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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen most people think about estate planning, they often focus the transfer of assets from one generation to the next. Wills and trusts—the most common vehicles for transferring such assets—represent a significant part of the estate planning process, but there are many other considerations that should be addressed. One of the most often overlooked aspects of estate planning is preparing yourself and your home to make life easier as you age, and doing so often takes time, money, and self-awareness regarding your current and possible limitations.

A Glaring Need

According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 12 million Americans over the age of 65 live alone. A disproportionate 69 percent of that number—nearly 8.3 million—are women. While independence among senior citizens is often a desirable alternative to assisted living or nursing facilities, the reality is that a home that is suitable for a healthy, able-bodied adult may not be convenient or safe for an aging senior.

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Lombard family law attorneysDivorce is extremely common, and sometimes, it can come at an inopportune time. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of military families, when essentially, there is no “good” time unless the person with a military career is essentially retired. To help military couples obtain a divorce in an amicable fashion without having to wait years, there are certain specific divorce laws that apply only to them.

Service and Timing Issues

The main issues in trying to obtain a divorce from an active duty military member are personal service and the possibility of default. A divorce can be filed in Illinois if one or both spouses either live in state permanently, or if one or both spouses are stationed in the state. However, in any contested divorce, the non-moving party must be served personally with a copy of the petition filed by their spouse. Otherwise the court, in theory, has no jurisdiction over them. In other words, without personal service, the military member would not have enough contact with the place where the court is for that court to have any power over him or her. If the divorce is not contested, personal service may be waived, but if it is contested, the rule is absolute.  This means that the personal service requirement can make going forward with the divorce very difficult if the military member is overseas or in a war zone.

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Posted on in Adoption

Lombard family law attorneySame-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states, with all the attendant rights and responsibilities that marriage entails. Parenting for same-sex couples can be tricky, however, as certain legal issues are likely to arise. Fortunately, the state of Illinois has measures in place to help same-sex parents obtain and exercise parental rights in variety of situations. One such option is a second parent adoption, or SPA.

SPA Defined

Second parent adoption is defined as an adoption in which a second parent may adopt a child without the first losing any parental rights. Normally, adoptions require a parent to renounce his or her parental rights—or to have them terminated—in favor of another caregiver, but SPA allows both caregivers to have legal rights regarding the child.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyMost people are familiar with the concept of different “stages of grief.” While you may not necessarily be able to list the five stages as they were introduced in 1969, you are most likely aware that grieving, for most people, is a process with fairly distinct elements. While there are other situations that could cause a person to go through the grieving process—such as a divorce or giving a child up for adoption—the most common is during the period following the death of a loved one. When you die, your children, grandchildren, and other family members will almost certainly experience a great deal of grief, which makes responsible estate planning all the more important.

What Are the Five Stages?

In 1969, a Swiss-American psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published a book called "On Death and Dying" which introduced the stages of grief as she saw them. Based on her experience and study, she identified the five stages as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Despite being laid out as linear—suggesting that one stage leads into the next—the reality is much more complicated. A person who is largely in the Anger stage of grief is likely to experience moments or days of Denial and Depression. He or she may even skip a stage and effectively come back to it at a later point.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce lawyerMost of the time, when two people want to get divorced, they simply inform the other person by having a copy of the papers served upon them, usually by hand delivery. However, there are some very rare situations when the spouse cannot be located. When that happens, a suitable alternative must be found. The answer in Illinois and many other states is called divorce by publication.

A “Good Faith Search”

In all cases, your soon-to-be-ex-spouse must be informed of your desire and intention to file for divorce. However, if they have moved or are trying to avoid you and have left no forwarding address, the normal methods of mail or hand delivery are impossible. Yet it is contradictory to public policy to demand that two people remain married when they are not even living together and all communication has broken down. Publication is generally the best possible chance for your information to reach your absent spouse.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysDo you have a signed and executed will or any other elements of an estate plan in place? If so, you are already ahead of more than half of American adults.

Next question: Have you had in-depth discussions about estate planning with your children and other important family members? If so, you and your family are well prepared for unexpected surprises—assuming your estate plan addresses all or most of the details that are significant to you and your loved ones.

Final question: Would your children agree that you have had the necessary conversations and do they know where to find important documents, passwords, and account information? Unfortunately, serious disconnects in communication are all too common when it comes to estate planning.

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Posted on in Adoption

DuPage County adoption attorneysAdoption can be a wonderful and happy event for everyone involved. However, there are times when the process becomes quite complex, especially when an adoption involves a parent who ostensibly could assert parental rights, yet is nowhere to be found. There is a very specific process to go through before a child with an absentee parent (or two absentee parents) may be adopted into a family where he or she will receive the kind of attention he or she deserves.

