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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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Lombard estate planning lawyerIf you asked your children and grandchildren how they think you should divide your assets in your estate plan, you will almost certainly get many different answers. Some of your family might suggest dividing everything equally—most likely without any idea of how to figure out what constitutes “equally.” Others might defer to you entirely since after all, it is your property that is being discussed.

Ironically, the people in your life who say that you should do what you want with your estate plan are likely to be the ones who get upset when they realize they did not receive the inheritance they expected upon your death. Fortunately, an experienced estate planning lawyer can provide the guidance you need to stop family fights about your estate plan before they even begin.

Decide on Your Priorities

According to the law in Illinois, you absolutely have the right to do whatever you wish with the assets and property that comprise your estate. However, it is a good idea for you to at least think about how your decisions are likely going to affect your surviving family members. You may reach the conclusion that you do not care who you upset with your choices since you will not be around to hear about it. Again, you have that right. On the other hand, it may be more important for you to take steps to promote family unity and stable relationships in the wake of your passing. There is a good chance that your estate planning choices could affect your family positively or negatively after your death. You should choose wisely.

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Arlington Heights estate planning attorney

A marriage can have a significant impact on your estate plan. Married couples generally create an estate plan together— all or most of the marital assets are typically passed onto the surviving spouse. Only when he or she passes does the estate plan take effect. However, this is not always the case, particularly if one of the spouses has children from a previous marriage, or if there is a large age difference between the spouses. Moreover, if you are in the middle of a separation or a divorce, which can take over one year to finalize in many cases, it can have a significant impact on how you should handle your estate planning. 

How Marriage Impacts Estate Planning

Marriage makes it easier for you to leave assets to your spouse after death. Even if you fail to do any estate planning or create a will, Illinois intestate succession states that a spouse inherits all of the intestate property. If there are children, then the intestate property is split between the spouse and children 50/50.  

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DuPage County Divorce Attorney asset division

Each week, month, and year, new social media trends get released and new platforms begin to surface. What was popular last week, may not mean much once another Monday rolls around. As smartphones and social media have become more integrated into our lives, it can be easy to forget that there are still personal boundaries when it comes to what should and should not be posted online. Studies have shown that social media content has affected people’s views on their relationships, including romantic ones, sometimes causing issues that could be mitigated without the high usage of social media. With Facebook’s option to list your relationship status, Instagram’s ability to post photos with your new significant other, and Twitter’s propensity to elicit Tweets venting about your ex, your social media posts can greatly impact your Illinois divorce.

Using Your Spouse’s Posts to Your Advantage

If both you and your spouse are heavy social media users, your posts may become evidence in your divorce proceedings. While a judge cannot make a decision based on a single post, online postings can be an indicator of your spouse’s character and reveal white lies he or she may have attempted to tell throughout the divorce. 

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen considering estate planning, it is wise to have some of your assets set aside as liquid assets. Liquid assets are easily turned into cash, the most obvious form being a checking or savings account. Mutual funds, stocks, and money market assets are also considered to be liquid. Non-liquid assets include physical property, which can take months to sell, or ownership in a company.

Immediate Access to Liquid Funds After Your Death

There are specific expenses that will come up very quickly after your death and your survivors may or may not be prepared to pay for these costs without using the funds from your estate. These costs may include:

  • Funeral and Burial Costs - According to Lincoln Heritage Funeral Advantage, the average funeral costs between $7,000 and $12,000. Even a cremation can cost $6,000 to $7,000. 

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DuPage County divorce attorney infidelity

Going through a divorce is never easy. Rightfully so, going through a divorce caused by an affair can be even more heart-wrenching. If you discover that your partner was cheating on you during your marriage, you may experience trust and loyalty issues in future relationships. Additionally, you may also believe that your spouse’s mistress caused this, and therefore you wish to take legal action against her. Within the state of Illinois, an individual may file a civil tort claim for alienation of affection or criminal conversation against the mistress. In this type of claim, the individual may sue the person who ruined her marriage and ask the judge to award damages based on mental disruption, humiliation to the public, and loss of support and/or wages from her spouse.

Criminal Conversation

Despite its name, criminal conversation is a civil case brought up in civil court where the defendant will not face criminal charges or jail time if convicted. Criminal conversation requires ample evidence, and in this case, the individual suing the spouse’s mistress must prove that adultery happened during the duration of the marriage. Such evidence includes pictures and/or videos that are gathered with the help of a private investigator.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWith coronavirus hitting the United States hard, many people are realizing the importance of estate planning. Not only are people worried about their financial future, but they are also concerned about what would happen if they became gravely ill from COVID-19. Luckily, Governor Pritzker determined at the beginning of the pandemic that legal services were still an essential business in Illinois. There is no better time to consider what will happen to your assets after death. Moreover, it is extremely important to get your affairs in order so that your children and grandchildren are properly taken care of.

