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arlington heights divorce lawyerIllinois firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical caregivers are real-life superheroes who handle more than their fair share of challenges at work. Unfortunately, the unpredictable and demanding work schedule of these jobs also means that first responders often face additional challenges in their relationships. Emergency response employees have higher rates of divorce and, when they get divorced, they must deal with unique concerns as a result of their job. 

Why Are First Responders at Greater Risk of Divorce? 

First responders are at higher risk of matrimonial dissatisfaction because they work long hours, frequently face dangerous situations, observe traumatizing events, and often struggle with substance abuse and mental illness. In addition to the typical challenges a married couple deals with, these issues can be very difficult for the first responder and his or her spouse to manage. 

What are Unique Divorce Issues First Responders Face? 

Divorces involving first responders face several complications that must be anticipated and carefully planned around. These include, but are not limited to: 

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dupage county estate planning lawyerWhen you are grieving the loss of a family member, the last thing you want to deal with is a problem regarding their estate plan. Even when estate administration goes smoothly, it can be emotionally difficult for the surviving loved ones. Unfortunately, sometimes concerns over a will’s validity do arise. Family members may get a rather unpleasant surprise when they get around to reading their decedent’s will in some cases. Sometimes the terms of the will are much different from what you expected to find. It could be that the will leaves everything to an individual or organization the family is not familiar with. Or, it could be that the will appears to have been signed well after the decedent became incapacitated. Whatever tips you off that your family member’s will is not valid, there are ways an attorney can help you challenge the will and potentially have it set aside. 

What Are Some Signs that My Relative’s Will is Not Valid?

There are a number of factors that might suggest to those who knew the testator that the will in question is not what the testator would have made of his own accord. A few signs that should lead you to investigate further include: 

  • Incapacity timing - If your relative had an illness like Alzheimer’s or dementia, their will may not be valid unless it was signed before they lost the mental capacity to do so. You may be able to challenge the will on grounds that your relative was not competent to make a will. 

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lombard estate planning lawyerYou have probably seen at least one murder mystery movie where a wealthy individual is killed for their money, typically by an heir. It is a fairly common trope for impatient heirs to take matters into their own hands in order to get their share of a high-value estate faster. Sadly, this trope does sometimes play out in real life. You may have seen one of many true crime shows feature a terrifying episode where a person marries a wealthy individual, intending to murder their spouse and claim the entire marital estate. Certainly, few would want their killer to inherit anything at all. This is where “slayer statutes” come into play. In general, these laws prevent murderers from inheriting any part of their victim’s estate. 

What if the Killer Does Not Get Convicted?

If the alleged slayer does get convicted of the murder, this establishes conclusive evidence that they are barred from inheriting. However, it is not necessary. To convict a person of a crime, the state must prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime. However, to activate the slayer statute and bar the killer from inheriting, one need only show that it was more likely than not that the murder occurred as alleged. 

What if the Decedent Had an Estate Plan Making the Slayer a Beneficiary?

There is something of a legal presumption that the victim would have changed their mind about leaving anything to their killer, but was robbed of the opportunity to do so. In this case, the victim’s will or trust will be overridden. The estate will be administered as if the slayer were deceased. 

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lombard family law attorneySummertime presents unique challenges to divorced or never-married parents who share underage children in Illinois. Children are out of school, and younger children require full-time care, forcing parents to get creative in finding childcare options and summer activities that are affordable and feasible for their schedules. Coordinating frequent visits and transportation from house to house adds to the complexity of summer schedules. If you are creating or modifying a parenting plan in Illinois, here are three tips to help you co-parent successfully in the coming summer months. 

Plan Ahead

Some parents specifically include their summer parenting plan in their initial parenting agreement. Whenever possible, taking this route is recommended for several reasons. First, it allows parents to avoid conflict by making decisions ahead of time. Second, it encourages parents to provide a stable and thoughtful environment for the children during an otherwise unstructured time. Finally, it gives children an idea of what to expect, preventing misbehavior stemming from anxiety or uncertainty about the future. 

Be Flexible

Unexpected vacations, sleepovers, or group activities can be among the best parts of summer. Parents who adhere to their parenting plan too rigidly may be setting themselves up for conflict with each other and with the children, preventing children from enjoying the spontaneity of the summer months. Parents who can communicate well often enjoy greater flexibility, so working on strategies that allow for seamless communication can be especially helpful in the summer. Discussing travel plans over a designated email address can allow for non-confrontational planning and documented discussions. 

