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Wheaton spousal maintenance attorney

The decision to end a marriage can be emotionally, financially, and even physically devastating. A trusted therapist may help ease emotional stress, but what about the worries regarding finances? Regardless of whether your divorce is amicable or tumultuous, you will need to understand how to protect your rights to the marital estate. If you are facing a divorce and are unsure how to protect your financial interests, you should speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney to explore your potential next steps. In the meantime, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about finances during divorce:

How Much Will a Divorce Cost?

There are many expenses associated with the divorce process. You will be required to pay a variety of court costs and filing fees, and the costs of hiring and working with an attorney throughout the divorce process may add up to several thousand dollars or more. In addition, there are a variety of other ways that legally ending your marriage can impact your finances, including:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIf you have started looking into creating an estate plan, you may have come across advertisements for do-it-yourself estate planning or will creation services. At first glance, these services often look very appealing. The advertisement may claim that creating an estate plan through the DIY program will save you time and money. It may even explicitly state that you do not need a lawyer to create an estate plan. Unfortunately, these advertisements lead many people to make estate planning mistakes that end up costing them (or their surviving loved ones) much more time, money, and frustration than they would have spent through traditional estate planning.

Only a Lawyer Can Offer Personalized Estate Planning Legal Guidance

One of the major limitations to online DIY estate planning is that it is a one-size-fits-all approach to drafting an estate plan. There may be several basic documents available such as a will, healthcare power of attorney, and financial power of attorney available through a DIY site, but not lesser-known estate planning instruments. Unlike a website, an estate planning attorney can help you figure out which documents will best fit your needs and which documents you can do without.

Consider this example: A mother with a severely disabled teenaged son is worried about how her son will have access to a home health aide and other necessities once she passes away. She creates a will using a DIY website and assigns her son a significant amount of inheritance money. Unfortunately, when she passes away, the money that was left to her son causes his assets to be too high for him to continue benefiting from government aid programs. If the mother had consulted with an estate planning attorney, the attorney could have helped her set up a special needs trust or another estate planning instrument that would allow her son to receive his inheritance without losing access to necessary government aid.

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Wheaton divorce attorney child support enforcement

Child support payments are typically ordered by the court as part of a divorce decree, but child support payments can also be included in a legal separation agreement. In some cases, both parties may mutually settle upon the payment arrangement. Regardless of the situation (divorce or separation), there are laws in Illinois that ensure that child support orders are enforceable. However, even though child support orders are legally binding, some parents may still struggle to collect payments from a former spouse or partner. Disagreements over late, missing, or inadequate payments can create heated disagreements and high tension in both newly divorced couples and partners who have long been separated. If you are struggling to collect child support payments, a knowledgeable child support attorney can advise you of your legal options.

What Happens During a Child Support Hearing?

In the state of Illinois, a child support hearing may be conducted in one of two places: a courtroom presided over by a judge or through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). During a child support hearing, each party will answer questions about their specific circumstances, which will allow the court to determine the correct amount of support. A couple who has not yet established paternity may need to address the issue of legal fatherhood first before a child support order can be issued.

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estate planning, family future, Lombard estate planning attorneysAlthough it is a subject that many Americans would rather not think about, eventually our individual lives will end and our loved ones will inevitably be left with burdens, be it emotional, financial, or both. Decades ago, when someone passed away, there were no credit cards, families did not travel as much, and divorce was taboo. Everything that was left behind generally either went to the state or the family members left behind. With the growing complexity of family structure in conjunction with our spending habits, the need has arisen to secure a plan for after we die. Legal documents such as wills, trusts, and other estate planning measures can help protect the future of your loved ones after you pass.

Know the Difference

The best and most direct route of starting the process is to know which option is best for your current circumstances. It may be that none of the options are a completely perfect or it may mean that multiple options will help achieve your goals. No matter the case, it is necessary to understand the each option. 

Estate Planning: "Estate planning" is an umbrella term used to describe the preparation of your estate. Your estate is everything that belongs to you. This includes physical items (jewelry, home, vehicle, etc.), but also encompasses the items sometimes not planned for, such as other real estate property, checking and savings accounts, life insurance policies, and investments. Planning of this nature should also delve into what you would like to happen to your children if they are minors or what should happen to you if you are left unable to make decisions for yourself.

