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Posted on in Estate Planning

DuPage County estate planning lawyersFor many people, estate planning is a vague, nebulous process that involves a person accepting his or her own mortality. Even among those who understand the importance of planning ahead, there are a number of myths regarding estate planning that continue to abound. A comprehensive estate plan is crucial to protecting your assets and your family’s financial future, and the process can be complicated if you believe things that simply are not true. Over the next several posts on this blog, we will address some of the most common estate planning myths, beginning with:

Myth: Estate Planning Is for Older People

Young adults, in many cases, are still shaking off their adolescent concept of invincibility, but it can take a while for that to actually happen. By the time they reach their 30s and 40s, they may understand that bad things can occur but still see estate planning as not quite necessary yet.

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Lombard family law attorneysA divorce, as most people realize, can be extremely stressful for everyone involved. Children commonly have the most difficulty adjusting to all of the changes. Unfortunately, the effects of a divorce may be felt by your child for many years after the process has been completed. There are several ways—including some things you can do right now—to help your child cope with the end of your marriage.

Listen to Their Problems and Worries

Children, just like adults, feel loved and cared for when they know you are listening to them. This is more than just hearing what they have to say. Listening requires you to both be active in showing you understand what they are worried about while withholding any judgments or solutions until after the child is done sharing. Even then, it important to allow your children the freedom to experience their feelings. Attempting to control your child’s emotions or shaming him or her for feeling a certain way is not healthy and can lead to larger problems down the road.

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Lombard mediation attorneysDivorce is typically a time of increased stress and emotions for the couple splitting. When we are emotionally wounded, we have a tendency to lash out against the person who caused the damage. Some events that happen throughout the course of a divorce have the proclivity to leave lasting emotional wounds to those involved. As adults, we have a better understanding of what is happening and why, but when children are involved, the situation changes. The impact of what happens during a divorce could last for decades or even a lifetime. Many divorcing spouses now seek alternative solutions as a means of protecting their children. One such method is mediation.

What is Mediation?

Even after years of marriage, it is possible just to realize that this is not what you truly want for your life. You and your spouse may have irreconcilable differences, and you just do not “mesh” well together anymore. That is absolutely okay and it does not make either of you any a bad or unlovable person. For situations such as these and others in which the splitting pair are able to maintain a civil relationship, mediation is a viable alternative to traditional divorce proceedings. Instead of heading straight to a courtroom armed with your own personal attorney, divorce mediation allows an opportunity for spouses to come together in a private location with a neutral third party—a mediator—and settle the divorce on their own terms.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen you are dealing with the loss of a family member or loved one, financial and property considerations may be the furthest thing from your mind. In the weeks that follow, however, your intense emotions are likely to subside, giving you the space to think about your loved one’s estate and his or her will. Depending on your relationship to the person and his or her accumulated property, you may be expecting a sizable inheritance. But what happens if the terms of the will are not what you expected? What if your inheritance is less than you were promised? According to Illinois law, you may have the option of contesting your loved one’s will, but doing so may not always be the best choice.

Contesting a Will

The law provides certain people with the right to file a will contest, including those who would have some claim to the decedent’s estate if the person had died without a will as well as those named in previous wills. This means that if the person who died was a family friend rather than a relative and you were never named in any version of his or her will, you have no standing to contest the final will.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard family law attorneysEnding a marriage through a divorce can leave a gaping hole in your life. You may feel lonely, depressed, unwanted, and bored. The way you used to spend your time and energy has changed, and now you want something new. Some divorcees want to avoid relationships for a time after splitting from their spouse while others are eager to start dating again. Is there a right time to start dating after getting a divorce?

Dating Before Your Divorce is Finalized

“Life happens” as the saying goes and sometimes you meet Mr. Right or Ms. Right before you are technically divorced. Many experts agree that dating during a divorce is not the wisest choice. You may choose to pursue a new relationship at this stage anyway, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyDeep down, most of us understand why having an estate plan in place would be a good thing. We know that we want our property and assets to be distributed among our family member or chosen charitable organizations. Put another way, we realize we “can’t take it with us” when we die. Despite these realities, more than half of American adults have not taken the time to draft a will, let alone develop a comprehensive estate plan. There are many possible motives why this may be true, but most tend to procrastinate on estate planning for largely the same reasons, including:

Death Is Scary

In a society that places such a high value on longevity and advances in health care, it should hardly be a surprise that people are hesitant to confront the idea that they will die at some point. That said, death will, one day, be a reality for everyone, and no matter what your beliefs may be regarding religion or the afterlife, your family members and your assets will be left behind. While our own mortality may be difficult, it is worth being uncomfortable for a little while to ensure your loved ones are provided for in your estate plan.

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Illinois family law attorneysThe decision to divorce is not one that is made easily. This is especially true for those that have children who are sure to be impacted by the complex process. To bring awareness to the struggles that children face in divorce and to help parents better understand how they can improve their child’s ability to cope and adjust, The Child of Divorce—an advocacy group for children—has created and recently released an emotional but educational video. The topics discussed in the video are extremely relevant to many families and provide tips that parents can use during their divorce.

