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IL estate planning lawyerWhen someone is planning their estate in Illinois, several factors must be present in order for a will to be considered valid in a probate court. One important factor is the testamentary capacity of the person executing the will (also known as the “testator”).

Illinois law presumes a person who is writing a will possesses testamentary capacity. This means that if someone wants to prove a will is invalid due to lack of testamentary capacity, they have to proactively demonstrate that the testator was not capable of understanding or writing the will during the time in which the will was written.

Here, we’ll look at the definition of testamentary capacity, and several factors that may contribute towards a lack of testamentary capacity.

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IL family lawyerIf you are getting a divorce and have never been married – but have lived with your partner for many years, and may even have children together – you may have heard about “common law” marriages and wonder whether they exist in Illinois. The short answer is: No, Illinois does not allow common law marriages to take place in the state. However, Illinois does recognize common law marriage from other states. In this article, we will discuss what common law marriage is, and how common law marriages from other states are handled in an Illinois divorce.

What Is Common Law Marriage?

In states where common law marriages are legal, the state will generally treat a couple’s relationship as if it were a marriage if that is what the couple has done themselves. Couples must meet the state’s laws governing marriage, such as minimum age restrictions, and cannot be married to anyone else.

Couples must also present their relationship to the public as a married relationship. They can do this by wearing wedding rings, sharing bank accounts, and referring to each other as husband and wife.

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IL probate lawyerIn our last post, we introduced and discussed the concept of undue influence in creating a will. It can be difficult to prove undue influence – even the Supreme Court of the United States has said that what constitutes undue influence depends on the individual circumstances of each case.

When someone believes their loved one may have been under undue influence when creating a will, one way to show the will is invalid is to prove that there was a formal legal relationship between the testator and the other party, called a fiduciary duty.

This can be a little confusing, so we will explore further.

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IUL divorce lawyerMaking the decision to get a divorce is difficult and complex and should never be made lightly. In addition to the impact on any children, you will need to consider the impact of a divorce on your property and finances. Divorce is never easy, but in order to make it smooth as possible, you should also ensure that your personal interests are understood, respected, and represented. Making the wrong choice of a divorce attorney can be costly in terms of time and money.

As you begin the process of choosing a divorce attorney, here are a few tips to help you find exactly the representation you want and need:

  • Do plenty of research – There is more than one way to end your marriage, and the kind of divorce attorney you hire may change depending on the method you choose. If you want a cooperative, mediation-driven divorce, attorneys who focus on courtroom battles may not be the right choice. An attorney should not pressure you to do something you are not comfortable with. The attorneys at A. Traub & Associates have experience with different types of divorce in Illinois and will work with you to choose the path that is right for you.
  • Take your time – You may be eager to end your marriage and get on with your life, but rushing through the important decisions can be costly in terms of time and money. Interview several law firms and get a sense of what different firms have to offer. Make sure you really know your options before you make a decision.
  • Figure out what you want, and do not settle for less – If you are looking for an attorney who is going to keep you informed throughout the process, say so. If you want someone who will take charge and let you be more hands-off, express that preference and make sure the firms you are considering are okay with that. If your children’s schedule means that you need someone whose office is close to where you live, keep that in mind.
  • Focus and prioritize – In divorce, there is no “winner.” Nobody gets exactly everything they want. Choose an attorney who will help you figure out your priorities, and then will help you let go of the unimportant things.

Consult with a Skilled Lombard, Illinois Divorce Attorney

Choosing the right divorce attorney can feel overwhelming, but it does not have to be. The experienced professionals at A. Traub & Associates can help guide you through the beginning stages of divorce and ensure you get what you need. Contact our DuPage County divorce attorneys at 630-426-0196 for a confidential consultation today.

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IL probate lawyerUndue influence is the most common justification in Illinois when someone wants to contest the validity of a will. But what is undue influence? And if you suspect someone is trying to wield undue influence over your loved one during the creation of their will, what can you do about it? We will explore the concept of undue influence in a short series of blog posts, explaining what undue influence is and how it is treated under Illinois law.

Undue influence is when the person for whom the will is written (the testator) has their wishes wrongfully manipulated and overpowered by someone else. This obscures the true wishes of the testator and can cause tension and conflict in executing the will after the testator is deceased.