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wheaton divorce lawyerEven when you know that getting divorced is the right choice, the process can still be very difficult. Most people feel a range of complex emotions, including guilt, sorrow, anger, and even regret. Long before the divorce is final, you are likely to be ready to move to the next stage of your life, and you may feel frustrated by how long the process is taking. If any of this sounds familiar to you, here are six tips to help you get through your DuPage County divorce

Strategies For Getting Through Divorce

  • Surround yourself with friends and family - Divorce often means losing the person with whom you used to share important details about your day. Although you may not be able to replace the role your spouse filled, having people to turn to for friendship, support, and a listening ear can make a big difference in your happiness during divorce. 

  • Practice forgiveness - Divorce usually leaves people feeling at least a little angry - angry about infidelity, emotional neglect, abuse, or even just the way things turned out. Holding on to the bitterness of past actions only ends up hurting you in the long turn. Forgiveness is a skill that we can get better at, and practicing forgiveness after divorce will help you move on. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_128636027.jpgIt is rather common for people to think of estate planning as an end-of-life task. Estate planning attorneys are often called to visit clients in skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, and hospice centers. However, waiting until this point to make a will can have negative ramifications. One of the major requirements for a will to be considered legal and enforceable is that the testator (the person creating their will) must have the mental capacity to do so. This standard is known as “testamentary capacity.” It is designed to prevent those who are incapacitated from executing a will that they would not have agreed to if they were not incapacitated. It also protects elders and their families against those who would exercise undue influence over a disoriented adult during the estate planning process. 


Testamentary capacity is a relatively low bar - even those with early forms of Alzheimer’s or dementia may be able to make a will under the right circumstances. An attorney will be able to apply this standard to help determine whether someone still has the capacity to make a will. 

How is Testamentary Capacity Determined?

There are a few rather specific standards that must be met for a person to have testamentary capacity. They are: 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_2003213273.jpgEven for spouses who get along fairly well, divorce in Illinois can be a complex and expensive affair. Spouses may wonder whether sharing a divorce attorney could save them time and money, especially if they want to cooperatively reach a resolution on issues like asset division and child custody.  

However, no matter how well-intentioned spouses are towards each other, the fact is that divorce attorneys may only represent one partner in a divorcing couple. Attorneys are required to abide by ethical obligations that protect their clients, such as maintaining the attorney-client privilege and never allowing conflicts of interest to mar their representation of a client. Because even the most cooperative divorcing spouses necessarily have different and often opposing interests, an attorney representing both spouses would run into obvious conflicts of interest. 

Why Should I Hire My Own Attorney?

Even if your spouse decides not to hire a lawyer and represent themselves, you will be better off if you hire your own attorney. Having a lawyer review your proposed settlement to make sure you are getting a fair property division and making a sensible parenting agreement can help you avoid going to court and having a judge refuse to allow the divorce settlement because it is not equitable or in your child’s best interests. Divorce decrees are generally permanent, and an attorney can help you avoid errors or poor decisions that may affect you for many years. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_277528928.jpgMost Illinois couples who are going through a divorce can avoid the difficulty and expense of courtroom divorce litigation by using the help of a trained divorce mediator. Because mediation is so successful and it saves both Illinois courts and divorcing spouses time and money, judges usually require spouses to undergo mediation before their divorce can advance to a trial. 

However, the mediation process is not always feasible and, even for those who try it in good faith, it is not always successful. If mediation efforts have not yielded a mutually satisfying divorce decree, you may be wondering what comes next. 

Why Does Mediation Fail? 

Mediation can fail for many reasons. One or both spouses may be unwilling to cooperate or believe they will get a better “deal” if they present their case to a judge. Some spouses may be too hostile to reasonably work together. Other couples may try hard to negotiate but will still have unbridgeable differences in how they see certain facts or priorities. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_255529744.jpgThere is very little risk in making a will, as you can revoke it at any time so long as you are competent to do so. A lot of people revoke and replace their wills for a number of reasons. If you got divorced and remarried, you might want to revoke the will that left everything to your former spouse. If you had a child, or even a new grandchild, you might want to cancel your old will and create a new one that includes them. Some people simply change their minds about giving part of their estate to a particular beneficiary as their lives and priorities change. Fortunately, revoking a will is not usually overly complicated. It is still best to consult a lawyer to make sure that your revocation is effective. 

