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Lombard estate planning attorneyMost people are vaguely familiar with the concept of a last will and testament. However, there are actually many different documents that individuals use to distribute their assets and property upon their death. Wills and trusts sometimes get lumped together, but they serve different purposes. You may choose to use one, both, or neither based on your own personal circumstances and wishes.

A will is a document in which a person—the grantor—dictates what they want to happen to their property after they have passed away. He or she designates beneficiaries who then receive the assets and property upon the grantor’s death. A trust, by comparison, is a legal arrangement which allows a third party, called the trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries.

One significant difference between a will and a trust is that a will goes into effect only after the person who authored it, passes away whereas a trust can be effective immediately. Also, a will can only govern the distribution of property owned in the testator's sole name. Assets that pass directly to a beneficiary by contract or law, such as life insurance policies or joint tenancies with rights of survivorship, cannot be addressed by a will. Trusts, on the other hand, can manage and distribute any property the grantor chooses. Trusts can include life insurance policies and tenancy-in-common interests.

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Lombard divorce attorneysJanuary is often a popular time for couples to separate or divorce because many people wait until after the holidays to start the process of splitting up. If you are considering divorcing your spouse, or you have already decided to, you probably know you have a long road ahead of you. There is no perfect way to divorce, but following experts’ advice may help save you and your spouse from unnecessary stress and conflict as you end your marriage. In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, you may wish to:

Resolve to Communicate Better

Communication is one of the most important aspects to any relationship, and it does not become less important when a couple is no longer romantically involved. In order to undo a marriage, both members of it must be willing to talk to the other about the plans moving forward. Understandably, many individuals who are facing the end of their marriage are emotional. They may feel anger toward their spouse because of the hurtful things that happened during the marriage. Others who get divorced feel so upset that they shut down and stop communicating entirely. While these feelings are natural, refusing to cooperate with your spouse will only prolong the painful divorce process. Be willing to “be the bigger person” and work with your spouse, even if you resent him or her. You will be thankful that you did.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyOur society is becoming more accepting of non-traditional families which means that many couples no longer feel pressured to get married before starting a life together. In fact, the number of live-in couples in the U.S. rose 25 percent from 2000 to 2010. If you are in a committed relationship with someone but you are not legally married, you may miss out on some of the legal protections and advantages provided through marriage, particularly those related to inheritances and estate planning. However, with some preparation, it is possible to create an accurate estate plan which reflects your wishes even if you are not married.

Create a Will

An important step for anyone is creating a last will and testament. It is especially crucial for unmarried couples to be deliberate about their wills. In order to ensure that your assets are passed to your significant other when you die, you must specifically name your partner as your beneficiary on all pensions, retirement accounts, and insurance policies. Some retirement accounts have rules against nonfamily beneficiaries, so double check with an estate planning attorney that you are able to legally name your partner on all necessary accounts. You may need to designate your significant other as your power of attorney and sign an advance care directive if you wish him or her to make decisions about health care and finances if you ever become unwell.

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DuPage County family law attorneysUnfaithfulness in a marriage is unfortunately common. In fact, surveys show that one or both spouses admit to cheating in one-third of marriages. Men admit to cheating at an average of 22 percent, while approximately 14 percent of women admit to cheating. As any couple who has dealt with infidelity knows, cheating can take a serious toll on a relationship or marriage. There is no surefire way to predict if a partner will cheat on their significant other, but new research has shed light on the reasons that some people cheat.

Researchers from Texas Tech University and the University of Nevada Reno studied the childhoods of adults that ended up cheating on their significant other. They defined cheating as “concealment of behaviors and the resulting emotional fallout” it causes. The researchers discovered that individuals who had parents who were unfaithful to each other were more likely to cheat on their partner as adults. According to the researchers, social learning theory accounts for this trend. Basically, children whose parents cheated on each other are more likely to cheat as adults. The research team found that people whose parents were unfaithful were more likely to accept the favorability of infidelity. This made them more likely to be unfaithful themselves in future relationships.

How Parents Talk to Kids About Cheating Matters

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Lombard estate planning lawyersAs 2017 comes to a close and we venture into 2018, it is important to make sure your estate plan is still accurate and reflects your current wishes. An up-to-date estate plan will offer peace of mind that your family is taken care of and that your final wishes are fulfilled after you have passed. An estate plan also protects your rights and financial interests while you are still living.  