What Happens to the Home?

Having a will and testament is not enough to keep your property out of probate, which is a long and costly process. Furthermore, if you do not designate beneficiaries and complete the proper legal paperwork to transfer your property after your death, it is possible that any family members who live with you could lose their home. One way to ensure your family stays in your home after your death is by setting up a transfer on death instrument which allows you to designate a beneficiary who will receive interest on the property and avoid probate. Other options include creating a living trust, joint tenancy, or life estate. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney can guide you through which option is best for you and your family.

Thinking About Your Medical Care

At the beginning of the pandemic many patients who were seriously ill were being sedated and put on ventilators to help their breathing. At this point, patients are no longer coherent to make their own medical decisions. According to NextGen Wealth, 80 percent of terminally ill patients do not want to receive intensive care at the end of their lives, yet fewer than 50 percent of terminally ill patients have an advanced care directive that would prevent them from receiving such unwanted care. Other documents that help determine what medical care you will receive include a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) form and a HIPAA authorization form. Designating a medical power of attorney allows another person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so yourself.

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Wheaton estate planning lawyerGeneration-skipping trusts, also known as dynasty trusts, are a way of avoiding estate taxes on an individual’s property and assets after death. It is a legally binding agreement that skips the children’s generation and leaves the inheritance to the grantor’s grandchildren to avoid an estate being taxed twice. With a generation-skipping trust, the children can still access the funds to pay for education, health, maintenance, and support, but upon their death, it automatically goes to their children. Generation-skipping trusts are a type of irrevocable trust, which means they cannot be changed or canceled. For this reason, it is wise to speak with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney who can assist in creating the trust before attempting to do so yourself.

Who Can Be the Beneficiaries?

The fact that this type of trust is called a generation-skipping trust leads many people to believe that the only beneficiaries can be grandchildren. However, the trust can be set up for anyone who is 37.5 years younger than the grantor. If the beneficiary is not a relative, he or she is called a “skip-person.” According to Internal Revenue Code 2651, if the parents die before the grandchild, then the grandchild moves into his or her parent’s place in line and a generation-skipping trust is no longer applicable to them. 

Tax Exemptions Associated with a Generation-Skipping Trust

According to Forbes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced the estate and gift tax exemption is $11.58 million per individual and $23.16 million per couple for 2020. Any estate worth more than these exemption amounts will be taxed at 40 percent federally. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which went into effect in 2018, nearly doubled the exemption amounts. This act is set to expire at the end of 2025, at which point Congress will need to renew it for the exemptions to remain as large as they have been. 

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DuPage County divorce attorney child support

A divorce involves many issues that need resolving, especially when children are involved. When determining child support, the financial status of both parents is seriously considered. If the non-custodial parent is providing support, the child’s medical expenses may cause an additional financial burden. These additional expenses could cause the judge to lessen the amount of support given to the custodial parent. Whether you are the non-custodial or the custodial parent, it is important to consult with a skilled family law attorney if you have any questions or concerns regarding your child support payments.

Determining Support

Child support calculations can be incredibly complex. Within the state of Illinois, child support payments are usually paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to provide additional financial support for the child’s basic needs such as food and clothing. Payments can also be used to fund tuition, transportation, housing expenses, extracurricular activities, and medical care costs. These factors, as well as the net income of both parents, will be used to determine the amount of support the custodial parent will receive from the non-custodial parent. 

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DuPage County family law attorney child custody

During a divorce, one or both spouses may seek counseling or therapy. Due to the universal Doctor-Patient Confidentiality Agreement, patients are reassured that the sessions are private. However, it is possible your therapy records could end up in the courtroom during your divorce proceeding. When this occurs, it is important to hire a family law attorney to protect your rights. 

Record Contents

Typically, if you are attending therapy or seeking the help of a professional counselor, you may have overwhelming issues that affect you psychologically and hinder your daily activities. Discussing them with an unbiased individual can be comforting and allow you to process your emotions. Problems may involve alcohol/drug addiction, a tragic event, or mental health issues. Within a divorce proceeding, these issues may negatively affect spousal support, and/or the allocation of parental responsibilities.  

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