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Wheaton family law attorney legal separation

When a married couple is struggling to live in harmony under the same roof, one person usually moves out of the shared residence. The distance and time apart may allow the couple an opportunity to work through relationship problems and determine their next steps. For a couple who can no longer reside together, there are several options available, including divorce and legal separation. If you are struggling in your marriage and would like to discuss your next steps, a family law attorney can explain your rights and your legal options.

What Are the Differences Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

A divorce legally dissolves the marriage between two individuals, while a legal separation acknowledges that the couple is still married but lives apart from each other. Divorce is a permanent decree, but legal separations may be either temporary or permanent. A couple who is legally separated may eventually decide to file for divorce, but they also have the option to end the separation and reunite. It is important to note that during the legal separation, the spouses may not get married to anyone else.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysBeing the parent of a physically or intellectually disabled child comes with a variety of special challenges. When your child struggles to adequately care for himself or herself due to a disability, you may worry about what will happen when you are not around to help him or her. It can be an uncomfortable reality to consider but making plans for the care of your disabled loved one for after you pass away will give you tremendous peace of mind. One option that many parents of disabled minor or adult children utilize is a special needs trust.

How Does a Special Needs Trust Work?

A trust is a financial instrument often used in estate planning that places assets under the authority of a trustee. In a special needs trust, the trustee is legally obligated to follow the directions contained in the trust and use the funds contained in the trust for the benefit of the disabled individual. The assets held in a special needs trust can be used to pay for your child’s home, living expenses, education, personal care attendant, out-of-pocket medical expenses, recreation, and more. One way to set up a special needs trust is to name yourself as the trustee and name another trusted individual, such as another one of your children, as a successor trustee. When you pass away, the successor trustee becomes responsible for using the assets in the trust for the benefit of your disabled child.

Assets in a Special Needs Trust Do Not Limit the Beneficiary’s Eligibility for Government Programs

You may be wondering why you cannot simply leave an inheritance to your disabled child through a standard will. Many government aid programs are only available to individuals if their property and income is below a certain level. If you leave funds or property of a substantial value to your child without a special needs trust, this could raise his or her income and available resources to a level which disqualifies him or her for these aid programs. When you leave assets in a special needs trust, the assets are not considered income or available resources so this does not limit your child’s eligibility for need-based government programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

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Lombard, IL family law attorney for parental relocation

When a couple decides to end their relationship, it is probable that at least one of them will no longer live in the home they once shared. In some cases, both spouses may move out of the marital home following divorce and relocate to smaller dwellings. However, while moving to a new home may be necessary, parents should be aware of the restrictions that may apply when they plan to move with their children. In some cases, parental relocation may require approval from the court. If you are not sure how a potential move may impact your rights as a parent, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney to learn more about the child relocation laws in Illinois.

Why Do Relocation Restrictions Exist?

The parental relocation laws in Illinois have been put in place to protect a child’s bond with both of his or her parents. In cases that meet the criteria for relocation, the relocating parent must give the other parent at least 60 days' notice prior to the move, and they will need to receive approval from the court for any modifications to the parties' parenting plan. These restrictions ensure that all moves are made in good faith and that a proposed relocation will protect the best interests of the child. 

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Lombard estate planning attorneysPeople vary dramatically in their feelings regarding medical treatment. Some people want every possible medical intervention to be taken, even if those medical treatments will only slightly extend the duration of their lives. Other people only want the bare minimum actions taken if they become seriously ill or injured.

Have you ever considered the types of medical treatments you would want to undergo if you became extremely sick? What if you were too sick to express these wishes? A power of attorney for healthcare is a type of estate planning instrument that can allow you to take your future medical care decisions into your own hands.

Health Care Power of Attorney Basics

Through a power of attorney for health care, you can designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. The document gives this individual authority to make decisions about your medical treatments if you cannot do so yourself. Instead of a doctor who you may have never met making these decisions—and who might not share your personal values—you can entrust these important decisions to someone you know and trust. The individual you designate to speak on your behalf is called a health care proxy or agent. Your proxy may be a close friend, spouse, family member, or anyone else you choose. Once you have chosen who your proxy will be, you can have a conversation with him or her about the actions you do and do not want taken if you become gravely ill.