Family members who are concerned their loved one is being subject to undue influence may have worries triggered by unusual behavior, such as sudden estrangement or confusion on the part of the testator. They may witness a decline in the mental capacity of the testator, or notice they are accompanied by a companion who seems overly zealous in “helping” the testator or seems to be influencing their decision making.

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IL estate lawyerFor people of any age, estate planning allows them to make decisions about what will happen in the future. In many cases, the focus of an estate plan will be on what happens after a person’s death, and this will be covered in part by their last will and testament, which is commonly referred to as a will. However, multiple types of estate planning documents, including a living will, can also be used to address how issues such as medical care will be handled throughout the remainder of a person’s life. By understanding the differences between wills and living wills, a person and their loved ones can ensure that their wishes will be followed correctly.

Wills vs. Living Wills

A last will and testament is used to make decisions about how a person’s final affairs will be handled after their death, including who will inherit their property and assets. It will name a person known as an executor who will complete the probate process and ensure that the deceased person’s instructions will be followed when distributing their assets to their family members or other beneficiaries. A will can also be used to nominate a person as the guardian of the deceased person’s minor children, and it can specify the deceased person’s wishes for their funeral and burial or cremation.

The term “living will” would seem to indicate that it is a document that covers similar issues as a last will and testament prior to a person’s death. However, a living will can only address certain types of specific issues, and it will only apply in certain situations. Basically, a living will can make decisions about the medical care a person receives prior to their death, ensuring that their wishes will be followed if they cannot make these wishes known. To make decisions about medical treatment in other situations, other estate planning tools such as powers of attorney may be used.

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IL divorce lawyerIf you are getting divorced, you may have questions about alimony. In Illinois, alimony is called spousal maintenance or support. Alimony is financial assistance that a spouse pays to the other spouse after a divorce. In some cases, spouses agree on the amount and duration of alimony before they get divorced through a prenuptial agreement or separation agreement. In other cases, spouses negotiate a spousal maintenance agreement during the divorce process. When the couple cannot agree, the court will determine spousal maintenance issues on the spouses’ behalf.

Who Gets Spousal Support?

Spousal maintenance is typically used to reduce the financial burden created by a divorce. Both men and women may qualify for spousal maintenance. If the couple is not able to agree upon a spousal maintenance arrangement outside of court, the court will evaluate the spouses’ financial and life circumstances and determine if spousal maintenance is appropriate. Illinois courts consider the following factors when deciding whether to award a spouse alimony:

  • Any agreement the parties have reached regarding maintenance
  • Each party’s income and property
  • Each party’s financial needs
  • Whether time spent as a homemaker or stay-at-home parent reduced the income or employability of the spouse who is seeking maintenance
  • Each party’s present and future earning capacity
  • How long it would take the spouse who is seeking maintenance to be financially independent
  • How long the marriage lasted and what the standard of living was during the marriage
  • Tax implications

How Much Alimony Can You Get in Illinois?

If the court determines a spousal maintenance award, the amount of maintenance a spouse receives is based on a statutory formula. First, each spouse’s net income is determined. Next, 25 percent of the recipient spouse’s net income is subtracted from 33 percent of the payor spouse’s net income to calculate annual maintenance to be paid to the recipient spouse. Spousal maintenance is capped at 40 percent of the spouses’ combined net income.

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IL estate lawyerAlthough pop star Britney Spears was a household name in the 90s and early 2000s, the singer faded into the background in later years. However, a new legal battle has returned Spears’ name to news headlines. Concerns over a court-appointed conservatorship have led many to question exactly when an adult should be subject to guardianship. Some believe that Spears’ father’s control over her finances is a despicable abuse of power. Others see it as a necessary means of assisting a woman with a history of mental instability and substance abuse issues.

Understanding the Purpose of Guardianships and Conservatorships

Estate planning terms vary from state to state. In Illinois, the term “conservatorship” is often used synonymously with guardianship of a person’s estate. A conservator or “guardian of the estate” is in charge of managing the finances of another individual. A “guardian of the person” manages the non-financial concerns in the person’s life, such as housing and medical decisions. Both conservatorships and guardianships give authority of a person’s life to another party. Conservatorships and guardianships are typically used to protect the interests of minor children or those with dementia or other conditions that reduce the individual’s ability to make sound decisions.

