become, they will still likely grieve losing you. So be sensitive and kind. It will be their last memory of you.

Video Wills and the Law

Though a video may give your family comfort after your death, it will not be considered legally binding on its own. Illinois law requires that a will be written, and it must be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses. This means that you will likely still need a written document that has been kept in a safe place in addition to your video will. Of course, the video could still be used as evidence to prove that you were of sound mind at the time of creating the will, should any of your family members contest the will’s validity. Still, it is important that you speak with your estate planning attorney to determine what (if any) legal value a video will lend to your situation. 

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