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DuPage County child custody attorney

The coronavirus pandemic is not just impacting grocery stores and group gatherings. It may also be affecting parental responsibilities (child custody) among divorced parents. On March 16, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker declared a state-of-emergency decree in response to COVID-19. As a result of the declaration, all schools in Illinois are closed until further notice, leaving parents unsure of what they need to do to provide care for their children. Most divorce orders outline when children will stay with each parent if schools are not in session. However, those orders are based on pre-arranged off-days and holiday schedules, not unplanned notices based on a national health crisis. To ensure that your parental rights are protected while addressing your children's health and safety, you should consult with a family law attorney to determine how to proceed.

Top Priorities Amidst the Crisis

Although it is easy to panic at a time like this, parents will want to do their best to protect their children's best interests. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

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

Important Duties

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

Probate Concerns

It is also the executor’s responsibility to file the deceased person’s will for probate. There can be no division of the estate until a probate judge gives his or her approval. An exception to this rule exists if all the decedent’s assets had been transferred to a living trust before the person died. Those assets can be disbursed to the designated beneficiaries without having to go through the probate process.

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DuPage County divorce lawyer name change

Getting a divorce can be a very complicated process. It may be difficult to think about the decision to keep your married name or revert back to your maiden name when there are so many other pressing issues that need to be resolved. Because of this, many women choose to continue using their married names for the time being. However, if they choose to go back to using their maiden names, a skilled family law attorney can help you complete the legal steps to do so. 

Reasons for Changing Your Name

Changing your last name after your divorce is one of the first steps in getting your original identity back. Whether this decision is emotionally difficult or easy, consider these factors when deciding:

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Lombard estate planning attorneyThe World Health Organization estimates that about 50 million people throughout the world currently suffer from dementia. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for about 60-70 percent of all dementia cases. Watching a loved one with dementia suffer from memory loss and cognitive impairment can be heartbreaking, especially if that loved one is your spouse. If your husband or wife has dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or another health issue that affects cognitive function, you may worry about his or her ability to make important decisions. One way you may obtain the ability to make decisions on behalf of your spouse is through legal guardianship.  

Types of Guardianships in Illinois

When a person cannot communicate his or her needs or make rational decisions, a loved one may choose to establish guardianship so that he or she can make decisions on the person’s behalf. The Illinois Probate Act describes several types of guardianship including limited guardianship, plenary guardianship, guardianship of a person, guardianship of the estate, and more. If your spouse has dementia but is still able to make some decisions on his or her own, a limited guardianship may be appropriate. If you become a “limited guardian,” you will be permitted to make any decisions about your spouse’s finances, medical treatment, and personal care that he or she cannot make on his or her own, but the scope of those decisions will generally be limited by the court that grants the guardianship.

If your spouse has significant impairment, a plenary guardianship will allow you to make all of the decisions about his or her finances and care. Guardianship of the estate is used to ensure that a disabled person’s financial affairs are properly managed. If you are unsure as to what guardianship is appropriate for your particular situation, speak with an estate planning attorney to receive personalized guidance.

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DuPage County divorce attorney parenting time

It is only human nature for children to want their parents to remain married “till death do us part.” However, in some cases, that may not be possible. Regardless of whether infidelity played a role or a couple simply grew apart, it may be in everyone’s best interest to part ways. According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 40–50 percent of married couples in the United States get divorced. Telling your children about your divorce may be one of the toughest conversations you will ever have. Despite the difficulty and intense emotions that may arise, keeping your child in the know is crucial to a smooth transition.