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DuPage County parenting time attorney

The dissolution of a marriage not only affects the divorcing couple but also any children in the family. Divorce often creates new living situations due to new jobs for the parents, which can result in a different school environment for kids. In some cases, one of the divorcing parents may move out of the family’s town or even out of the state. If you are facing a long-distance relationship with your child, speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney to learn about your rights and options and how a parenting plan can resolve these important issues.

What Is a Long-Distance Parenting Plan?

During a divorce, there are many details to sort out, and a divorce with children in the picture can be even more complex. The important child-related matters that parents will need to address include parenting time (formerly known as visitation) and the allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly known as child custody).

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Lombard estate planning lawyerIn the days and weeks after the death of a loved one, you are likely to remain focused on getting back to some semblance of normalcy in your life, especially if you were very close to the decedent. Just as things start to settle back down emotionally, new concerns can arise when your loved one’s will is presented for probate. When the provisions in the will are finally made known, you may be surprised to learn that your loved one has made some unexpected decisions. Such surprises may lead to you to think about filing a will contest, but there are some factors to consider before you do so.

Hurt Feelings Will Not Invalidate a Will

The first thing you need to remember is that, following a person’s death, there will almost always be someone who feels that they got ignored, left out, or the short end of the stick. They may have been led to expect a certain portion of the inheritance or a particular piece of property, only to find out later that such “promises” were never formalized in the will. If you feel slighted by your loved one’s decisions regarding his or her will, that is not sufficient grounds for challenging the document.

Appropriate Contests

There are, however, a number of situations in which you can file a challenge to your loved ones will. To be successful in such a challenge, you will need to show that:

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DuPage County guardianship attorneysAt one point or another, most of us will need help from someone else in regard to managing our affairs. For some of us, we might only need help temporarily as we recover from an injury or illness. In other situations, the need for assistance is permanent and much more serious. If you have a loved one who is struggling to manage their financial or health-related affairs, you might consider pursuing guardianship of that person. There are, however, a few things you need to know before you take any action in that direction.

1. Guardianship Can Only Be Granted by a Probate Court

In the state of Illinois, guardianships fall under the jurisdiction of the probate court. The court has full authority over the appointment and removal, if necessary, of adult guardianships. Unless you have been already been named in your loved one’s valid power of attorney, you cannot begin acting on your loved one’s behalf until the court says that you can.

2. The Person Must Be Disabled

Before appointing a guardian, the court must determine the person in question actually needs help due to some type of disability. In most cases, such disabilities include deteriorating physical or mental faculties, mental illness, or developmental issues. Illinois law also allows the court to find that a guardianship is necessary for an adult who has serious drug, alcohol, or gambling problems.

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Wheaton relative adoption lawyer

Adoption is the legal process for assuming parental responsibilities for another person’s child. Adopting a child from an agency is an option for couples to grow their family if they cannot conceive on their own. However, there are other types of adoption, including stepparent adoption. In these cases, an individual with a stepson or stepdaughter may want to consider legally becoming the child's parent. If you are considering a stepparent adoption, speaking with an experienced family law attorney can ease your concerns as you walk through the legal process in Illinois.

A Relative Adoption Versus an Agency Adoption

A stepparent adoption does not involve the same process as an international or Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) adoption. Here are a couple of differences between them:

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Lombard, IL parentage attorney

When a child is born to a married couple, both spouses will be considered the child's legal parents. However, when a child is born to an unmarried mother, or when the identity of the child's father may be in doubt, it may be necessary to establish the child's legal parentage. Establishing paternity is important for the child, but it also benefits the father and mother too. For example, legal paternity may need to be established before a court determines parenting time, parental responsibilities, and child support. If you need to address issues related to your child's parentage, speaking with an experienced family law attorney can guide you through your next steps and help you establish paternity.

How Is Paternity Established?