Abandonment and Desertion

In most situations, a child is presumed to have two parents, but this is not always the case. However, this may be untrue in certain cases. Illinois allows paternity to be legally established immediately following the birth of a child, by one of four methods:

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Lombard family lawyersIt is almost too easy to send a text message on your cell phone. It takes only a few moments to type out a quick hello or make plans with friends and family. More than six billion messages are exchanged every day in the United States—that is over 2.2 trillion each year! Unfortunately, the ease of sending a text message can sometimes get people into trouble, as they may send a message without thinking or in the heat of a moment. This can cause problems for those involved in legal proceedings such as a divorce or child custody battle.

Text Messages Last Forever

An individual who is going through a divorce or other matter of family law may experience a wide range of emotions. He or she may feel betrayed, spiteful, confused, and upset. Often, there is animosity and tension between spouses who have decided to end their marriage. Divorce is an especially emotional process, and there may be many things left unsaid between two former romantic partners who have called it quits. There may also be things that are said but that should have been left unsaid. This is when the ease of pulling a cell phone from a pocket and quickly sending a nasty text message can cause problems.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersEvery person deserves to have control over the medical care they receive, including that which is provided at or near the end of their lives. Advance medical directives, such as a living will, give you the power to make certain decisions about your end-of-life care in advance, taking into account the possibility that you may not be able to make such decisions if and when they are necessary. Unfortunately, many advance medical directives are open to interpretation which could result in a decreased quality of life and unneeded suffering. There are some things you can do, however, to ensure that medical care is provided in accordance with your wishes, regardless of your condition at the time care is needed.

Death-Delaying Procedures

A living will is used primarily to specify the types of death-delaying procedures that you wish to be provided if you are ever diagnosed with a terminal condition and are unable to make care decisions for yourself. Death-delaying procedures refer to treatments and care that are postponing death in situations where healing or curing the condition is not possible. Such procedures include blood transfusions, artificial respiration, dialysis, and intravenous feeding or medications.

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyersThere are many things to consider when you are creating your Last Will and Testament. One you may have not considered is what will happen if your will is contested. A will contest is a lawsuit that an individual files in order to invalidate a deceased person’s will. Someone might file a will contest because they don’t believe a family member’s or friend’s will accurately reflects their true final wishes. Any intestate heir or beneficiary named in the person’s will can file a will contest.

In previous blog posts, we have talked about challenging the will of a recently-deceased loved one using a will contest. Today, however, we will look at how you can help prevent your will from being challenged. There are a few things that can be done to protect your will. One of these is a provision included in the will known as a “no-contest clause.”

What Is a No-Contest Clause?

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Posted on in Adoption

DuPage County adoption attorneysDespite the occasional controversy on the subject, U.S. citizens adopt foreign-born children fairly regularly. The regulations differ when negotiating depending on the country, as one might expect; however, the requirements that must be met upon reentry to the U.S. are the same. It is sadly common for a foreign-born adoptee to experience citizenship-related issues, though many can be solved by going through what is referred to as a readoption. It is usually not required to do so by law in Illinois, but it can prevent future issues for you and your adopted child.

Was the Adoption Completed?

Illinois does not require any further adoption proceedings if you completed the process abroad and abide by all immigration regulations. Yet, a readoption is the easiest way to quiet any potential citizenship issues before they even happen. It is sometimes referred to as an official recognition of a foreign judgment, which gives a clue to its purpose. If you travel to a foreign country and adopt a child, completing the process overseas, that is usually good enough for U.S. government to consider that child a citizen. However, if you are able and choose to bring the child to the U.S. for the purpose of completing the process (and, obviously, coming to live), recognition of the foreign judgment is usually required, because the process has not yet been completed to the satisfaction of the U.S. government.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen most people are asked about the concept of estate planning, they immediately think about a will and how it can be used to determine what will happen to a person’s assets and property upon his or her death. A will is certainly one of the cornerstones of a comprehensive estate plan, but on its own, a will is not always enough. There are four major elements of estate planning, and an experienced attorney can help you address each one properly.

Protecting Your Property During Your Lifetime

While estate planning is largely focused on what will happen after you die, the process also includes ensuring you have enough financial security to live out the rest of your life as you see fit. Investment strategies and savings, of course, are important, but you may also want to take steps toward protecting your family business or income-generating real estate holdings. You should also consider assigning power of attorney for property to a trusted person who can make decisions regarding your affairs in the event that become incapacitated and unable to make such choices for yourself.

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Posted on in Family Law

Lombard guardianship lawyersIn Illinois and indeed all over the country, there are children and disabled people who require a bit of extra help to have their needs met. While most often, people have family members to act for them, those who do not may need temporary or permanent guardians. There are specific procedures one must follow to become one and specific rules to be followed once one has the position.

General Guardianship Information

Most guardianship proceedings are conducted through the probate court. However, guardianship of a child differs slightly from seeking the guardianship of a disabled person in that guardianship of a minor automatically ceases when that child turns 18. Able-bodied adults over 18 are entitled to a rebuttable presumption that they can handle their own affairs. As such, obtaining guardianship for a 17-year-old may be more difficult and less practical than seeking guardianship over a 10-year-old simply because it would expire so quickly.