Why Was Britney Spears Subject to a Conservatorship?

For over 13 years, Britney Spears has been subject to a court-appointed conservatorship which gives control of her affairs to her father Jamie Spears. The conservatorship was established in 2008 amid concerns over the singer’s mental health problems and drug and alcohol use. Spears has attended several rehabilitation facilities for substance abuse and has also been placed in the hospital under psychiatric holds on two occasions. However, many proponents of the #FreeBritney movement say that conservatorship is no longer necessary. Spears has requested that her father be removed as conservator and for a financial institution to take control of her estate. In February of this year, a judge denied this request and ruled that both Jamie Spears and the financial institution would oversee Britney’s financial affairs. Britney will attend a hearing on June 23 to address the ongoing legal battle.

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IL family lawyerDomestic violence and abuse affect the lives of millions of individuals each year in the U.S. It is estimated that 125,000 children a year are neglected or abused in Illinois. While these statistics are shocking and child abuse is a very real concern in Illinois, not every accusation of abuse is founded on truth. Misunderstandings, discipline, or exaggerated stories may lead to accusations of abuse. Some individuals even fabricate stories of abuse to gain an advantage in child custody proceedings. If you were accused of child abuse, it is important to know your rights as well as what to expect.

Department of Children and Family Services Investigations

If you are accused of abusing your child, you may be contacted by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Keep in mind, this organization must take every allegation of abuse seriously. This often means launching a formal investigation into the circumstances of any alleged abuse. A DCFS investigator may visit your home, interview you and other household members, and ask your child questions about the alleged abuse. The investigator may also speak with your child’s teachers, doctors, or other important figures in the child’s life. The DCFS has 60 days to complete the investigation. If the DCFS believes that the child is in immediate danger, the organization does have the authority to remove the child from the home and place him or her into protective custody.

How to Assert Your Rights After Being Falsely Accused of Hurting Your Child

If you have been accused of intentionally harming your own child, you may understandably be offended and angered by this horrible accusation. However, it is important to cooperate with the DCFS investigation. Remain calm and respectful. Answer the investigator’s questions honestly but keep in mind that anything you do or say can be used against you. Most importantly, work with a skilled family law attorney. Your lawyer can help you prepare for the investigation and take the steps that will give you a better chance at a favorable outcome.

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IL family lawyerWhether it was several months or years ago that your current order on parenting time was entered by a family law court, you probably recall some of the general legal concepts. Illinois’ statute on allocation of parental responsibilities covers both decision-making on important issues involved with raising the child AND the parenting schedule. The former terms of custody and visitation may no longer be used, but the underlying legal issues remain the same. Another notion that has not changed is that the court’s parenting plan order is legally binding. Even by agreement, co-parents cannot alter the provisions without court approval.

Of course, life may throw a curveball that you did not expect when the existing order was entered. Illinois laws presume that your circumstances will change over time, which is why there is a process for modifying the parenting time schedule under certain conditions. It is wise to retain an experienced Lombard child custody and visitation attorney to handle the legal tasks, but some answers to common questions about modifications may be helpful.

What are the grounds for modifying parenting time in Illinois?

In order to establish the need to modify the visitation schedule, you need to prove two factors:

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Lombard IL estate planning lawyerWith just one glance at the hundreds of statutory provisions in the Illinois Probate Act, you can tell that the estate administration process can be overwhelming and complex. Unfortunately, it is usually necessary for most estates to go through probate. The timeline varies widely based upon the circumstances of the case, but the proceedings can take several months to more than a year. It can be disheartening to think about the time and cost involved, and you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to avoid the probate process. The good news is that there are multiple strategies for sidestepping a drawn-out court case, and one or more of them are often suitable to achieve many of your estate planning goals.

1. Joint Ownership of Certain Assets

For any real estate you currently own jointly, as well as property you purchase with someone in the future, you can title it as “joint tenants with right of survivorship” to avoid the probate process. It is also possible for joint tenants to have survivorship interests on a vehicle registered in Illinois. When this language appears on the deed or Certificate of Title, your interest in the asset passes to the other joint owners by operation of law when you die–not through the probate process.