Paternity is the legal establishment of the identity of a child’s father. Simply writing a person’s name on a birth certificate does not necessarily indicate paternity. In fact, paternity can be established in a variety of ways, including:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysWhen a family member or close friend passes away, figuring out what paperwork you need to find can be overwhelming and confusing. Especially if you are the executor of the estate, you will have several important responsibilities including paying the deceased person’s bills and taxes, manage their assets, obtaining a death certificate, and more. You will need access to several different documents in order to complete these tasks. If you loved one created an estate plan before they passed away, finalizing their affairs will be much easier than if they had no plans.

For this reason, and many others, everyone should have a will, trust, or other estate planning tool in place – even if they do not own a great deal of high-value assets. When you pass away with an estate plan, the burden on your surviving loved ones is significantly less that it would be if you did not have an estate plan.

Locate the Following Documents When a Loved One Passes Away

When a friend or family member passes away and you are responsible for settling their final affairs, there are many different pieces of information and paperwork you will probably need. These include but may not be limited to:

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DuPage County estate planning attorneyIn Illinois, wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents must meet certain criteria in order to be valid. In order for the court to uphold a will, the person who created the will, called the testator, must fully understand the provisions contained in the will and the consequences of these provisions. If a testator was forced, under undue influence, or could not comprehend what he or she was doing when he or she signed the will, the will may not be legally binding. If the validity of the will iscontested and the court finds that the testator did not consent to the directions contained in the will, it could be thrown out completely. If you have a loved one with dementia who wishes to draft a will, you will need to take special precautions to ensure that the will is legally enforceable.

Testamentary Capacity Explained

The term “testamentary capacity” refers to a testator’s mental clarity and understanding. Testamentary capacity is also sometimes called “sound mind and memory” or “disposing mind and memory.” Testators as presumed to have testamentary capacity unless there is convincing evidence to the contrary. If your loved one wishes to create a will or other estate planning document and he or she suffers from dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, or another illness that affects cognition, this could be grounds for his or her testamentary capacity to come into question.

Ensuring That Your Loved One Has Testamentary Capacity

Your loved one deserves to have his or her final wishes followed. In order to ensure that the will is not considered invalid due to testamentary capacity concerns, you should ensure that your loved one meets Illinois criteria for proving testamentary capacity. The Illinois Probate Act of 1975, states that an adult has the authority to draft a will if he or she “is of sound mind and memory.” Illinois appeals court case Beyers v. Billingsley addressed exactly what constitutes sound mind and memory in 1977. There are three conditions that must be met in order for a testator to have sufficient testamentary capacity. A person is of sound mind and memory for the purposes of estate planning if he or she can:

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Lombard, IL spousal maintenance attorney

There are many reasons why a couple may decide for one parent to stay at home with the children rather than pursuing a career. In some situations, a family simply cannot afford childcare, so a parent may stay home out of necessity. Other families may choose to have one parent dedicate their time to caring for children and maintaining the household. Today, the role of homemaker is not limited to women. In fact, more fathers are becoming stay-at-home dads, according to research published in Psychology Today. Regardless of a person's gender or their reasons for becoming a homemaker, divorce as a stay-at-home parent can seem intimidating, and it can cause a great deal of uncertainty about the future. If you did not work outside of the home during your marriage, and you are facing a divorce, you will want to work with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the legal process of divorce and help you create a secure future.

Know Your Rights

Even if you were not your family's primary income earner, you still have rights regarding the property you own with your spouse and the income that was earned during your marriage. Under Illinois divorce law, marital property will be divided according to the principle of “equitable distribution,” and all property acquired during the marriage should be divided fairly, regardless of who earned the income used to purchase it. The contributions each spouse made to the marriage will be considered when determining a fair settlement. As a homemaker, even if you did not earn a financial income, you have still made many valuable contributions to your family, such as child-rearing, performing household duties (cooking, cleaning, doing laundry), and managing family finances.

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Lombard, IL surrogacy contract attorney

Infertility can be emotionally and physically draining on a couple, but unfortunately, it is not uncommon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 16 percent of married women struggle with infertility, while almost 9 percent of women are clinically diagnosed as infertile. For those women who cannot have a child of their own, surrogacy enables a couple to raise their own biological child. A woman who chooses to serve as a surrogate can help couples achieve their dream of raising a family, while she herself may receive compensation for her services, making this both emotionally and financially rewarding. If you are considering becoming a surrogate, speaking with an experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the legal matters pertaining to this serious endeavor.

