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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1686307888.jpgEvery day, there seems to be a new kind of digital asset making the news. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and non-fungible tokens are just two examples of digital financial assets that we commonly associate with money. But other digital assets must be divided as well - personal photos and videos that exist on each spouse’s phone, streaming accounts, and even purchased media like downloaded videos all need to be dealt with. During the Illinois divorce process, all marital assets must be divided fairly - even the ones that only exist on the internet. If you are getting divorced and wondering what will happen to your digital assets, read on. 

Pictures, Videos, Movies, and Streaming Services

Couples can spend thousands of dollars on downloaded videos, games, and other online entertainment over the course of a marriage. If a couple has amassed a valuable digital library of content, this will need to be divided in the divorce decree. Because online content is usually associated with a specific account and these accounts must only be owned by one partner after the divorce, spouses will need to agree about how to split them. 

Personal pictures and videos are easy to transfer, but they also need to be addressed in the divorce decree. Otherwise, years of precious moments with children, pets, and extended family can be lost to a spouse forever. 

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wheaton estate planning lawyer Estate planning should always be done with care. It is important that wills, trusts, and other testamentary instruments are written and executed correctly - when it counts, you will not be there to explain what you meant to do in your estate plan. There are a handful of common mistakes and oversights people sometimes make in the course of building an estate plan. Unfortunately, estate planning errors can sometimes have serious consequences. It is best to consult a skilled lawyer when you are ready to begin the estate planning process. Having an attorney assist you can be an excellent way to avoid what could be a costly mistake. 

What Are the Top Mistakes Illinois Residents Make in Estate Planning?

It is important to make sure that you are aware of and understand all the options you have before you start signing off on an estate plan. You should be aware of these common mistakes: 

  • Trusts - Not taking advantage of a trust when one could benefit you can be an expensive error. Many people are more familiar with wills, and may think of them as the default estate planning tool. Some erroneously believe that trusts are for those with high-value estates, but this is no longer the case. Trusts now work well for most estates, and their probate-skipping properties can save your beneficiaries a lot of money in the end. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1978390289.jpg Special needs trusts are a tool used to provide for disabled adults without defeating their eligibility for Medicare and other government assistance. This type of trust will allow the beneficiary to use these funds for expenses not covered by Medicare, like personal items and recreation. There are two types of special needs trusts most commonly used in Illinois: third-party special needs trusts and self-settled special needs trusts. If you are interested in protecting someone with a special needs trust, consulting a qualified attorney is the first step. 

Why Do I Need a Special Needs Trust? 

The problem with simply gifting or awarding money to someone with disabilities is that these funds can be counted as income for them, which can disqualify them for the benefits they rely on. Then, they are forced to spend their gift or award on the routine health care and living expenses these government programs would normally pay for. This goes on until the funds are depleted, which may not take long at all. The disabled person then must reapply for assistance programs, and is effectively back at square one without having really benefited in any noticeable way. 

What is a Self-Settled Special Needs Trust? 

A self-settled special needs trust is for those under 65 years old, and is funded using the disabled adult’s own assets. These assets may include any compensation won in a lawsuit, inheritances, or other monies the beneficiary himself is entitled to. However, when the beneficiary passes away, any unused funds remaining in the special needs trust must be used to pay back Medicaid for services provided during the beneficiary’s lifetime. 

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wheaton divorce attorneyMany divorcing parents feel as though creating a parenting plan is inevitably a win/lose situation. If one parent does not get to spend time with their children, it is because their [insulting adjective] ex is with them instead. Depending on how someone feels about their ex, this can be an inconvenient or irritating fact or a complete disaster. 

However, even when divorced parents dislike each other strongly and find it difficult to get along, they still have to deal with each other and their children still have to deal with the consequences of their relationship. Finding an appropriate balance is crucial for creating a parenting plan, yet this can be the hardest thing in the world during a contentious divorce. If you are struggling to cooperate with your spouse about a parenting plan, here are five tips that may be helpful. 

Strive to Understand Your Child’s Best Interests

Sometimes warring spouses may find it easier to cooperate when they shift the focus from each other to their child. Ultimately, a child did not choose her parents’ relationship and it is not her fault that she is stuck in the middle of a divorce. It is her needs that should be met first. 

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dupage county divorce lawyerParents frequently disagree about issues related to the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time during their divorce. When parents cannot reach an agreement or create a parenting plan, mediators or a collaborative divorce team may be able to help. However, if other methods fail or if a case is extremely contentious, parents may end up litigating their custody dispute in an Illinois family law court. Although there is no failsafe way for a parent to ensure they get what they want in a court hearing, there are certain mistakes that parents should try to avoid. 

