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DuPage County estate planning attorneysIt is hard to believe, but the winter holiday season is just about upon us once again. While Thanksgiving evolved as a celebration of the harvest and is, therefore, a fall holiday, it is also seen by many as the first of the winter holidays that also include Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s. For the next month or so, families throughout the country will be getting together to eat, drink, and honor traditions that stretch back for many generations.

If your family will be getting together during the holidays, you might consider taking advantage of the opportunity to discuss your estate plans. Obviously, talking about what will happen after your death might not be the most comfortable discussion ever, but having the conversation now could go a long way toward preventing disputes and family infighting later.

Things to Talk About

This estate planning discussion does not need to last for many hours, nor does it need to be terribly detailed. The main goal is to let your loved ones know that you have created an estate plan and that the plan includes several important decisions. It is up to you to decide who should be included in the discussion, but most experts agree that your spouse and all of your children should be present, if at all possible.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt seems that our reliance on computers and the internet grows stronger every day. If you are like most people, you probably use email, text messages, and social media to keep up with friends and family. You may pay your bills online, use your phone to deposit checks, and have loads of photographs stored on electronic devices.

Have you ever thought about what will happen to your digital life after you pass away? It is becoming increasingly important to include directions about digital assets in estate plans. Failing to account for these items in your will and other estate plans can cause your surviving loved ones unnecessary stress and expense.

Take Inventory of Your Digital Assets

It can be overwhelming to consider how your digital assets should be managed after you are no longer able to do so yourself. To get started, take inventory of all of your important accounts and files. Make a list of any:

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Wheaton divorce parenting time lawyerThe divorce journey looks and feels different for every couple, with varying shades of complexity. From the amicable to the horrendous, divorces manifest in all kinds of distinct ways, depending on the circumstances surrounding the relationship and if children are involved. Something every divorce has in common, however, is that they are all emotionally charged events by nature. Regardless of how civil both parties are with one another throughout the process, everyone involved is bound to experience emotional pain and discomfort, especially as the divorce proceedings develop. Difficult issues can arise that must not only be discussed but also resolved between both parties in order to make progress and move forward.

Typical Setbacks and What to Do When They Happen to You

Conflicts, even small ones, are inevitable throughout the divorce process. Here are some issues that commonly cause setbacks for both parties during the transition and how to address them when they happen to you:

  • Parenting time conflicts - If you and your spouse share children, you may quickly discover that you have different ideas of what parenting time should look like after the separation. It is not uncommon for couples to think they are on the same page regarding child custody issues, such as who will get the children on weekends and holidays, only to find they have drastically different feelings once the divorce is underway. Parenting time conflicts can turn into time-consuming, ongoing battles if not addressed early on. A positive course of action is to work with a well-seasoned, qualified family law attorney to create a fair, cohesive parenting plan to submit to the court for review. Should any modifications be necessary, your attorney can guide you through these changes from start to finish.

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Wheaton child custody attorney

Whether your child is in elementary school or is an adolescent in high school, they may experience the same emotional roller coaster that parents do when their family is going through a divorce. No matter how amicable or peaceful the decision to separate may be between parents, no one in the family journeys through the divorce process entirely unaffected. If your child is exhibiting certain signs, he or she may be having difficulty with the divorce. As a parent, it is important not to ignore these behaviors and instead address them head-on in order to maintain a healthy relationship with your child.

Recognizing When Your Child Is Having Trouble Coping

While studies show that civil, respectful relationships between divorced spouses can help support healthy healing for children of divorce, the emotional impact of the breaking of the family unit is still hurtful. Trouble coping is natural and to be expected in the midst of a family divorce, but if you notice any of the following changes in your child’s life on a day-to-day basis, it may be a sign that they are having an especially hard time adjusting to the change:

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DuPage County trusts attorneysWouldn’t it be nice if every individual was fiscally responsible and able to make good decisions about money? Of course it would be, but, sadly, that is the world we live in. In reality, countless people have a tough time with their finances and establishing healthy spending habits. For people like this, money tends to burn a hole in their pocket, so to speak, and is often spent in frivolous ways—at least according to their family members and friends.

This issue is frequently relevant in the realm of estate planning, as those who are creating an estate plan may have concerns about leaving a large inheritance to a child, grandchild, or another heir who has shown to be bad with money. They worry that the assets that they have worked hard to accumulate will be gone quickly, but they fear that potential family in-fighting that could result from cutting the would-be heir out of the estate plan entirely. If you are facing such a dilemma, you might consider using an incentive trust.

What Is an Incentive Trust?

