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wheaton estate planning lawyer Trusts are rapidly replacing wills as the main form of testamentary estate planning. You do not need to be a millionaire for using a trust to make sense. In terms of deciding who gets what when you have passed away, a trust can do everything a will can do while also allowing for some discretion and more gradual distribution. There are a number of benefits trusts offer that wills cannot. Unless you have minor children, you may not need a will at all if you establish a trust. There are also numerous different types of trusts that all offer distinct advantages and disadvantages. An attorney can help you understand all your options so that you can make a well-informed decision. 

Advantages of Using a Trust, Not a Will

Some of the benefits that have people turning to trusts as their primary testamentary document include: 

  • Gradual distributions - When you use a will, your beneficiaries get whatever gifts you have left for them in their entirety immediately. Depending on your beneficiaries and how they are with financial management, this could be a recipe for disaster. With a trust, you can have money slowly distributed to them over time instead of handing them a lump sum. 

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lombard family law attorneyMany couples in Illinois feel as though they have lost a romantic connection or have differences too great to overcome. At the same time, these couples may not be ready to completely commit to a divorce - now or ever. When this happens, Illinois law offers an alternative option that may be a better fit: Legal separation. If you want to officially separate from your spouse but do not want a divorce, read this overview of legal separation and then talk to a DuPage family law attorney about your options. 

What is a Legal Separation in Illinois? 

When married couples who want to separate move out of the marital home, they may be physically separated but they have not yet gotten legally separated. Legal separation is not merely living apart; rather, it is a legal term that describes formally separating your life with your spouse in virtually the same way as a divorce without actually getting divorced. 

For example, in a divorce spouses must resolve the following issues:

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Lombard Probate Law AttorneyCreating an estate plan can take some effort. You have to carefully consider who you would like to receive what. There can be an emotional aspect to estate planning. There is some legal strategizing involved. The last thing you want is for someone to dispute your estate planning documents when you are no longer here to defend yourself and your plans. Disputes are common when a relative is left out of the estate plan and becomes upset. They may also occur simply because your survivors are not getting along with each other. Document disputes are not always raised in good faith. There are steps you and your lawyer can take now to reduce the likelihood of a dispute later. 

Ways to Stop a Future Dispute Before it Happens

If you have any suspicion that someone may have an interest in disputing your documents later, inform your attorney. They may recommend strategies like: 

  • Private planning - Your lawyer may ask that you come to all appointments with them alone rather than with a relative or other intended beneficiary. Meeting with your lawyer to do your estate planning in private may help remove any appearance of undue influence by one beneficiary. In fact, it may be preferable to not tell your loved ones that you are engaged in estate planning until the process is complete. 

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illnois divorce lawyerThe purchase of a first home is a major milestone in many couples’ marriages. Unfortunately, the division of the marital home later in divorce is often a difficult issue to resolve, especially when only one spouse has their name on the title or purchased the home before the marriage. If you are thinking about getting divorced and are wondering whether you have any claim to the home you lived in during your marriage, make sure you have a skilled Illinois divorce attorney on your side. 

Homes Can Be Personal Property, Marital Property, or Both

Before assets can be divided in a divorce, they need to be categorized as either personal or marital property. For smaller assets like a car or a piece of jewelry, determining the category is usually fairly straightforward. For a home, however, the process can be a little more difficult. 

For example, if you waited until after you were married to buy a house but only one spouse had good enough credit to purchase the home, the home may appear to be owned exclusively by that spouse. But marital property is not necessarily determined by whose name is on the title of the home; rather, if an item was bought after a marriage using both spouses’ incomes, the item is considered marital property no matter who is listed as the owner. 

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illnois divorce lawyerThe purchase of a first home is a major milestone in many couples’ marriages. Unfortunately, the division of the marital home later in divorce is often a difficult issue to resolve, especially when only one spouse has their name on the title or purchased the home before the marriage. If you are thinking about getting divorced and are wondering whether you have any claim to the home you lived in during your marriage, make sure you have a skilled Illinois divorce attorney on your side. 

Homes Can Be Personal Property, Marital Property, or Both

Before assets can be divided in a divorce, they need to be categorized as either personal or marital property. For smaller assets like a car or a piece of jewelry, determining the category is usually fairly straightforward. For a home, however, the process can be a little more difficult. 

For example, if you waited until after you were married to buy a house but only one spouse had good enough credit to purchase the home, the home may appear to be owned exclusively by that spouse. But marital property is not necessarily determined by whose name is on the title of the home; rather, if an item was bought after a marriage using both spouses’ incomes, the item is considered marital property no matter who is listed as the owner. 

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wheaton estate planning lawyerAs people live longer and longer lives, the chances that you could one day experience age-related incapacity increase. Even if it is only for a short time in your very advanced age, most people will at some point lose the ability to think clearly and make decisions on their own behalf. While no one wants to go through an illness that affects the mind, like dementia, the reality is that many of us will. Planning for incapacity is a wise choice; the younger and healthier you are when you do it, the stronger your plan may be. The entire process of getting the documents you need to prepare for such an event does not take long, although you should think carefully about your choices. You have quite a bit to gain and nothing to lose by doing this important type of planning. 

Reasons You Need an Incapacity Plan

You may have already seen an elderly family member go through age-related incapacity. For many people, watching a loved one struggle with age-related incapacity is what prompts them to make a plan of their own. Advantages of having this type of plan in place include: 

  • Family harmony - Everyone has their own personal opinion about how end-of-life matters should be handled. Sadly, disagreements about these issues can tear a family apart when it should be banding together. Adult children may have relationship-altering disputes about whether their incapacitated mother with terminal cancer should be given life-prolonging treatments or moved to hospice to be kept comfortable. Incapacity planning lets you make these choices for yourself, so there will be no reason for your family to fight. 