Requirements of the Surrogate

Because a surrogate is entrusted with carrying someone else's child, it is understandable that she will be carefully selected. To best protect the child, a prospective surrogate may undergo several medical tests to ensure that she is in the best health for carrying and delivering a baby. According to Illinois’ Gestational Surrogacy Act, a surrogate must:

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Lombard estate planning attorneyMany people do not realize it, but taking steps to prevent identity theft is an important part of estate planning. Sadly, more and more criminals are taking advantage of grieving families by stealing the identities of deceased individuals. An identity thief can use a deceased person’s name and personal information to obtain and use credit cards that are in the deceased person’s name, apply for loans, falsify tax returns, and more. If your loved one’s identity is stolen after they pass away, you will be burdened with resolving the issue with law enforcement and financial institutions. Follow these steps to minimize the chances of your loved one’s identity being stolen after they pass away.

Tip #1: Notify Interested Financial Companies of the Death

When a loved one dies, it is usually up to the executor of the estate to contact financial institutions and close accounts. It is important to do this as soon as possible. Unscrupulous individuals can take advantage of the window of time between when an individual dies and when the decedent’s finances are settled. Contact every bank that your loved one had an account with and notify them that your loved one has passed away. You should notify the banks even if the deceased person’s spouse or another person is still listed on the accounts. You will also need to notify any lenders, mortgage companies, or investment companies your loved one had business with.

Tip #2: Close Credit Cards and Contact the Major Credit Bureaus

You will need to compile a list of all of your loved one’s credit card accounts so that you can close them. Looking through their purse or wallet can give you some information, but a better idea may be to request a copy of their credit report. You should also continue to monitor their credit report for suspicious activity. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will eventually notify the credit bureaus of your loved one’s passing but doing so yourself may expedite the process and help prevent an identity thief from opening a new line of credit under your loved one’s name. Sometimes a funeral director will contact the SSA on behalf of a family, but contacting the SSA, as well as the Internal Revenue Service, is ultimately the surviving family member’s responsibility.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysPreparing a will is, for many people, the cornerstone of estate planning. For some, a will can be enough to cover much of their estate, while others may require additional planning instruments to meet their needs when they are gone. Regardless of the size of your estate, choosing an individual to oversee the execution of your will is one of the most important determinations that you will have to make during the estate planning process. A person or entity tasked with such responsibility is called an executor in Illinois—sometimes known as a personal representative in other states—and should be worthy of the trust that you have placed in him or her to protect your assets and property.

Duties of the Executor

An executor may be a financial institution, trust company, or other entity, but in most situations, it is an individual person, often a friend or family member. Upon your death, your executor will be responsible for:

  • Locating and compiling your assets, if you have not already done so;
  • Notifying creditors, and satisfying outstanding debts or other obligations with funds from your estate;
  • Manage all assets during the process of probate;
  • Distribute property to surviving spouse and dependents, as required by law; and
  • Distribute remaining property to beneficiaries named in the will, or as required by law.

If your estate is valued at less than $100,000, Illinois law permits your executor to close the estate without court involvement. Estates that exceed a value of $100,000 must be handled through probate court unless other estate planning steps have been taken to avoid the probate process legally.

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Wheaton high-conflict divorce attorney

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), data from the National Survey of Family Growth shows that 48 percent of marriages end when they hit the 20-year mark. Despite this evidence and the colorful divorce horror stories we all hear from our friends, family members, and neighbors, the reality is that not all couples who make up these kinds of statistics experience a toxic divorce. Many spouses are not only able to make a mutual decision to end their marriage, but they are also capable of navigating the process amicably, even acting as a team to ensure a smoother experience for everyone involved. 

Avoiding a Contested Divorce

Not every divorce is messy, but those that are can have the power to wreak havoc on your emotional -- and sometimes physical -- well-being, especially if you do not know how to handle the conflict.

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