Sharing Details of the Dispute on Social Media

Nearly everyone uses social media, but during a contentious divorce, putting too many details on social media accounts can have negative consequences. Even with the most private account settings, information can be obtained and used as evidence in court. Trash-talking the other parent, posting pictures of late-night parties, and even photos of fun but risky behaviors with children may be used to try to prove lack of parental fitness in court. When in doubt, less is more when it comes to social media use. 

Trying to Get Revenge on an Ex

Parents who use court disputes to hash out resentments over their relationship issues look petty, mean, and even potentially uninterested in what is best for their children. Although spouses may have very good reasons for disliking each other once a divorce has begun, allowing that bitterness to influence negotiations over the children will get in the way of discovering and pursuing the children’s best interests. Judges have seen many parents arguing over their children, and can tell when one spouse is trying to get back at the other. Save frustrations with a spouse for a therapist and use the court to find a good solution for the children. 

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chicago prenuptial agreement lawyerAlthough prenuptial agreements are famously used by people with high-worth assets, the truth is that prenups can protect many different people in many different situations. One of the best uses of a prenuptial agreement is when a parent of children from a previous marriage in Illinois  wishes to get married again. 

Having a well-written, legally enforceable prenup can save a parent’s children and second spouses from fighting over assets in court if the marriage ends in divorce or if the parent passes away. A great prenuptial agreement can bolster a will and trust, and is an important part of financial planning before getting married again. 

Using Prenuptial Agreements for a Second Marriage

When a parent dies, it is always a tragedy - but the sadness can be made much worse when a second spouse is fighting over assets or inheritance with children. A great prenuptial agreement that details exactly how belongings, savings, and other assets will be allocated in the event of a parent’s death can save children and second spouses from the time, expense, and heartache of fighting over assets in court. This is also true if the second marriage fails and a couple disagrees about how their assets should be divided. 

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lombard estate plannig lawyerChildren are often the people those making an estate plan are most concerned with protecting. Before you begin working on an estate plan, it is important to understand who would or would not be counted as your child. Under intestacy law, the definition of a child is fairly rigid and cannot be altered. Modern family dynamics can be complicated, and it is quite common for children to be raised by someone other than their biological mother and father. The legal definition of a child may not encompass everyone who you consider to be your son or daughter. 

The language used in your estate planning documents is very important and cannot be left ambiguous. If your family situation is complex and you are not sure whether an individual is legally your child for inheritance purposes, it is best to consult with a qualified estate planning attorney. 

Who Is Considered One of My Children For Estate and Inheritance Purposes?

You probably have a fairly clear-cut idea in your head of who you consider yourself a parent to. Whether you belong to a large blended family or a small nuclear family, you know who you want to be counted as your child for inheritance purposes. If your idea of who your children are does not match the legal definition, you will need to use language in your estate planning documents to specify how you define “child.” 

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lombard estate planning lawyerPairs of people who are each other’s next of kin, such as a married couple, often leave everything to each other in their estate plans. The idea is that when the first passes away, the second will inherit and enjoy the estate until she too passes away. Sadly, sometimes a couple passes away at the same time, for example, in a car accident. However, it is unlikely that both people died at exactly the same moment. Odds are, one person survived longer than the other - maybe by a few seconds, maybe by a few weeks. 

The problem for estate administrators is sorting out who inherits the estate of the person who died first when the person who dies second does not live long enough to claim the first person’s estate. Survivorship period laws simply require that the beneficiary of an estate outlive the decedent by a certain amount of time before benefiting from the estate. 

What Problem Does Survivorship Laws Address?

Mandatory survivorship periods are one of the ways Illinois lawmakers seek to solve this problem. To illustrate the problem, imagine that a married couple, Ashley and Beth, have made wills and left their entire estates to each other. If Ashley and Beth are in a car accident together and both fatally injured, with Beth outliving Ashley by a matter of hours, it makes little sense from a policy standpoint to pass Ashley’s estate property to Beth when Beth is not around to enjoy it. But, without survivorship period laws, Beth still becomes the legal owner of Ashley’s estate property. 

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lombard divorce lawyerSame-sex couples in Illinois get married with high hopes of long-term marital success. Unfortunately, staying married forever is not always possible and divorce becomes necessary. Since same-sex marriage became legal in the United States, the divorce process for same-sex couples is usually the same as ending a marriage for heterosexual couples. 

Regardless of the gender of your spouse, it is important to understand the divorce process so you can make your divorce as smooth and fair as possible. 

The Divorce Process in Illinois 

Before a couple can get divorced in Illinois, one spouse must be a resident of Illinois. To be a resident, a person must have lived in Illinois for the past 90 days or, if they are an active duty member of the military, must have been stationed there the past 90 days. If children are involved, the children must have been residents for at least six months. 