Without an estate plan, a person’s assets are divided according to state laws. This means that a person without a comprehensive estate plan has little say in how their assets are disseminated after they pass away. If you currently have an estate plan in place, the end of the year is a good time to review and modify the plan as needed.   

Review Your Current Estate Plan  

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Posted on in Domestic Violence

Lombard family law attorneyThe recent allegations of sexual harassment or rape against many influential individuals have put the issues of harassment and abuse in the spotlight more than ever before. Important people such as President Donald Trump, Senator Al Franken, actors Kevin Spacey and Sylvester Stallone, and film producer Harvey Weinstein have been accused of forcing unwanted sexual contact onto victims. These allegations sparked a fury of media attention and have encouraged more victims of sexual assault to report the crime against them. Time Magazine even dedicated their “Person of the Year” title to “the silence breakers”: those women and men who came out with their own stories of violence, intimidation or harassment. Much of the attention regarding assault and violence has centered around inappropriate sexual encounters between acquaintances or coworkers. Sadly, many men and women who are victims of abuse or assault are suffering at the hands of their own spouse or romantic partner. This type of abuse is called domestic violence, and it is just as serious as any other type of abuse.

Warning Signs of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence or relationship abuse, is defined as a pattern of behaviors used by one person to maintain power and control over their romantic partner. Anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator of domestic violence. Such abuse does not discriminate based on age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. Often, women are assumed to be the only victims of domestic violence, but this is not true. Men can also be victims of abuse at the hands of their spouse and other family members. Perpetrators of domestic violence might:

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyOne of the greatest things about our country is that we have the freedom to define what family means to us. Some families consist of only one mother or father, others are the classic nuclear family, while still others contain step-parents and stepsiblings, half brothers or sisters, or even adopted members. If you have a large blended family, there are special considerations you should keep in mind when it comes to estate planning.

Remarrying With Children

The number of remarriages has been increasing over the last several decades. In 2013, 40 percent of unions included at least one spouse who had previously been married, and many of these unions involve children. One consideration for large or blended families to think about is how a person’s assets will be distributed in the event that he or she passes away. It is vitally important if you remarry that you change your primary beneficiary from your former spouse as soon as possible. Another common mistake happens when a parent names their new spouse as the primary beneficiary and names their biological children from another marriage as contingent beneficiaries expecting that they will all receive a portion of his or her estate upon death. What instead happens is that the primary beneficiary receives all the assets and becomes free to share or not share them with the children. One possible solution to this is to name multiple primary beneficiaries who each receive a percentage of your estate.

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Posted on in Spousal Support

Lombard family law attorneyWhen a married couple divorces, the court may award spousal support to one of the spouses. Spousal support is sometimes referred to as alimony or spousal maintenance. It refers to payments that one spouse makes to the other in order to help them financially post-divorce. Spousal support can be based on a court decision, a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement. Maintenance is not always awarded in Illinois. In some cases, both spouses are self-supporting so there is no need for financial assistance. Even if there is a substantial difference in income between the two spouses, courts may account for this difference by awarding more of the marital property to the lower-earning spouse.

Who Gets Spousal Support?

Illinois courts have wide discretion in determining if spousal support will be awarded or not, how much payments will be, and for how long payments will occur. The court must consider the following factors in making decisions about spousal support:

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyerThe reading of a deceased person’s will is often portrayed in movies and on television as a highly dramatic event. Usually, some conflict, plot point, or comic relief revolves around heirs being surprised about what they will be receiving as an inheritance. In some cases, the scene is meant to draw attention to someone being left out of the will. In real life, things are rarely so theatrical, though the feeling of being neglected or left out of a loved one’s will can be quite unpleasant and possibly offensive. Depending on the situation, such a person may wish to contest the will—especially if he or she believes that he or she was excluded by mistake or due to fraud of some kind.

Grounds of a Will Contest

If a loved one’s will left you with less of inheritance that you expected or none at all, contesting the will could be an option, but doing so is not likely to be easy. First, you must understand that a will contest must be based on legitimate grounds. A decision that you do not agree with is not enough. For a will contest to be successful, you will need to show that:

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Lombard family law attorneysMany have said that being a parent is the hardest job in the world. It is nearly impossible to know how to respond to every challenge parenthood throws at you—especially when you are co-parenting your children with an ex-spouse. You may be unsure of how to work with your former partner in creating the best life possible for your children.