Discussing Your Divorce with Your Children

Whether you think the divorce will come as a shock to them or not, keep these tips in mind when breaking the news to your kids: 

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

How a DNR Is Different

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

While these wishes can be expressed in a living will, a DNR is an order that must be signed by both you and your practitioner. Its primary purpose is to decline resuscitation. A living will is a personal legal document used to convey this preference, as well as other healthcare wishes, such as your desire to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf. A living will is more involved and can be as detailed as you would like it to be. Similarly, a health care power of attorney is used to appoint an “agent” to make healthcare decisions for you on your behalf, and its use is very broad and flexible in terms of expressing your healthcare wishes.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyChoosing a beneficiary for your will, trust, or life insurance policy might at first seem like a relatively simple task. For some, a specific person automatically comes to mind--someone they know, care for, and trust--and the decision is made. For others, though, the task can feel tedious. Depending on your financial circumstances, designating someone as beneficiary can place a significant amount of responsibility on the inheritor.

A Multi-Faceted Inheritance

Notice the word inheritor. Typically, the beneficiary of a will, trust, or life insurance policy is set to inherit something to their advantage. They receive benefits, profits, or funds from a particular account or policy, designated to them by whatever estate planning tool you choose to utilize. While this can certainly be a positive turn of events for the inheritor in the midst of your passing, it can still mean a lot of responsibility, as receiving funds can also mean receiving a burdensome responsibility.

Sadly, tense arguments and disagreements can arise between families and loved ones when a certain friend or family member inherits money. Decisions must be made by the recipient regarding any property, possessions, or monetary funds inherited, which can be emotionally and mentally taxing for anyone involved. While you cannot predict or control how everyone will interpret and respond to your choice of inheritor, you do have a say in who you would like to assign these responsibilities to, should you document your wishes well in advance.

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Lombard parenting time attorney Even when a separating couple has the best intentions to part ways and co-parent peacefully, the end of a relationship can create tense and stressful situations. Unlike spouses who are divorcing, a couple who is not married can separate without the need to legally dissolve their relationship. However, if a couple has a child together, the end of a relationship requires more planning and decision-making. This process can become contentious, especially if the parties disagree on parenting matters such as the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. If you are facing a child custody dispute, a family law attorney can help you explore your options and advise you of the steps you can take to achieve a favorable outcome.

Establishing Paternity

For a married couple, there is usually no need to establish parental rights. According to Illinois law, when a child is born to a married couple, the spouses are assumed to be the child's legal parents. However, if a child is born to an unmarried couple, the father may not automatically be considered the child's legal parent. In these cases, paternity may need to be established either through a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form, through an Administrative Paternity Order, or through an Order of Paternity issued through the courts. After the father's parental rights have been established, the parents may determine how to address custody of the child.

How Child Custody Is Determined

The allocation of parenting responsibilities, formerly called child custody, is decided on an individual, case-by-case basis, which means there is no universal arrangement that is followed for divorcing or unmarried parents. When a non-married couple breaks up, they will typically use one of two methods to create a parenting plan:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt is a fact that many avoid thinking about, but unexpected illnesses and accidents happen to people every day. A living will is a type of advance medical directive that identifies the types of medical care you do and do not want if you cannot speak for yourself due to a major illness or injury. Through a living will, you decide in advance whether you want treatments such as dialysis, artificial ventilation, or a feeding tube to be used if you are incapacitated. Not only does a living will put you in charge of your future medical care, it also saves your loved ones the burdensome task of making important medical decisions on your behalf. If you are considering using a living will to specify your future medical wishes, you may be wondering, “When does a living will take effect?”

Determining When a Person Is Unable to Articulate Medical Wishes

A living will is used when a person has a terminal condition and is unable to express his or her wishes about death-delaying procedures. A terminal condition is typically defined as a medical condition that is incurable and will result in imminent death. The Illinois Living Will Act regulates the rules regarding living wills. In a living will, you will give a declaration explaining directions for medical care should you be unable to express these directions yourself. The declaration reads in part, “In the absence of my ability to give directions...it is my intention that this declaration shall be honored… as the final expression of my legal right to refuse medical treatment.”

A living will goes into effect when your physician decides that you can no longer express your own healthcare decisions and certifies this in writing. To make this determination, doctors typically consider whether the patient can:

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Wheaton property division attorney

During the divorce process, couples must go through financial documents when determining how to divide assets and property and addressing issues such as spousal maintenance (alimony) and child support. In many marriages, a couple’s finances are straightforward, but that is not always the case. In some situations, forensic accounting may be necessary to analyze financial data more closely. If you are considering a divorce and are not sure how forensic accounting may benefit you, it is essential to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can help you explore your options. 