How Can I Revoke My Will?

If you decide that you no longer want your existing will to control your estate, there are a few simple ways to revoke it. Once it is revoked, it will have no legal effect. It is a good idea to make sure that you have a replacement plan of some kind. In Illinois, you can revoke your will by: 

  • Destruction - Shredding, burning, ripping up, or otherwise physically destroying your will is a legal way to revoke it. However, this may not be the best method. There could be a dispute over who actually destroyed it and whether it was destroyed purposely or simply lost. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_290922173.jpgThe terminology used in estate planning can be challenging to understand. If you feel a little confused when you read about estate planning topics because of all the “legalese,” you are far from alone. Many of the legal terms used in the estate planning field have very specific meanings. Some terms are used when discussing trusts, but not wills, or vice versa. Other terms you may know are outdated and no longer in use. It can be difficult to keep track of all the legal terms you might hear or read when it comes to wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and guardianships. This is one of many reasons that it is very important to let an attorney help you build your estate plan.

What Are Some Legal Terms I Might Need to Know?

Some important terms you might want to be familiar with when you start working on your estate plan include: 

  • Testator - The person who is making their will. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1915433320.jpgMarijuana is now readily available to residents of Illinois. Coming in the form of vape pens, hard candies, chocolates, and traditional herb, marijuana products are easy to use with very little thought as to whether there may be negative consequences to this change in policy. While marijuana is often marketed as a sort of panacea for illness, pain, and other ailments, like all intoxicating substances, marijuana use can have negative side effects for its users. Additionally, just because marijuana is legal does not mean that parents in Illinois have free reign to use it in ways that could interfere with their parenting. If you are wondering whether your marijuana use could be used against you in a divorce or child custody dispute, read on. 

Marijuana Use And Parenting Time

The Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act prohibits marijuana use, in and of itself, to be used against a parent in a dispute about parenting time or parental responsibilities. Like alcohol, responsible marijuana use is legal and does not present a threat to a parent’s ability to parent well or make responsible decisions on behalf of their child. 

But irresponsible marijuana use can certainly be used against a parent whose cannabis habits prevent them from appropriately caring for their child. Just like any other drug, using cannabis when children are around, allowing cannabis use to cause a parent to be less alert or responsive, or driving under the influence of cannabis can cause a court to question parental fitness. 

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lombard estate planning lawyerAs much as we would all like to be part of a loving, old-sitcom-style family where everyone gets along and loves each other, this is simply not the reality for many people. Some people who are trying to create an estate plan have adult children who have not spoken to each other in decades. Others have seen their relatives extensively litigate over another family member’s estate. Some have witnessed utter chaos erupt when a now-deceased relative was nearing the end of their life, as no two family members could agree on how their medical care should be handled. 

If this sounds like your family, there are a few steps you and your attorney can take to both protect yourself during your later years and avoid any further conflict over your own estate or end-of-life care

Tips for Testamentary Planning When Your Family Does Not Get Along

Angry, disinherited, or jealous family members have been known to raise challenges simply to spite each other. You probably already know if this is a risk. Some tips for making sure your estate plan goes unchallenged include: 

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arlington heights estate planning lawyerIt often does not even occur to young adults that they should have an estate plan at all. You may see creating an estate plan that is likely to change before you need it as a pointless endeavor. However, there are a number of strong reasons that younger adults should consider creating at least a simple estate plan. It can be very difficult for young people to consider their own mortality in this way, but it is important that you do. No one is impervious to things like accidents or illnesses. Having a legally sound estate plan in place is a good idea for everyone. An estate planning attorney can help determine what type of estate plan makes sense for your personal situation. 

Why Should Young People Make an Estate Plan?

Life and death can be incredibly unpredictable. For this reason alone, it is a smart move for all adults to establish an estate plan, whether or not they think it will become relevant anytime soon. Reasons young adults should consider creating an estate plan include: 

  • Protecting families - When a person dies at a young age, the grief their family and loved ones experience can be immense. Trying to figure out what to do with your belongings while navigating intestate probate can add chaos and difficulty to the already horrible situation your family would be in. An estate plan that sets out which friends or relatives should receive what can be extremely helpful for your survivors. 