2. Beneficiary Designations

Another way to pass on assets outside of probate is through beneficiary designations, which will also lead to an automatic transfer of ownership upon your death. Typically, you would include a beneficiary for a life insurance policy, as well as some bank and investment accounts. You can also name a beneficiary on an Illinois vehicle Certificate of Title.

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IL divorce lawyerIf you are contemplating or currently going through a divorce in Illinois, you probably have a whole team of friends and family willing to help get you through tough times. Unfortunately, when this assistance comes in the form of legal advice on property division in divorce, misconceptions abound. You may hear that a “friend of a friend” recently got everything in a dissolution of marriage case, while someone else might relate how their cousin lost it all. It can be difficult to separate valid, credible details from conjecture.

One of your first priorities, when confounded by misconceptions, is to reach out to a Lombard property division attorney right away. Bad information can have a profound impact on your rights in a divorce case, and you put your interests at risk by attempting to address the complicated legal issues on your own. Still, it may help to debunk some of the myths about property division that do more harm than good.

Myth 1: Marital property is split equally between divorcing couples.

Illinois follows the law of equitable distribution when dividing assets acquired during the marriage, with the language of the property division statute requiring the court to divide items “in just proportions.” As such, the principles of equity and fairness apply when distributing assets, so the split may not be exactly 50-50.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyNo matter what your age, a will can offer numerous benefits as part of a comprehensive estate plan. As the AARP notes, your will serves as a roadmap for stating your intentions, distributing your possessions to beneficiaries, and wrapping up your final affairs. With a will, you maintain control over your assets instead of being subject to Illinois intestacy laws and reduce the potential for disputes among surviving loved ones, saving time and money in the estate administration process.

What you may not know is there are a few objectives you cannot accomplish by creating a will. This can lead to surprises if you expect to achieve certain goals, so it is wise to consult with an estate planning attorney regarding the details. Here is an overview of four things you cannot do through your will.

1. Evade Creditors

If you incurred debts or related legal obligations during your lifetime, you will not be able to get rid of them through your will. Your creditors can still pursue your estate, and in some cases, specific beneficiaries, to obtain payment. The person you name as executor cannot avoid debts, because they will be required to provide notice to creditors and pay verified claims.

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DuPage County estate planning lawyerIf you have already created a will, you should be happy to count yourself among the majority of Americans in certain age groups who have done so as well. According to AARP, almost 70 percent of individuals aged 65 years and older have prepared a will, as have just under 60 percent of people ranging from 50 to 64 years old. Like you, these testators appreciate having more control over their final affairs and the Illinois estate administration process, as well as knowing their assets are better prepared to make it to the hands of their intended beneficiaries.

However, there is much more to estate planning than just a will. Without other critical documents, there could be substantial gaps in your estate plan. As such, it is wise to talk to an estate planning attorney about other arrangements outside of your will, such as:

Health-Related Advance Directives

Some of the most critical estate planning documents provide advantages before your passing. Illinois allows for different kinds of advance directives, which provide instructions on how to handle your health care and medical needs if you become incapacitated. These include:

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IL prenup lawyerFor anyone walking down the aisle anytime soon, some data regarding divorce should be encouraging in terms of the future of your relationship: The Institute for Family Studies (IFS) reports that divorces have been steadily decreasing in the U.S. over the last few decades, hitting a record low of 14.9 divorces for every 1,000 marriages in 2019. This is the biggest drop in more than 50 years, surpassing the rate of 15 divorces per 1,000 marriages in 1970. Even better news is that the duration of current marriages increased by one year over the period from 2010 to 2019.

These figures are reassuring as your wedding date approaches, but it is still essential to be prepared for unforeseen issues. One way to protect yourself and your future is to consider a prenuptial agreement – a topic that many spouses-to-be avoid because of the negative reputation. While you can rely on a DuPage County prenuptial agreement lawyer to help with the legal tasks, you could use a few tips on how to start up the conversation.