Problems at school present a variety of issues for many parents. Some children go through phases where they are getting in trouble or letting their grades drop, How should divorced parents deal with school issues such as these? There is unfortunately no owner’s manual for children and no one-size-fits-all way to raise them. However, following a few simple pieces of advice can help you and your ex-spouse come together to do what is best for your children.

Be Honest and Transparent With the Other Parent

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Posted on in Estate Planning

DuPage County estate planning lawyerWhen someone asks you to be the executor of their last will and testament, you may feel both honored and also overwhelmed. What exactly does an executor do? Who can be an executor? Being an executor of someone’s will is a huge responsibility, but with some research and help, most are able to take on the challenge.

An Important Role

The overall job of an executor is to make sure a person's last wishes are granted with regards to the disposition of their property and possessions. He or she is responsible for paying the deceased's debts and creditors, and distributing any remaining money or property according to the deceased’s wishes. The law does not require an executor to be a lawyer or financial expert, however, it does require than an executor fulfill their duties with honesty and diligence. This responsibility is called "fiduciary duty," which means that the executor must act in good faith and in the best interests of the deceased person’s estate.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneysDivorce can touch the lives of people of any race, gender, income level, or age. Some marriages that seemed doomed to failure from the beginning end up flourishing while other marriages that seemed like perfect matches end up dissolving. Researchers have known for years now that there are certain demographics of people who are statistically more likely to get divorced than others. For example, those who marry very young or wait until their late 30s or longer to marry are more likely to get divorced than those who get married in their 20s. It is also fairly well-known that women are more likely to initiate divorce than men are. For non-married couples, however, men and women are equally likely to end the relationship.

Women More Likely Than Men to Be Unhappy in Their Marriage

A survey conducted by the American Sociological Association found that in heterosexual couples, women start the divorce process or first seek a divorce 70 percent of the time. The study’s lead author, Michael Rosenfeld, theorizes that women may be more likely to initiate divorces because they are more likely to be dissatisfied with the quality of the relationship than men are. Rosenfeld said that these results support the idea that some women experience heterosexual marriage as oppressive or unfulfilling. He explains further, “I think that marriage as an institution has been a little bit slow to catch up with expectations for gender equality. Wives still take their husbands’ surnames…husbands still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and the bulk of the childcare.”

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyThe Illinois Living Will Act states that every citizen has the basic right to control decisions about his or her health care. Unfortunately, however, there may come a point in a person’s life where he or she is not able to make such decisions on the spot. Advance medical directives, including living wills, can be used to document a person’s wishes regarding certain types of medical care in certain situations, removing the burden of making such decisions from family members and loved ones.

Those who advocate for living wills say that such instruments are crucial in protecting a patient’s rights. Living wills, in particular, address which types of death-delaying procedures the patient wishes to receive—or not receive—if he or she is ever diagnosed with a terminal condition and is unable to communicate his or her wishes at the time. A terminal condition is one that is incurable and will ultimately result in the patient’s death. Death delaying procedures are defined as treatments that will only serve to postpone the moment of death and commonly include:

  • Assisted ventilation and the application of artificial respirators;
  • Intravenous medication and nutrition;
  • Whole blood transfusions; and
  • Artificial kidney treatments, including dialysis.

A living will cannot direct medical personnel to withhold food or water to allow death to occur from starvation or dehydration.

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Lombard family law attorneyMarried couples get divorced for an endless variety of reasons. For some, infidelity may an issue while financial stresses drive others apart. Of course, there are often many factors that play into a couple’s decision to end their marriage, and researchers are always trying to identify trends that could help married couples recognize possible red flags. According to several recent studies, however, a first-born daughter could be one of the potential warning signs.

Australian Team Studies Dutch Families

Dr. Jan Kabatek and Dr. David Rebar, faculty members at the University of Melbourne, conducted one such study. The pair examined more than two million marriages in the Netherlands over the course of 10 years. They chose the Netherlands because Dutch marriage and family records are very comprehensive and provide exact dates of marriages, divorces, and births. Other, similar studies have been based on participant’s responses to surveys—which rely on memory and recollection as opposed to objective data.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerRecently, a previous post on this blog discussed the definition and some of the possible benefits of reverse mortgages. In that article, we talked about how reverse mortgages are often taken out by seniors to supplement their retirement income by borrowing against the equity they have built in their homes. In many situations, a reverse mortgage may be an appropriate option, but it is important to consider that reverse mortgages could also have some disadvantages—including an impact on the assets passed down to a person’s heirs.