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lombard divorce lawyerThe issue of inheritance is often a cause of great contention in Illinois divorces. For spouses who have been married for decades, money given from a deceased family member to one spouse may feel like something of a betrayal to the other spouse, especially if the spouse who receives the inheritance decides not to spend it in ways that would benefit the marriage or children. 

In other situations, couples may be very generous with each other’s inheritance, and even count on it as part of their long-term financial planning. No matter how an inheritance has been handled, the issue can get thorny when a couple starts discussing divorce. Deciding how to handle an inheritance in the asset division process can be challenging, especially when inheritance funds have been mixed with marital funds. If you are considering divorce and anticipate dealing with inheritance, consider getting the help of a DuPage County attorney with experience in both family law and estate planning

What is the Difference Between Marital and Non-Marital Property in Illinois? 

Illinois divorce law requires marital property to be divided equitably. This means the 50/50 split that is often seen in community property states is less common as Illinois judges try to find a balance that is fair, rather than exactly equal. Determining how to split marital property equitably requires that all marital property be fairly accounted for. Usually, assets and debt that were owned by one spouse before the marriage remain the property and responsibility, respectively, of that spouse. In contrast, any income, assets, debt, savings, or investments made during a marriage are usually considered marital property. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1923186224.jpgMore and more modern couples are choosing not to marry. Each couple has their own reasons for making this decision. Some feel that they do not need “a piece of paper” to demonstrate their love and commitment. Others simply are not comfortable with the idea of marriage. However, there are certain legal protections that marriage offers in the event that one spouse becomes incapacitated or passes away. Spouses almost automatically inherit from each other in the absence of an estate plan, and will likely be called upon to make medical decisions for each other when necessary. Unmarried couples do not enjoy these protections. 

Fortunately, there are ways other than getting married for committed couples to protect each other. Through a little careful estate planning with the help of a qualified attorney, unmarried couples can set in place largely the same safety nets that married couples are granted. It will likely cost much less than a wedding. 

What Documents Should Committed but Unmarried Couples Have in Place?

It is important that couples who intend to stay together in a committed, long-term relationship address a few estate planning issues so that they will be well-prepared and protected in the event that one partner becomes incapacitated or passes away during the relationship. Some smart tactics these couples can use include: 

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen you think of estate planning, you probably think of wills and trusts - the ways people decide how their property should be distributed after they pass away. This is known as testamentary planning. It is a very important goal of estate planning. However, there is another side of estate planning that addresses what will happen to both you and your belongings later in life should you one day lose the capacity to make your own decisions. This is known as incapacity planning. A comprehensive estate plan will involve both testamentary planning and incapacity planning. 

What is Testamentary Planning?

Testamentary planning is the classic form of estate planning. During this process, you will decide who should receive your property when you are gone. The two most common instruments for testamentary planning are wills and trusts. In modern times, trusts are increasingly becoming the preferred vehicle for transferring assets. They offer a number of advantages, most notably by allowing you to bypass probate. 

However, parents and guardians of minor children will generally be advised to use a will in addition to any trust, as it is through a will that an alternate guardian can be named for the children. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1277271616.jpgEven after going your separate ways in an Illinois divorce, your ex will still have a significant impact on your life when you share children. For many divorced couples, raising children after a divorce is a very challenging issue, and finding an arrangement that works can be frustrating and time-consuming. When parents struggle to work within traditional parenting agreement constructs, it may be helpful to get creative and turn to alternative methods of co-parenting. Depending on your needs, one of these three unique co-parenting methods may be helpful. 

Parallel Parenting

For some couples, every point of contact is a fight waiting to happen. When one or both parents are uncooperative or hostile towards each other, they risk constantly exposing their children to conflict. To protect the children from the psychological damage this can cause, parallel parenting offers co-parents an opportunity to treat parenting as a business enterprise. Couples who use parallel parenting strategies only communicate when absolutely necessary, and will usually do so with designated communication channels like a special email address. If you choose to use parallel parenting, be sure to include as many details as possible in your court-approved parenting plan. That way, when issues arise, you already have solutions and can avoid further conflict. 

Living Together

Even after divorce, some couples who can get along well continue living together. They may do this to save money, to provide their children with stability, or to save each other the difficulty of moving children between distant households. Although living together is not a viable arrangement for couples with serious communication issues or difficulty avoiding conflict, it allows some families to meet their needs while causing the children minimal upheaval. 

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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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