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lombard estate planning lawyerWhile wills and trusts are both ways to pass money and property to your survivors, there are a few major differences. For example, a will has no effect until the testator has passed away, while a trust takes effect immediately. Many strong estate plans use a combination of a will and a trust, or trusts, as a way to make sure everything is covered. It is important to work closely with a qualified estate planning attorney, who can help you determine whether your ideal estate plan includes a will, trust, or both. 

What are the Major Differences Between Wills and Trusts? 

When you begin working on your estate plan, your attorney will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of both wills and trusts to help you decide what is best for your individual situation. A few key differences are: 

  • Timing - A will and trust take effect at different times. A living trust may immediately transfer ownership of any property you place in the trust to the trust. A will, on the other hand, has no legal effect whatsoever until you have passed away. 

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lombard child support lawyerDifferent states have different methods for handling child support when either parent remarries. Illinois uses a method known as the “income shares model” to determine each parent’s financial obligation to their children and whether one parent must pay the other monthly child support. Parents’ incomes and the parenting time they have are the primary factors of child support payment calculations. Because remarriage potentially affects the remarried parent’s overall financial situation, either parent, paying or receiving, could request that child support payments be modified by an Illinois court. 

Remarriage as Grounds For Child Support Modification

If the parent with the majority of parenting time gets remarried, the other parent - the one making the child support payments - may request a modification. Although the spouse of the remarried parent has no legal obligation to help pay for the children, having a second household income reduces the remarried parent’s financial burdens and gives them more disposable income to provide for the children.

If the parent making payments gets remarried, their child support payments are unlikely to change without otherwise having a significant change in their overall financial situation. Because the financial obligation to their children does not change with a new marriage, courts do not often change child support when a paying parent gets remarried. 

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wheaton divorce lawyerAlthough getting divorced is never easy, the divorce process can quickly become a nightmare if your attorney has become non-responsive or shows up to meetings unprepared. Besides the expense of hiring an unhelpful attorney, you may now be faced with the additional burden of finding and hiring someone else. 

But before you decide to change your divorce attorney, it is important to set clear expectations so you know what could change and what will likely stay the same. There are certain things you can expect of your attorney, but some frustrations with the divorce process are natural and will happen no matter how great your lawyer is. 

When is Hiring a New Attorney a Good Idea? 

Although anyone can generally fire their attorney for any reason or no reason at all, you will be more likely to experience a smooth transition if you take certain steps first. Firing your attorney without having a new attorney already may lead to delays in your case and difficulty getting information transferred to your new lawyer. 

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wheaton estate planning lawyerIf you have already created estate planning documents, but it has been years since you looked at or thought about them, it might be time to speak to an estate planning attorney about updating them. You may find that your circumstances or wishes have changed substantially since the last time you looked at your will, trust, or healthcare planning documents. Even if you are confident that your estate planning documents still accurately reflect your wishes, laws change over time that may affect your estate. It is always a good idea to periodically review your estate plan with an attorney’s help to ensure everything is in order. 

When is it Time to Review my Estate Plan With a Lawyer? 

A variety of life changes may trigger you to want to update your will or trust, or other documents like your Healthcare Power of Attorney and Advance Directives. It may be time to see an attorney about your estate plan when any of the following changes occur: 

  • Family Structure - If you have recently gotten married or divorced, had a child, had a grandchild, or even reconciled with a formerly estranged relative, you may want to update your estate plan to reflect these changes. 

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lombard divorce lawyerIf you are getting divorced but the thought of spending hours in court negotiating with your spouse makes you queasy, there are other options. In fact, only a small percentage of Illinois divorces are actually litigated in court because the alternatives to litigation have so many advantages. 

This article looks at the two primary alternatives to divorce litigation: mediation and collaborative divorce. Although they are similar, mediation and collaborative divorce are not the same, and it is important to understand their differences, so you know whether one of these options is right for you. 

What is Mediation? 

In an Illinois divorce, mediation is a negotiation process involving two spouses and an impartial third-party mediator. Mediators are trained professionals who can guide spouses through negotiations about important issues such as the division of marital property, parenting time, and spousal support.  Mediators are skilled in conflict resolution and can help spouses keep hostility to a minimum. Although each spouse usually still has an attorney, the attorneys are not a part of the mediation process. 

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chicago estate planning lawyerWhile estate planning is important for everyone, it is especially so for high-net-worth individuals. If you own high-value or complex assets, a number of estate planning tools are available to ensure that your wealth is distributed according to your wishes while minimizing your Illinois Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax liability. The greater the value of your estate, the greater the potential liabilities. An experienced attorney can craft an estate plan designed to preserve your wealth. 