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Lombard divorce lawyersThe process of property division is often a challenging part of any divorce. However, when high net worth comes into the equation, things can get extremely complex and very contentious. It is a good idea to engage a qualified attorney to help guide you and your soon-to-be-former spouse through with a minimum of trouble.

“High Net Worth” Defined

The term “high net worth” divorce is actually somewhat of a misnomer, because a couple does not necessarily have to be particular wealthy to fit this category in divorce law. Rather, they must have assets that can be complex to divide; it just so  happens that in many instances, complex assets include many that are extremely valuable. Not everyone has assets such as specific types of retirement accounts, antiques, or complicated investments, and it can require more skill and time to handle them effectively.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen you get divorced, virtually your entire life is affected. Your relationship with your children changes, your living arrangements are different, and even your outlook on the future is likely to evolve. A divorce can also have a dramatic impact on the viability and the appropriateness of your existing estate plan. If you have recently gone through a divorce, it is a good idea to sit down with your lawyer and go over the details of your will, trusts, and any other estate planning tools you have in place.

Changes in What You Own

One of the most important reasons to update your estate plan after a divorce is the potential change to the property that comprises your estate. According to Illinois law, marital property must be divided equitably between divorcing spouses, which means that you probably own less now that you did when you were married. If your estate plan only makes general references to the property in your estate, the existing terms may be sufficient. Many estate plans, however, contain provisions for specific items or assets such as a particular vehicle or the family home. In the wake of your divorce, you may no longer own these assets, thus making an update necessary.

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Lombard estate planning attorneys“It’s what he would have wanted.”

We have all heard this phrase used by surviving family members of a recently deceased person as a justification for taking certain actions. Too often, we say such things to make ourselves feel better about the decisions we are making on behalf of the decedent, rather than knowing for sure that what we are doing is what he or she actually wanted. Unfortunately, many families are left to figure out what their loved would have wanted because that loved one never wrote down his or her wishes as a part of an estate plan. This is especially common regarding funeral arrangements as the thought of making such decisions can be extremely difficult.

Save Your Family the Trouble

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneysIn the past, divorce proceedings were often heavily biased against wives, for a multitude of societal and anthropological reasons. Society has changed over time, as one might expect, but there are still very different issues that women face after a divorce than those affecting men. Women—especially older women—are often put in positions they are unfamiliar with and may require help in handling.

Financial Issues

One of the major issues that many women face, especially older women, is that financial concerns are often foreign territory. Especially in marriages among older people, finances are traditionally the responsibility of men, so women after divorce may find themselves at a disadvantage in handling their money. An experienced divorce attorney may be able to advise on how to keep your assets safe. For example, a living trust may be an effective way to keep your assets in a form that cannot be accessed by creditors.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerIn today’s world, you can Google a “how-to” on nearly anything. Want to build a playhouse for your children? There are YouTube videos to show you how. Trying to become a better writer? A quick search can offer you thousands of workbooks, prompts, and exercises. Need a will or a power of attorney document? Countless resources are available to help you skip the “hassle” of hiring an estate planning lawyer. Unfortunately, a do-it-yourself estate plan is rarely a good idea, as even a small mistake can have significant consequences.

Retaining an estate planning attorney may seem unnecessary, especially as you draft your documents. At the very least, however, you should have a lawyer review your will and any other documents before you sign them to ensure that you do not become a victim of:

Selecting the Wrong People

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Lombard family law attorneysDisabled adults are in a difficult position in our society. Some require extensive support in their daily lives. Others require far less, but still may have markedly different experiences than able-bodied people. Each person’s situation is unique, and Illinois maintains guardianship laws that allow for maximum flexibility. The goal is to ensure that some of the most egregious abuses of the disabled occur far less frequently in the state than in others with more traditional guardianship regulations. If you are the relative of a disabled adult and are considering applying for guardianship, it is imperative that you familiarize yourself with Illinois regulations.

Degrees of Guardianship

Illinois law makes allowances for the fact that there are varying levels of mental and physical disability, and that one level of guardianship is not sufficient to encompass the varied experiences of such people. Unlike many other states, Illinois law states explicitly that the mere existence of a mental or physical disability is not sufficient grounds to require guardianship. It must also be shown that the disabled person is incapable of making or communicating responsible decisions about their personal care, their finances, or both.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersIf you have taken the time to create a will or any other instrument of estate planning, you are already better off than more than half of American adults. When drafting a will, most people consider most of their physical belongings along with investments or savings kept in the bank or at other financial institutions. Digital assets, however, often go overlooked, as many people do not even remember that they exist when they sit down to develop their estate plans. Some may not even know what digital assets are.

What Are Digital Assets?

Do you have a library of e-books from Amazon? What about a collection of songs from iTunes or apps from Google Play? These are some of the most common examples of digital assets. With the advancement of online technology, there are more types of digital assets today than ever before. In addition to e-books, programs, and music, digital assets also include pictures, data, visual designs, artwork, and online accounts for gaming, entertainment, and social media. If you have even one these types of assets—and since you are reading a blog right now, you probably do—it is important to develop a plan for dealing with them after your death.

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