A Child’s View of Divorce

Parents are often—and understandably—shaken, troubled, and possibly even shocked by the changes that divorce brings. Children experience many of these very same emotions but in a very different way. They often feel that the very foundation of their world is crumbling. All that was once stable, safe, and secure is changing, and they have no control or say over the matter. Yet they still feel a strong attachment to both parents. When the parties become more focused on “winning,” and less on the emotions and well-being of their children, young ones can feel as though they are being asked to choose. No child should ever be placed in this position.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhile you may not know the specific requirements that make one valid in the eyes of the law, you are probably familiar the concept of a will. You most likely realize that most people use a will to specify how their assets will be handled after their death. Many individuals also utilize trusts in the process of estate planning. But, what exactly is a trust and how can they help with your estate planning needs?

What Is a Trust?

A trust, at its most basic, is a fiduciary relationship that allows a person—a trustor—to give the right to hold property or assets to another person—a trustee—for the benefit of a third party or parties. There are several types of trusts that are commonly used in estate planning, but each of them has a similar structure. Assets and property are typically placed in a trust to be distributed at a later date—or over time—to the trustor’s named beneficiaries.

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Lombard divorce attorneysWe have all heard the phrase “love is blind.” Many of us have even fallen victim to it ourselves. It is not uncommon for a person, when he or she first falls in love, tend to only see their partner’s good points while ignoring their faults and evident warning signs. This is likely to be a contributing factor to many divorces, especially for couples who marry after only knowing each other a short time.

Such is often the case for people who marry someone, only to find out later that their spouse is a “gold digger.” The word gold digger refers to a person who begins a romantic relationship or marries a partner because the partner is wealthy or well-connected. These relationships are also referred to as romance scams. Although it is common to think that only women are gold diggers, there are many cases in which men are just as guilty.

Know the Warning Signs

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Lombard estate planning attorneyAs you age, it is not unreasonable for your needs to change. Depending on your physical and mental health, you may require more personal and medical care than you once did. While your family members and loved ones may be willing to help, they may not always be equipped or able to do so. In such cases, you may need to depend upon a caregiver with whom you have no family or personal relationship—at least at the beginning. Over time, you may become very close with your caregiver, possibly even close enough to consider including him or her in your will.

Legal Protections

In 2015, Illinois lawmakers amended to the Illinois Probate Act to provide additional protections for those who are under the care of non-family caregivers. The amendment created the presumption that any transfer of property exceeding $20,000 to an unrelated caregiver is fraudulent if the transfer is challenged. According to the law, the presumption of fraud would invalidate the will or trust making such a transfer.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce lawyerA divorce can complete reshape a person’s life. In addition to possibly forcing you to live off a single, your divorce may also create concerns regarding child custody disputes, alimony payments, and the challenges of finding a new place to live.

Separated spouses may live in different states, or one spouse may wish to move out of state after the proceedings. If you or your former spouse plans to leave the state, there are several factors to consider. Depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary to postpone the move.

Moving Before and After Filing for Divorce

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce lawyerThe aftermath of a divorce is often the most difficult for the children involved in the process. Children of divorced parents tend to face extreme emotional conflict and upheaval. It is, therefore, imperative for parents to ensure that their children feel loved, supported, and heard. There are four key strategies to keep in mind when trying to help a child understand and navigate divorce.

Discuss Divorce Appropriately

Children need to feel included when major changes impact the family; it is completely unfair and counterproductive to keep them in the dark. If divorce is looming, it should be discussed with the children as soon as possible. Ideally, you will be able to find a quiet, familiar place where everyone can sit down and talk. Children do not need to know all the details involved with the pending divorce. However, they do need to know the basic facts of the situation and these facts should be presented to them in an age-appropriate manner.

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Posted on in Paternity

Lombard family law attorneyFor many fathers, it can be extremely difficult to maintain an active role in the lives of their children. This is especially true for a father who has gone through a divorce or breakup with his child’s mother. In many cases, it feels like the proverbial deck is stacked against a man when it comes to child custody decisions—now known as the allocation of parental responsibilities under Illinois law. Unfortunately, many such issues are based on the persistent public perception that men are less qualified to serve as primary—or even equal—caregivers for their children.

Anecdotal Examples

Recently, a discussion on the social media site Reddit addressed the various ways that men have experienced sexism in their lives. Many responses dealt with female-dominated work environments, physical abuse at the hands of female partners, and distrust from authorities when a man has been the victim of domestic violence. However, there was a substantial number of responses that described the experiences of men when they are seen in public with children—including their own.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersEstate planning is arguably one of the most important things a person will do during their entire life, and as such, everything matters. The slightest discrepancy may be attacked, and your wishes may not be honored if your estate is not set up and administered properly. Perhaps the most important choice you must make while estate planning is picking your executor, who can ensure that your wishes are carried out as you prefer and act on your behalf.