By definition, an incentive trust is a trust arrangement through which you—the creator—can set conditions on how the assets of the trust will be distributed. Your conditions could be set to reward “good” behavior or to discourage behavior that you feel to be destructive or negative. For example, you could set up an incentive trust so that the trust’s assets will only be distributed to your named beneficiary after he or she graduates from high school and starts college. You could even increase the disbursement from the trust when the beneficiary completes his or her degree program.

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Lombard, IL child abuse attorney

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) reports that 125,000 children are victims of abuse or neglect in the state of Illinois on an annual basis, and that one in five children will become a victim of abuse before they reach 18 years of age. In the midst of contentious divorce proceedings, or even long after a divorce has been finalized, it is not uncommon for DCFS cases to arise against one or both parents. Whether your former spouse, a neighbor, an acquaintance, or another family member makes a claim against you as a parent, any child abuse or neglect accusation can be life-altering and have far-reaching negative consequences on the entire family.

Protecting Yourself and Your Family 

Allegations of the mistreatment of your child are a grave matter, as they not only affect the relationship you share but also your child’s current and future mental health. The threat of such detrimental effects on your family leaves you with no choice but to address the allegations head-on. If you believe you are facing embellished or fabricated claims about your parenting, consider the following actions to better protect your family:

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Lombard estate planning attorneyOne of the primary objectives of the estate planning process is to make sure that your wishes regarding your property and assets are followed in the event of your death. While the estate planning lawyers at our firm can help you draft the appropriate documents and make the process as easy as possible, there will still be many decisions that are yours to make. For example, it can be tough to choose which people in your life will receive a portion of your estate—and how much they should receive! As you think about those you would like to include in your will or estate planning trusts, you may wish to consider:

Choosing Multiple Heirs

You have every legal right to simply name your spouse—or another important person, such as your child—as your sole heir and beneficiary. Just because you have the right to do so, however, does not mean you should. The purpose of your estate plan is to set things up for the future, which cannot be predicted. Naming just one heir will prove all but useless if something were to happen to that person. Then, your assets would suddenly become dependent on that individual’s estate planning choices. If you select several heirs, however, or set up contingency beneficiary levels, you will be able to retain more control over how your estate is distributed.

The Dynamics of Your Family

It is not really fair that you should have to think about how your family members will react to your estate planning decisions, but the reality is that you probably consider it. It may be tempting to have an “It won’t be my problem” attitude, but your choices are likely to affect how your family gets along in your absence. In your estate plan, you have the chance to promote unity or leave the door open for contentiousness. While you cannot necessarily predict emotional reactions, you can eliminate possible loopholes by taking reasonable steps ahead of time.

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Wheaton high-conflict divorce attorney

When it comes to divorce in the family, no one is fully immune to its emotional effects. Even the most civil of interactions between divorcing spouses can be deceiving. What might seem at first to be a friendly, mutual agreement may actually be subtly rife with tension. Conflict can simmer, and it may surface over time as the divorce proceedings unfold. By nature, divorce is a very emotional event in one’s life, and it tends to stir up a myriad of feelings for both parties, especially as the experience begins to feel more real and moves closer to its final stages. 

Common Triggers in High-Conflict Divorces

Conflict in divorce often stems from sensitive issues like money and child-rearing. These topics can be very touchy for everyone involved, even when both parties are working together to resolve the problems. Here are some of the most common sources of conflict for divorcing spouses:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt is not easy to think about what will happen to your personal belonging and financial assets after your death. However, the process of estate planning can be an important part of providing your surviving family members with the security and peace of mind that they deserve.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for families to become fractured and split by disagreements over the estate of a deceased loved one. Such disputes can lead to many years of bitterness between family members who were once close. In some cases, a family member might feel so left out that he or she files a challenge to the decedent’s will. While there is no way to fully guarantee that one of your family members will not contest your will, there are few things you can do to reduce the possibility of such action.

1.  Make Your Plan Early

Many will contests are filed on the basis that the testator—the person who wrote the will—did not have the mental clarity needed to execute a will. The longer you wait to write a will, the more likely it is that your advancing age, decreasing health, and other considerations might be used as “reasons” for contesting your will. Draft and execute your will long before your mental state could reasonably be questioned, and work closely with a qualified estate planning lawyer.

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DuPage County divorce lawyer

The difficulties that accompany divorce can be vast, leaving you to face a major learning curve as you navigate your life without your ex-spouse. From new living arrangements and daily routines to possible career changes and less quality time with your children, divorce in the family unleashes a whole range of uncomfortable emotions for everyone involved. Eventually, though, the healing process begins, and with time and experience comes the ability to adapt to post-divorce life. 