What Is Forensic Accounting? 

Forensic accountants utilize accounting and auditing skills as well as investigative skills to perform a thorough examination of individuals’ financial records. Forensic accountants can be useful during a divorce because they are adept at uncovering financial information that a divorcing spouse may have attempted to hide from his or her spouse and the courts. Forensic accountants may review several types of documents, including:

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DuPage County estate planning attorneysHome health aides, private duty nurses, and other paid caregivers can make a tremendous impact on the lives of the elderly or disabled individuals in their care. From helping with medical needs to transporting patients to and from doctors’ appointments to simply providing companionship, these caregivers are a valuable source of support. For many people, these caregivers are more like family members than hired help. If you have a special, non-related caregiver who goes above and beyond to make your life better, you may be considering leaving him or her an inheritance. Special laws dictate rules regarding inheritance to non-related caregivers in Illinois, so it is important to discuss your inheritance plans with an estate planning attorney to make sure your wishes will be followed.

Illinois Law Regarding Inheritance Left to Non-Related Caregivers

Unfortunately, elder financial abuse is a major problem in Illinois and throughout the United States. Some caregivers will use deceit or psychological manipulation to influence an elderly or disabled person into changing their estate plans so the plans benefit the caregiver. Because of the prevalence of elder financial abuse, Illinois lawmakers recently amended the Illinois Probate Act of 1975 to include special rules regarding inheritances left to non-relative caregivers. According to the law, a property transfer of more than $20,000 is automatically presumed to be fraudulent during any challenges to a will or trust. This means that if you leave your caregiver property valued at more than $20,000 and someone disputes the validity of your will or trust in court, it is possible that your caregiver will not receive this inheritance.

What to Do If You Wish to Leave a Large Inheritance to a Non-Family Caregiver

You worked hard to accumulate the assets you own and you deserve to choose who those assets are passed down to upon your death. If you have decided that you would like to include your caregiver in your estate plans, speak to a lawyer. Your attorney will be able to help you transfer your property to the caregiver in a way that does not cause unnecessary legal problems in the future. Once you have made your estate plans, it may be a good idea to share these plans with your family. It is less likely that your plans will be contested if your surviving loved ones are not surprised by the contents of your will or other estate planning documents upon your death.

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DuPage County child custody attorney psychological expert

Even when spouses have the best intentions to end their marriage peacefully, divorces have the potential to be filled with contention. Throughout the divorce process, a couple must make many life-altering decisions, including how assets are divided, the details of a parenting plan, and decisions regarding spousal support. In many cases, the decisions regarding children can be the most difficult. When determining the allocation of parenting responsibilities, it may be beneficial to seek the professional opinion of a psychological expert. If you are facing a custody case, your family law attorney can help you explore your options and provide you with advice on when to use a psychological expert. Below are three important factors to consider during your custody case:

Can Psychological Experts Impact the Outcome of a Custody Case?

When parenting plans are determined, the most important factor is the well-being of the child. For this reason, it is not uncommon for a parent (or both parents) to undergo a mental health evaluation per Illinois Supreme Court Rule 215. For example, a judge may order a mental health evaluation if there is any doubt regarding mental illness, addiction problems, or other psychological conditions that could impact the life of the child. During the exam, a psychological expert, who may be either a psychologist or a licensed clinical social worker, will determine:

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Wheaton spousal maintenance attorney

The decision to end a marriage can be emotionally, financially, and even physically devastating. A trusted therapist may help ease emotional stress, but what about the worries regarding finances? Regardless of whether your divorce is amicable or tumultuous, you will need to understand how to protect your rights to the marital estate. If you are facing a divorce and are unsure how to protect your financial interests, you should speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney to explore your potential next steps. In the meantime, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about finances during divorce:

How Much Will a Divorce Cost?