Unforeseen Costs

The entire point of a reverse mortgage is to give an elderly person—62 is the minimum qualifying age—access to additional money during his or her lifetime. The amount a person can borrow in reverse mortgage is dependent on a number of factors including the type of reverse mortgage, the borrower’s age, the value of the home, and interest rates. Of course, in most cases, the lender will also apply a number of costs and fees, including an origination fee, costs at closing, and servicing fees for the life of the loan. Some lenders also charge for mortgage insurance premiums for certain reverse mortgages.

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Lombard family law attorneysPeople do not stay in one place as often as they once did. With the global economy entirely interconnected and the job market in a seemingly constant state of flux, family moves are more common. However, so are divorces. In Illinois, the laws regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities—formerly called child custody—provide requirements that must be met before children can be moved a significant distance from their current home.

A Child’s “Home State”

For the purposes of parenting plans, a child must have a “home state.” This is the state in which a court would have jurisdiction to decide cases involving the child. Illinois is a child’s home state when (1) that child has lived in Illinois for six months (or since birth, if the child is not six months old yet), and (2) the child has no other home state, and/or the child (or their parent) has significant connections to the state. If a parent intends to move to another state and take their child with them, the child’s home state will change.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersIf you watch television at certain times of the day, you are likely to see occasional advertisements for reverse mortgages. These ads often run in similar timeslots as commercials for arthritis medication and electric scooters. It is clear that they are intended to reach a certain demographic—namely, seniors who are starting to consider the reality that they will not live forever. As with most television pitches, it understandable that the audience would be skeptical, but a reverse mortgage may be an option for certain individuals and families.

Reverse Mortgages Defined

Most people understand that a standard mortgage is a financial arrangement in which a lender provides a borrower with money to buy real estate, including a home. The property itself is the collateral used to secure the loan. The borrower makes regular installment payments until the amount borrowed and any accumulated interest is repaid.

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Lombard divorce lawyersFor years, scientists have known that children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced as adults. People have speculated that this was because children spend time with their divorced parents during their formative years and therefore grow up to have a similar lifestyle. However, a new study suggests that genetics may play a role in whether children grow up to get divorced or not.

The study was conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University and published in the journal Psychological Science. It examined data regarding divorce in adopted children and children who grew up around their biological parents. The study’s findings showed that children who did not grow up knowing their biological parents and siblings still had a tendency to match their biological family’s decisions regarding divorce. The adopted children were less likely to have similar histories of divorce as their adoptive parents. This could mean that many of the choices we make about our relationships as adults are influenced by our DNA. When it comes to divorce, nature may be a stronger factor than nurture.

Destined to Divorce?

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Lombard estate planning attorneyOlder men and women are often among the most vulnerable members of our society. Children, of course, are also vulnerable, but as a whole, we have been historically more likely to aggressively protect children than adults and seniors. Unfortunately, this means that is relatively easy for elder men and women to be exploited—often by those who have been entrusted with guardianship or other responsibilities. With proper estate planning that includes contingency clauses and protections, it may be possible to reduce the likelihood of such abuse. A new federal law will also provide additional help in the battle against elder abuse and exploitation.

Bipartisan Efforts

The Elder Abuse Prevention and Protection Act was drafted by Representative Elizabeth Esty, a Democrat from Connecticut, and Representative Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican. The bipartisan measure passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Donald Trump earlier this month.

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Posted on in Child Support

Lombard family law attorneysUntil just a few months ago, Illinois courts calculated child support as a percentage of the income of the parent with fewer parental responsibilities—referred to in the past as the non-custodial parent. Since July 1, 2017, however, a new law has brought child support guidelines in Illinois up to date with modern trends and started improving the lives of all parties involved.

The Old Child Support Law

The previous law in Illinois has long been criticized for being inequitable, with not enough potential exemptions taken into account, and an alleged unfair burden on the non-custodial parent. Under the old guidelines, there were two primary factors in determining the amount of support to be paid: the income of the non-custodial parent and the number of children to be supported.

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