Paving the Way for Recovery

Psychologists remind those grieving from a divorce that human beings are incredibly resilient, but research also shows just how hard the recovery stages of the loss can be. The divorce process looks different from person to person, and each separation has its own set of challenges and heartaches. If you feel you are having an exceptionally hard time kick-starting the healing process, or if you feel stuck in the attempt to move on with your life, experts recommend the following:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysThere are many reasons and situations that require an update to your estate plan. Divorce is one of the most common and potentially catastrophic situations. Unfortunately, it is also easy to overlook or forget. There are many loose ends to tie up once the divorce process is complete, and with more to manage, estate planning can easily slip through the cracks. Unfortunately, if something does happen to you before you have made changes to your estate plan, assets may not go to the people and places you had hoped. Do not let this happen to you. Learn what and when you should update in an estate plan after divorce.

Changing Your Beneficiaries

If you have a 401K, IRA, or other retirement plan, the beneficiary listed on your policy should be checked upon completion of the divorce. Of course, you may have to split some of your savings with your former spouse, but the remaining amount should go to you. If you do not want the remainder to go to your ex upon your passing, and he or she is listed as the current beneficiary, it is important that you change this in your policy. Alternatively, if you wish your spouse to be listed as a trustee for your children, ensure the policy and your other estate planning documents reflect this wish.

Updating Your Powers of Attorney

If you are like most people, you probably have your spouse listed as your power of attorney (the person that acts and makes decisions for you in the event of incapacitation). Now, it is possible to keep your spouse as your power of attorney, but few divorces end quite that amicably. Instead, you might want to consider naming a close friend, a sibling, a parent, or an adult child. Make sure they are someone you can trust to carry out your wishes.

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DuPage County family law and divorce attorney

When it comes to the end of a marriage, there may be no such thing as an easy divorce. Even couples who remain civil and separate amicably do not escape the end of the relationship without experiencing hurt and pain. Having to let go of someone you loved, possibly still love, and shared a home and a life with can be irrevocably damaging, regardless of the circumstances. Still, some divorces are flat-out toxic from start to finish and result in ongoing conflict and heated legal battles. A contentious divorce is undeniably the most taxing kind, as it takes a toll on the whole family mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Minimizing Divorce Stress 

Spouses can disagree about nearly everything in a contested divorce case, from the division of assets and debts, to spousal maintenance (alimony), to child support and parenting time. If you find yourself in high-conflict divorce and cannot manage to find middle ground on any topic, you may not be able to change the relationship dynamic, but you do have some power over how you handle the inevitable stresses of the divorce process. Psychology experts recommend the following activities to lighten your burden during this difficult transition:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysWhen most people think about the concept of estate planning, they tend to think about money and “things.” Of course, there is nothing wrong with this thought, as estate planning does require a person to decide which beneficiaries will receive what property when the person dies. Property and debt considerations, however, are only part of the estate planning equation, especially if you have children who are under the age of 18. With the help of a qualified attorney, your estate plan can include your wishes regarding how your children will be cared for if something happens to you.

Guardianship Considerations

It is not easy to even ask the question, but what would happen to your children if you were, all of a sudden, out of the picture? Your spouse would most likely take on additional responsibilities for your children if you are married, but what if you are single or divorced? Or worse, what if you and your spouse were to die in the same tragic accident? Unfortunately, the realities of life are often extremely cruel.

If your children were suddenly left without any surviving parents, the court would be responsible for appointing someone to the role of guardian. In most situations, the court would choose a close family member, such as a grandparent, uncle, aunt, or someone else with whom your children already have a relationship. The court would do everything possible to make a decision based on serving the best interests of the children. However, you know your own family better than any lawyer or judge ever could, which means that you are in the best position to make such decisions for your children.

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DuPage County child support modification attorney

As a parent pursuing child support following a separation or divorce, it is not uncommon to encounter various roadblocks. The process can bring all kinds of questions and concerns to the surface, and parents will need answers to these questions sooner rather than later. They need to know how much support they qualify for, how that support will be provided, and the certainty that funds are not only available but reliable on an ongoing basis. Additionally, those paying support are entitled to know how their obligations are calculated and what is expected of them by law.