There are many expenses associated with the divorce process. You will be required to pay a variety of court costs and filing fees, and the costs of hiring and working with an attorney throughout the divorce process may add up to several thousand dollars or more. In addition, there are a variety of other ways that legally ending your marriage can impact your finances, including:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIf you have started looking into creating an estate plan, you may have come across advertisements for do-it-yourself estate planning or will creation services. At first glance, these services often look very appealing. The advertisement may claim that creating an estate plan through the DIY program will save you time and money. It may even explicitly state that you do not need a lawyer to create an estate plan. Unfortunately, these advertisements lead many people to make estate planning mistakes that end up costing them (or their surviving loved ones) much more time, money, and frustration than they would have spent through traditional estate planning.

Only a Lawyer Can Offer Personalized Estate Planning Legal Guidance

One of the major limitations to online DIY estate planning is that it is a one-size-fits-all approach to drafting an estate plan. There may be several basic documents available such as a will, healthcare power of attorney, and financial power of attorney available through a DIY site, but not lesser-known estate planning instruments. Unlike a website, an estate planning attorney can help you figure out which documents will best fit your needs and which documents you can do without.

Consider this example: A mother with a severely disabled teenaged son is worried about how her son will have access to a home health aide and other necessities once she passes away. She creates a will using a DIY website and assigns her son a significant amount of inheritance money. Unfortunately, when she passes away, the money that was left to her son causes his assets to be too high for him to continue benefiting from government aid programs. If the mother had consulted with an estate planning attorney, the attorney could have helped her set up a special needs trust or another estate planning instrument that would allow her son to receive his inheritance without losing access to necessary government aid.

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Wheaton divorce attorney child support enforcement

Child support payments are typically ordered by the court as part of a divorce decree, but child support payments can also be included in a legal separation agreement. In some cases, both parties may mutually settle upon the payment arrangement. Regardless of the situation (divorce or separation), there are laws in Illinois that ensure that child support orders are enforceable. However, even though child support orders are legally binding, some parents may still struggle to collect payments from a former spouse or partner. Disagreements over late, missing, or inadequate payments can create heated disagreements and high tension in both newly divorced couples and partners who have long been separated. If you are struggling to collect child support payments, a knowledgeable child support attorney can advise you of your legal options.

What Happens During a Child Support Hearing?

In the state of Illinois, a child support hearing may be conducted in one of two places: a courtroom presided over by a judge or through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). During a child support hearing, each party will answer questions about their specific circumstances, which will allow the court to determine the correct amount of support. A couple who has not yet established paternity may need to address the issue of legal fatherhood first before a child support order can be issued.

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estate planning, family future, Lombard estate planning attorneysAlthough it is a subject that many Americans would rather not think about, eventually our individual lives will end and our loved ones will inevitably be left with burdens, be it emotional, financial, or both. Decades ago, when someone passed away, there were no credit cards, families did not travel as much, and divorce was taboo. Everything that was left behind generally either went to the state or the family members left behind. With the growing complexity of family structure in conjunction with our spending habits, the need has arisen to secure a plan for after we die. Legal documents such as wills, trusts, and other estate planning measures can help protect the future of your loved ones after you pass.

Know the Difference

The best and most direct route of starting the process is to know which option is best for your current circumstances. It may be that none of the options are a completely perfect or it may mean that multiple options will help achieve your goals. No matter the case, it is necessary to understand the each option. 

Estate Planning: "Estate planning" is an umbrella term used to describe the preparation of your estate. Your estate is everything that belongs to you. This includes physical items (jewelry, home, vehicle, etc.), but also encompasses the items sometimes not planned for, such as other real estate property, checking and savings accounts, life insurance policies, and investments. Planning of this nature should also delve into what you would like to happen to your children if they are minors or what should happen to you if you are left unable to make decisions for yourself.

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Wheaton family law attorney legal separation

When a married couple is struggling to live in harmony under the same roof, one person usually moves out of the shared residence. The distance and time apart may allow the couple an opportunity to work through relationship problems and determine their next steps. For a couple who can no longer reside together, there are several options available, including divorce and legal separation. If you are struggling in your marriage and would like to discuss your next steps, a family law attorney can explain your rights and your legal options.

