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DuPage County estate planning attorneyWhile some people have the good fortune of being born into a family with significant wealth that was amassed several generations ago, most others work extremely hard to accumulate the assets and holdings that comprise their estate. As far as your estate is concerned, you have likely put in many hours and made responsible decisions to earn what you currently own. With this in mind, you have every right to decide what will be done with your property after your death.

It is important to remember that while you do have the right to make estate planning choices for yourself, decisions such as these will affect others. The choices you make in your estate plan will almost certainly impact your loved ones and close family members. That impact could be negative, positive, or neutral, depending on your unique circumstances and how you manage them.

Avoiding Unfounded Assumptions

A recent study conducted by Fidelity Investments found that an alarming number of aging individuals are not on the same page with their adult children when it comes to the topic of estate management. For example, Fidelity discovered that adult children tend to believe that their parents’ estates are worth far less than they actually—about $280,000 less on average. Additionally, the study found that nine out of ten parents plant to presume that one of their children will serve as executor of their estate. More than 25 percent of adult children, however, had no idea about their parents’ expectations.

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Lombard divorce attorneyWhen divorce becomes more of an eventuality than a possibility, you will need to begin thinking about the attorney you will hire to protect your interests. Technically speaking, you are not required to retain legal counsel during a divorce, but to proceed without one can be a costly mistake.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of attorneys to choose from in the greater Chicago area, so how do you know which one is right for you? During your search, you should compile a list of several law firms or lawyers whose values seem to align with yours, then schedule an appointment to meet with them. It is also helpful to prepare a list of questions that can help you determine the best choice. These may include:

  • How long have you practiced family law? – While young lawyers certainly deserve a chance to prove themselves, there is no substitute for experience. It is also worth finding out how much of the attorney's practice is dedicated to divorce and family-related matters. If your candidate is a personal injury lawyer who handles one or two divorce cases per year, you may want to look elsewhere.
  • Will I speak directly with you each time I call? – This question addresses two concerns at the same time. First, how accessible will your attorney be? Your divorce can be slowed considerably if you are not able to communicate well with your lawyer. The second concern is that of the division of labor. Is your attorney planning to remain active in your case or will legwork be handed off to an associate, paralegal, or secretary?
  • How much do you charge? – Again, this question includes multiple components. Some attorneys offer divorce representation for a flat rate, which can be suddenly disregarded later as your case becomes more complex. Most, however, charge an hourly rate, so it is important to know what constitutes billable time and what the smallest billing increment is. For example, if you attorney says that time spent answering your email is billable, will he or she charge in increments of 6 minutes—tenths of an hour—or 15 minutes—quarters of an hour? The difference between the two can add up quickly.
  • How committed are you to reaching an amicable settlement? – Studies have shown that a negotiated divorce agreement is often more stable and easier to follow than a judgment issued by the court. If such an agreement can be reached, you and your attorney should remain committed to the process until a resolution is found. Some attorneys are quick to push for litigation, while others all but refuse to enter the courtroom. By asking questions, you can ascertain where your candidate stands and whether the intended approach matches your needs.

Of course, there are dozens of other questions you may have. These are just a few of the most basic ones to get the ball rolling.

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Posted on in Child Custody

In recent years, people are marrying later in life.  Or they have health issues that make it harder to conceive a child.  In order not to miss out on creating a family, they review different options for expanding their families if they cannot do so naturally.  Some options include adoption and surrogacy.

Surrogacy requires a third party to carry a fertilized egg to term for a couple who can&t have a child of their own.  Traditional surrogacy requires the surrogate to provide their genetic material to create the baby.  The sperm can be provided by the intended parent or by a third party donor.  Gestational surrogacy does not require the surrogate to supply an egg so there is no relation between the surrogate and the baby.  Both kinds of surrogacy require a legal contract to ensure transference of custody after the birth.

Surrogacy has gained popularity lately, partially due to the number of celebrities who have used the process to become parents like Jimmy Fallon, Elton John and Nicole Kidman.  But it has also gained esteem in Illinois because of the Gestational Surrogacy Act of 2005.  So much so that couples come from around the United States and Europe to have their surrogate births in Illinois to benefit from the pro-surrogacy climate.  The major benefit of the Gestational Surrogacy Act is that it transfers parentage immediately after birth which eliminates the need to visit adoption court and eliminates a possible custody battle with the surrogate.

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A recent Chicago Tribune article details the results of a new study about children of divorce and their future religious habits. The data overwhelmingly shows that adults who experienced their parents divorcing during their childhoods are much less likely to attend church or worship regularly in the future. In fact, children of intact marriages were twice as likely to attend church than children of divorce, even where the divorce was amicable and relatively stress-free.

Although this phenomenon is quite common, according to the study, religious leaders have largely overlooked this reason for an overall decline in church attendance and participation, particularly in Protestant churches. Another reason for the lack of attendance on the part of children of divorce might be to their perceived isolation or lack of understanding by other church members during the time period in which their parents divorced. Some scholars believe that if churches and church leaders were more aware of the link between divorce and church attendance, it is an issue that could be addressed and remedied.  According to one pastor, churches can improve their responses to families in the midst of divorce simply by reaching out to these families, both adults and children, in order to better understand and meet their needs. If a church actively helps and supports family members through a difficult time, future church attendance may become more attractive to children when they become adults if they recall support and caring by church leaders during their time of crisis.

People going through divorces may benefit not only from emotional and spiritual support, but also from the legal, financial, and practical support of skilled Arlington Heights divorce attorneys. When you have concrete information that can assist you in making these crucial decisions, you will place yourself in the best position possible to achieve your goals. Whether you are in the midst of a divorce or simply contemplating divorce as an option, our office can provide you with the support that you need at the time that you need it most.

Posted on in Divorce

In 2003 an article published in USA Today reported that there were two growing but conflicting bodies of research that dealt with the reactions of children to their parents’ divorce. Judith Wallerstein, a psychologist and author, asserts that kids who come from divorced homes "lack role models for a healthy marriage," and that the majority grew up in homes where the parents stayed angry. Wallerstein, and those on her side of the debate argue that children from divorced households "entered adulthood as worried, underachieving, self-deprecating, and sometimes angry." She asserts that stepfamilies aren’t necessary good either, and can lead to bonding issues later in life, and that children with divorced parents experience greater levels of substance abuse and earlier sexual experiences.  

On the other side of the fence is developmental psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington, who recognizes the challenges of raising kids in divorced households but argues that the negative effects of divorce "are exaggerated while the positive effects are ignored." She cites the fact that 70 percent of adult children of divorce "say divorce is an acceptable solution to an unhappy marriage, even with children." Forty percent of adults from non-divorced families agree. It’s worse for kids with unhappy parents to stay caught in the middle of arguments and negativity than to have a happy, albeit "broken" home to grow up in.

The debate is still raging nearly a decade later—the Huffington Post has recently published a series of articles about divorce and how it affected grown children later in their lives. The consensus seems to be that if the marriage is particularly nasty, it very well could be better for children to split. The important tip is that parents should be open, willing to discuss, and able to recognize that children are an integral part of a family, even when it falls apart.

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Posted on in Divorce

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act is the legal basis for child custody proceedings in Illinois. The Act has statutes on child custody matters in case of dissolution or invalidation of marriage, as well as for governing a case of a parent petitioning for custody in the county where they are permanent residents. The IMDMA also talks about matters that might not be as common in courtrooms, and we will look at one of these matters.

The right of a stepparent to file a petition for custody under certain conditions is part of the IMDMA. Since this is not the most common arrangement, there are conditions for these proceedings. The conditions list all of the following:

- the child is at least 12 years old

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