Responsibilities of an Executor

A person who has been named an executor in Illinois has 30 days following the death of the testator in which to either submit the will for probate or refuse the appointment. The responsibility of managing another’s estate is a heavy one, and, as such, it is important to pick the right person. The instinct for many is to choose their spouse, but this is not always the best choice, especially if you are of similar ages and he or she may be older and/or ill when the time comes for them to assume the role. Who you choose must be able to fulfill all of the duties of the executor including:

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Posted on in Family Law

Lombard family law attorneysThere are many reasons that a couple may choose not to marry. Some have become disheartened with the increasing prevalence of divorce and, therefore, do not see the point in marrying. Others want to maintain their single status for political, religious, or personal reasons. Some same-sex couples live in parts of the country where same-sex marriage was not legal until very recently. Only the individuals in a relationship can decide if marriage is right for them, but it is important to know that there are steps unmarried couples can take to protect their rights and assets.

A Cohabitation Agreement Can Protect You in the Case of a Breakup

Common law marriages have not been legally recognized in Illinois since 1905. This means that two people can share their lives together, live in the same house, help each other pay bills, and raise children together without being considered legally married. Couples that live together but are not married do not have the same rights and protection under the law as those couples that are married. Those who split up after sharing a life together may find themselves in a legal mess. For example, if the couple has brought property, real estate, expensive home goods or vehicles together, it is difficult to establish how this property should be divided following a breakup.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneysMany people in struggling marriages wait until later in life to divorce. Couples consisting of partners aged 50 and above now account for a full quarter of all divorces in the United States. Divorce between older individuals has been nicknamed “gray divorce,” and has been on the rise in this country for a number of years.

Couples get divorced after many years of marriage for various reasons. Some do not want to upset the family balance while there are children living at home. Others wait for financial or career-oriented reasons. Still others may have tried for a long time to salvage the marriage and finally decide to call it quits. While a divorce is a life-changing event for individuals of any age, waiting until later in life to get a divorce comes with its own special challenges.

Factors to Consider When Divorcing After the Age of 50

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Lombard estate planning lawyersFor the more vulnerable members of society, especially the disabled and the elderly, life can become a complex dance of government forms and applications. Social Security (SSI/SSDI) is a prime example of this, with lengthy proofs required as to why disability is necessary and how to show you are not ‘gaming the system.’ However, the strictures of being on disability mean that a person is not entitled to possess assets above a certain amount, which can be prohibitive. Special or supplemental needs trusts (SNTs) have been used for years to help address this disparity.

What Is the Purpose of an SNT?

The primary purpose of an SNT is to help a disabled or elderly person afford better care than that to which they would otherwise be entitled. While Social Security disability (SSDI) has no asset limit, many people do not qualify for it, and instead apply to receive SSI (the program for low-income workers). However, when one is ruled eligible to receive SSI, one is entitled to retain only a certain amount of assets - for most people, no more than $2,000 in value. This is tenable for some, but for many others it amounts to enforced poverty. For those who are physically disabled, having such minimal assets and no ability to work (because a bank account and a paycheck are resources) can result in privation.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerFor most couples, divorce is a difficult, time-consuming, and often expensive process. The considerations that accompany a divorce can seem almost endless, from determining who will keep which assets, how parental responsibilities will be divided, and whether spousal support is necessary. In the back of your mind, you probably realize that, at some point, you will need to update your will and other estate planning documents to address the property and obligations allocated to you during the divorce. But what if something were to happen to you before your divorce is finalized?

Your Estate Plan After Divorce

According to Illinois law, a divorce judgment will make certain changes to most estate planning documents in the event that a person dies before amending his or her estate plan. For example, if you named your spouse as the executor of your estate in your will and you pass away after your divorce has been finalized, the will shall be treated as if your spouse died before you. The same is true if your will left property to your former spouse, as well as if you appointed your spouse to be your power of attorney.

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Posted on in Child Support

Lombard family law attorneysIf your income has declined in recent months due to a change in employment or other factors, you may be struggling to make your court-ordered child support or spousal maintenance payments. You may also be wondering if there is anything you can do about it. Can you go to the judge and have your child support and maintenance payments modified accordingly?

Changing these, and other, financial provisions in a divorce is possible under Section 510 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). Any party to the case can ask the court to modify the existing order if there has been a “substantial change in circumstances.” The statute lists a number of specific factors, as well as the general inclusion of “any other factor that the court expressly finds to be just and equitable,” for the court to take into account.

Change in Income

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyersAs you look toward the future, you may realize that there could be a time when you are limited in your decision-making abilities. It may become impossible for you to express your wishes regarding your finances, property, and even your own medical care. To prepare for such a possibility, Illinois law allows you to select an individual to serve as your power of attorney for these types of decisions. Your power of attorney will have the authority to make decisions on your behalf if and when you are no longer able to do so.

The Right Person

The individual that you choose to serve as your power of attorney must be capable of handling his or her assigned responsibilities. This means that he or she should:

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