Income Shares Approach

Whether discussions about support arrangements have turned tense between you and the other parent, or you simply feel overwhelmed as you begin your attempt to secure the means needed to care for your child, consider the following tips to better understand the “Income Shares” method in the state of Illinois:

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DuPage County paternity lawyer

No matter what kind of relationship you share with your child’s mother or what your living arrangements will be after your child is born, it is important to understand a father’s rights and how to avoid jeopardizing yours. If you wish to be involved and have a say over parental matters in the future, the first step is to be aware that in Illinois, you are only considered the legal father if you are married to--or have entered into a civil union with--the mother at the time of birth. This means that your relationship with your child from the moment he or she is born will greatly revolve around where you stand legally on paper. 

Immediate Actions You Can Take to Protect Your Rights

There are some actions you can take to establish paternity in order to make sure your rights as a father are not violated. Below are some of the first steps in becoming legally recognized as the father of your child: 

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Lombard estate planning attorneysThe very idea of estate planning can be frightening for many people, as it is not easy to confront the realization that nobody lives forever. Drafting an estate plan that includes a will, trusts, and other documents requires you to look past the end of your own life. While the difficulties associated with estate planning are understandable, it is critical to have an estate plan. If you were to die without a will or other estate plans, most of your property would probably be subject to the intestate succession laws of Illinois.

What Does “Intestate” Mean?

A particular asset is deemed to be “intestate” if there is no direction specified for how the asset will be disposed of following the owner’s death. Jointly owned property is not usually intestate because the ownership of the joint property will generally transfer to the other owner or owners. Likewise, an investment account that has named beneficiaries or a transfer-on-death clause is not an intestate asset. The named beneficiaries will receive the funds in that account when you die. However, if you are the sole owner of an asset and you have not established legally enforceable instructions on handling the asset upon your death, the asset will be treated as intestate property.

Intestate Succession Laws

The laws governing intestate succession in Illinois are contained in the Illinois Probate Act. Intestate property allocation will depend on your specific circumstances, including your surviving spouse, any children, and other family members. Intestate succession can become extremely complicated, however, as the law provides for a wide variety of possible situations.

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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, IL child support lawyer

In a divorce, child-related issues can prove to be contentious, and disputes may arise over child support obligations. Whether raising a child with an absent parent or within an antagonistic relationship, single parents have long faced significant challenges when it comes to child support here in Illinois. While new state laws that went into effect in 2017 aimed to better protect the well-being of children in need, they also made support matters more complicated for many families, due to new calculations that the courts now use to determine financial responsibility. Regardless of the specific amount of support, the custodial parent relies on that money for expenses related to the upbringing of his or her child. In some cases, a parent may need to take legal action to collect the payments that are due.

Assistance for Obtaining Child Support Payments

If you currently find yourself in a situation where you are in need of child support but are not sure where to turn for answers, rest assured there is assistance available to help you. Here are a few examples of how an attorney can help secure the resources necessary to raise your child alone:

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Lombard, IL adoption attorney

The decision and privilege to pursue adoption is an exciting, gratifying path when you desire to expand your family. More than ever before, today’s adoption services offer new parents opportunities to share their life with a child who is in need of a good home. However, adoption proceedings are complex and require serious preparation in order to navigate them successfully. For the sake of all parties involved, it is important to understand the legal aspects to make the adoption experience as seamless as possible.

Know Your Rights

It is not uncommon for new parents to feel instantly overwhelmed the moment they begin the adoption process. From selecting an agency to the application and paperwork, it can be difficult to know where to start. One of the most important ways you can get off on the right foot is to inform yourself of your basic rights as a new adoptive parent. What do you have a say over? What resources are available to you? Should you run into roadblocks, what rights do you have to protect your best interests?

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Lombard estate planning attorneysWhen the average person thinks about the concept of estate planning, they tend to think about wills, trust funds, inheritances, and other methods for passing assets down to the next generation. While these images are not really incorrect, they do not tell the whole estate planning story. In fact, there are many good reasons to create an estate plan that have almost nothing to do with possessions or money.  With this in mind, estate planning is an important consideration for any family, regardless of their wealth or overall net worth.

Reason 1: Privacy Considerations

Unless you plan ahead, Illinois law will likely require your estate to go through probate. Probate is the legal process through which an estate is settled when there are no alternative plans for doing so, and the process can be unpredictable, time-consuming, and cumbersome. You should also know that probate proceedings are usually matters of public record, which means that your affairs are available to be reviewed by the public at large. Through estate planning, you can minimize the effects of probate or even avoid it completely, thereby keeping your family’s personal matters private.

Reason 2: Minor Children

If something were to happen to you tomorrow, who would care for your children? If you answered, “My spouse,” let’s take the hypothetical situation a step further. If something were to happen to you AND your spouse tomorrow, who would care for your children? While you might have an idea regarding which family members might step up to help, it is important to have plans for your children’s care recorded in your estate plan.

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