What Are the Differences Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

A divorce legally dissolves the marriage between two individuals, while a legal separation acknowledges that the couple is still married but lives apart from each other. Divorce is a permanent decree, but legal separations may be either temporary or permanent. A couple who is legally separated may eventually decide to file for divorce, but they also have the option to end the separation and reunite. It is important to note that during the legal separation, the spouses may not get married to anyone else.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysBeing the parent of a physically or intellectually disabled child comes with a variety of special challenges. When your child struggles to adequately care for himself or herself due to a disability, you may worry about what will happen when you are not around to help him or her. It can be an uncomfortable reality to consider but making plans for the care of your disabled loved one for after you pass away will give you tremendous peace of mind. One option that many parents of disabled minor or adult children utilize is a special needs trust.

How Does a Special Needs Trust Work?

A trust is a financial instrument often used in estate planning that places assets under the authority of a trustee. In a special needs trust, the trustee is legally obligated to follow the directions contained in the trust and use the funds contained in the trust for the benefit of the disabled individual. The assets held in a special needs trust can be used to pay for your child’s home, living expenses, education, personal care attendant, out-of-pocket medical expenses, recreation, and more. One way to set up a special needs trust is to name yourself as the trustee and name another trusted individual, such as another one of your children, as a successor trustee. When you pass away, the successor trustee becomes responsible for using the assets in the trust for the benefit of your disabled child.

Assets in a Special Needs Trust Do Not Limit the Beneficiary’s Eligibility for Government Programs

You may be wondering why you cannot simply leave an inheritance to your disabled child through a standard will. Many government aid programs are only available to individuals if their property and income is below a certain level. If you leave funds or property of a substantial value to your child without a special needs trust, this could raise his or her income and available resources to a level which disqualifies him or her for these aid programs. When you leave assets in a special needs trust, the assets are not considered income or available resources so this does not limit your child’s eligibility for need-based government programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

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Lombard, IL family law attorney for parental relocation

When a couple decides to end their relationship, it is probable that at least one of them will no longer live in the home they once shared. In some cases, both spouses may move out of the marital home following divorce and relocate to smaller dwellings. However, while moving to a new home may be necessary, parents should be aware of the restrictions that may apply when they plan to move with their children. In some cases, parental relocation may require approval from the court. If you are not sure how a potential move may impact your rights as a parent, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney to learn more about the child relocation laws in Illinois.

Why Do Relocation Restrictions Exist?

The parental relocation laws in Illinois have been put in place to protect a child’s bond with both of his or her parents. In cases that meet the criteria for relocation, the relocating parent must give the other parent at least 60 days' notice prior to the move, and they will need to receive approval from the court for any modifications to the parties' parenting plan. These restrictions ensure that all moves are made in good faith and that a proposed relocation will protect the best interests of the child. 

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Lombard estate planning attorneysPeople vary dramatically in their feelings regarding medical treatment. Some people want every possible medical intervention to be taken, even if those medical treatments will only slightly extend the duration of their lives. Other people only want the bare minimum actions taken if they become seriously ill or injured.

Have you ever considered the types of medical treatments you would want to undergo if you became extremely sick? What if you were too sick to express these wishes? A power of attorney for healthcare is a type of estate planning instrument that can allow you to take your future medical care decisions into your own hands.

Health Care Power of Attorney Basics

Through a power of attorney for health care, you can designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. The document gives this individual authority to make decisions about your medical treatments if you cannot do so yourself. Instead of a doctor who you may have never met making these decisions—and who might not share your personal values—you can entrust these important decisions to someone you know and trust. The individual you designate to speak on your behalf is called a health care proxy or agent. Your proxy may be a close friend, spouse, family member, or anyone else you choose. Once you have chosen who your proxy will be, you can have a conversation with him or her about the actions you do and do not want taken if you become gravely ill.

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