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wheaton alimony lawyerAlthough alimony is less common in Illinois divorces than it used to be, it is still frequently ordered or negotiated between a divorcing couple. Technically known as “spousal maintenance,” alimony is intended to allow a spouse to recover from the financial consequences of separation from their partner, especially if the marriage lasted a long time and the spouse receiving alimony sacrificed all or part of their career potential to raise a family. If you are seeking an Illinois divorce and are wondering how long alimony lasts, read on and then contact a DuPage County family law attorney who can help. 

Types of Alimony in Illinois Divorces

There are four basic types of spousal maintenance allowed in an Illinois divorce, and the type of alimony will have a significant influence on how long alimony payments last. The four different types of alimony are: 

  • Temporary alimony - Interim or temporary alimony is ordered during divorce proceedings and may be used to pay for a spouse’s attorney fees and/or the cost of a spouse’s living needs until the divorce is finalized. Temporary alimony is intended to allow spouses to leave marriages they would otherwise be trapped in for lack of funds. 

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lombard asset division lawyerBecause many Illinois couples today get married well after they complete their education and begin building their net worth, many marriages begin when one or both spouses already own property. When one spouse outright owns or has a mortgage on a house and the other spouse moves in, the process of dividing the value of the house in a divorce can be complex and contentious. 

The spouse who owns the house will generally argue that, since he or she owned the home prior to the marriage, it is his or her individual property. The spouse who lived in the home, often for many years or even decades, will argue that without his or her financial assistance or help around the house, the home - and the spouse who owns it - would not have the property value or equity ownership it has today. For a brief overview of how individually owned property may be handled in a divorce, read this blog and then get your specific questions answered by an experienced Illinois asset division attorney.

Determining Whether a Home is Personal or Marital Property

When a spouse owns all or part of a home when a marriage begins, that preexisting equity generally remains the property of that spouse. This is especially true when a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement exists that protects the spouse’s equity in the home. 

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lombard estate planning lawyerAs a parent, you probably do not even want to think about what would happen if you were to pass away before they become adults. It can be a very upsetting idea. However, addressing the possibility head-on by making an estate plan that includes your children is the best way to set your mind at ease. People are waiting longer to have or adopt children, and it is fairly common for men to have children later in life. While all parents of minor children should have an estate plan aimed at providing for the children, it is particularly important for older parents. By creating a comprehensive estate plan, you can help ensure that if the worst were to happen, your children would be provided for. When protecting minor children in your estate plan is your main goal, it is important to work with an attorney so that you can be confident in your plan. 

Tips for Protecting Your Children in an Estate Plan

Since you cannot leave everything directly to your minor children, there will be some strategizing involved in your estate planning. Some tips and things to consider include: 

  • Combine wills and trusts - If you are wondering whether you should use a will or a trust when you have minor children, the correct answer is probably “both.” You will need a will to name your preferred successor guardian - the person you would want to raise your children in your absence. However, a trust may provide greater flexibility so that distributions can be made over time. You probably do not want your children to receive a lump sum when they come of age. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_dupage-county-estate-planning-lawyer.jpgQuite a few people think that making a simple will is all they need to do to check “estate planning” off their to-do list. However, there is a lot more to a complete estate plan than a will. A strong estate plan should involve multiple documents for different purposes. Your estate plan should also include provisions for your own care in the event that you experience incapacity in your advanced age. Aside from that, a will alone cannot accomplish what your beneficiaries may need after you are gone. In most cases, a trust should be used to protect those you wish to benefit from your estate. Online do-it-yourself kits rarely contain everything you actually need in your estate plan. Your best bet is to work with an experienced estate planning lawyer to ensure that your estate plan is complete and comprehensive. 

What Do I Need to Know About Building a Comprehensive Estate Plan?

Do not be intimidated by the list of documents you might need. An attorney can guide you through the decisions you will be asked to make as you build a strong estate plan. Keep in mind that you should:

  • Consider your beneficiaries - You know the individuals you will leave your estate to. Are they good with money? If you give them a lump sum, will they reinvest it and grow their savings or business? Or will it be gone within a year or two? Many beneficiaries would be better off receiving controlled annual or discretionary distributions. If that is the case for your loved ones, you should strongly consider using a trust over a will. 

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lombard divorce lawyerWhile much has been written about going through a divorce with a spouse who suffers from narcissism, depression, or even psychopathy, borderline personality disorder (or BPD) is so common and unpredictable that many people who get divorced do not even know that their spouse suffers from a specific mental illness - they just know they cannot take it anymore. 

Between one and five percent of the population has BPD and, for unknown reasons, most of them appear to be women. BPD often manifests with symptoms that are similar to those of other personality disorders - unpredictable mood changes, attachment difficulties, impulsiveness, and other difficulties with self-regulation. These behaviors can make it difficult to stay married, but can also make it very difficult to get divorced. If you know or suspect your spouse may have BPD, it is important to be prepared for the implications this may have on your Illinois divorce

Why Is Divorcing Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder So Hard? 

Abandonment is a common fear of those who suffer from BDP; ironically, the unpredictable behavior of someone with BPD often pushes away friends and family, leaving them left to face their fear of being alone. Additionally, the threat of abandonment makes people with BPD lash out in increasingly unpredictable and erratic ways, virtually all but guaranteeing that their partner will leave. A spouse with BPD going through a divorce may become self-destructive, self-harming, or even suicidal. 

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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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