Minimizing Taxes During Estate Distribution

Generally, trusts are favored over wills. Trusts serve one very important purpose-- avoiding probate. Probate can be costly and complicated, and it significantly diminishes your estate’s value. There are two types of trusts: revocable and irrevocable. Often, both are used to hold different assets and to serve different purposes. 

A revocable trust allows you to continue making modifications to it throughout your life. You can move assets in and out of a revocable trust. Any wealth contained in a revocable trust will not be subject to probate. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_149602157.jpgGetting used to parenting with your kids in two separate households is a difficult but necessary task for many families adjusting to life after divorce. The start of a new school year puts additional responsibilities on parents as they try to arrange schedules, buy supplies, and manage expenses.

Thinking ahead is crucial for creating an adequate parenting plan. Having a plan in place can help a family transition into the academic year much more smoothly. Whether you have been divorced for years or are still going through a divorce, here are some things to consider addressing in your parenting plan as your children start school. 

Share Unexpected Expenses 

Child support is generally expected to cover a child’s cost of living at one home, but school can add extra unanticipated expenses. Extracurricular activities, books, and fees for tests and college-level courses can add up quickly. 

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lombard power of attorney lawyerA power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person, called the “agent,” the power to make decisions on your behalf. Powers of attorney can be as limited in scope as allowing your agent to handle one specific transaction for you, or as broad as giving your agent general and permanent power to manage all of your finances and medical decision-making. It is very important to consult with a qualified attorney before you execute any power of attorney. These legal documents can be quite complicated, and an experienced attorney will be able to guide you through the process and ensure that your wishes will be carried out correctly. 

What is the Difference Between Durable and Springing Powers of Attorney? 

The main difference between a durable power of attorney and a springing power of attorney is that a durable power of attorney takes effect immediately and gives your agent the ability to start making decisions for you, managing your finances, or any other included powers right away. It is effective for the rest of your life unless you revoke it. A durable power of attorney is not affected if you become incapacitated. One advantage of a durable power of attorney is that since it is already in effect, the transition after you become incapacitated can be seamless. 

A springing power of attorney does not give your agent any powers unless you become incapacitated. In Illinois, you are considered incapacitated when two doctors agree that you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. 

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lombard divorce lawyerIf you have decided to get a divorce, the next step is to choose an Illinois divorce attorney. But what makes a good attorney? Out of the myriad of options, how do you know what to look for, or even where to look?

Choosing a divorce attorney is an important part of the divorce process. The right attorney can make the divorce process smoother, less stressful, and will avoid unnecessary delays and mistakes that can cost you valuable time and money. This article discusses the process of choosing a divorce attorney, as well as some of the things you should look for. 

Where Should I Search for a Divorce Attorney? 

First, begin by speaking with trusted friends and family. If you know anyone who has recently been through a divorce, ask them how they felt about their attorney. You may be surprised to find that some people will even recommend their ex-spouse’s attorney rather than their own, simply because the attorney did such a great job of advocating for their client. 

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lombard estate planning lawyerOne of the most important parts of creating a successful estate plan is deciding who will be responsible for carrying out the wishes of your will. This person is known as an “executor.” Even if you think your estate is small, choosing a trustworthy executor is important for ensuring your last wishes are in good hands. 

What Does an Executor Do? 

Even for a smaller estate, an executor has many responsibilities. It takes about a year to completely settle an average estate, and sometimes it can take much longer. Your executor will file your will with a court to pay off any debt you may have, close all your accounts, hire any necessary experts, and ensure your assets are distributed appropriately. 

What Makes Someone a Good Executor?

Because an executor is entrusted with sensitive personal and financial information, not just anyone should be named as an executor. Ideally, an executor should be:

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lombard estate planning lawyerThere are several options for people in Illinois who want to ensure their assets are protected and their wishes are fulfilled after their death. Among these is something called a “living trust,” and it is one of the most valuable asset protection instruments someone can have. Living trusts are versatile estate planning tools that offer flexibility when transferring assets to loved ones. Better yet, they save your estate from having to go through a time-consuming and expensive probate process

What is the Purpose of a Living Trust? 

A trust is a legal arrangement in which one person - the trustee - holds assets on behalf of another person, known as the beneficiary. A living trust has the advantage of remaining under the control of the trustee for as long as they live, giving the trustee great flexibility over how the assets in the trust are handled. A trustee of a living trust can sell, mortgage, or give away assets held in the trust at any time. Once the trustee passes away, a successor trustee appointed by the original trustee distributes the assets to the trust’s beneficiaries. 

The primary benefit of a living trust is that the grantor - the person who gives the assets to the trust - can also be the trustee. A grantor who sets up a living trust and serves as its trustee retains control over the ability to modify the terms of the trust and control the use of their property however they see fit.

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