Start the Conversation Well in Advance of the Wedding

With a topic as critical as a prenup, do not wait until the eve of the wedding to open the discussion. The best time to approach the subject is shortly after becoming engaged and as you are planning your upcoming nuptials. Couples can have a more productive, less confrontational conversation when they are not under time constraints.

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Lombard special needs trust lawyerIf you are considering ways to provide for a loved one with special needs, you have probably discovered the inherent conflict with giving money directly: Any funds you contribute could make this individual ineligible for benefits under the Social Security SSI program, Medicaid, and other forms of public assistance. Your heart may be in the right place, but you could be doing more harm than good when it comes to qualifying for needs-based programs that focus on income and assets.

With this information in mind, you may have also come across special needs trusts when researching ways to provide support. In short, this legal structure allows you to place funds in a trust managed by a trustee who makes permissible distributions that enable your loved one to still qualify for public programs. An estate planning lawyer can help with the details specific to your case, but you might benefit from knowing a few basic things about special needs trusts.

Creating a Third-Party Special Needs Trust 

You establish a third-party trust when you make the arrangements for a disabled beneficiary, often by appointing yourself as trustee. A first-party special needs trust would be one created by the person with special needs, such as when he or she received a settlement or inheritance. The distinction is important, since a first-party trust must pay Medicaid back when the beneficiary passes.

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IL family lawyerIf what you know about paternity comes from daytime soap operas, TV dramas, or blockbuster films, there is a strong possibility that you do not have a clear picture of how the laws work in Illinois. You probably understand the fundamental principle under state statutes on parentage, which is that all children are entitled to the physical, mental, emotional, and monetary support of both parents. However, if parents were not married when the child was conceived and/or born, serious disputes can develop over these responsibilities.

When you realize that there is a lot you do not know about paternity proceedings, you soon understand that you put your parental rights at risk unless you retain a skilled Wheaton parentage lawyer. Because relying on misinformation could harm your interests, it is important to review a few lesser-known facts about Illinois paternity laws.

Establishing Paternity in Illinois

Parentage arises by legal presumption when parents are married, which means it can be rebutted by evidence to the contrary. However, between individuals who were never married, the two most common ways of proving paternity are:

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DuPage County family law attorney paternity

In today’s world, it is becoming increasingly common for parents to have children while they are unmarried. However, this can lead to issues when it comes to establishing the paternity of that child. Establishing paternity is an important step in securing the same parental rights and responsibilities for the father of a child that are not automatically granted when parents are unmarried. Most of the time, paternity cases are aimed toward proving the paternity of a child, though in some cases, disproving the paternity of a child can be just as important. The easiest way to deny the paternity of a child is to sign the Denial of Parentage form at the hospital when the child is born; however, this does not always mean you are off the hook for parental responsibilities.

Fighting the Presumption of Paternity if You Are Married

In the state of Illinois, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if he was married or in a civil union with the mother at the time the child was born or during the 300 days prior to the child’s birth. This is true even if the child is not the man’s biological child, which is where issues can arise. If the presumed father is not the child’s biological father, he can sign a Denial of Parentage form, stating that he is not the father. However, he will still be considered the child’s legal parent and held responsible for child support unless the biological father signs a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form confirming that he is the child’s biological father. 

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Lombard, IL estate planning lawyerOne of the main goals of estate planning is to ensure that your wishes regarding your assets and property are carried out after your death. Of course, a qualified estate planning attorney is equipped to help you prepare the necessary documents and instruments to make the process relatively simple for you. For many of our clients, however, the real challenge is determining exactly what their wishes are. It can be difficult to decide who is to receive what portion of your estate, and while an attorney cannot tell you how to choose your beneficiaries when drafting your will, we can offer some things to consider.

Include Variety

It may be very tempting to oversimplify your will by naming your spouse as your only beneficiary. Or, perhaps, in acknowledgment that your spouse may not outlive you, you may choose to leave everything to one child. In creating your will, it is important to remember that you are planning for the future, which is always uncertain. Having a sole beneficiary can essentially negate most of your effort should something happen to that beneficiary, and suddenly, the disposition of your assets is dependent upon his or her own estate planning decisions.  By choosing multiple beneficiaries, or even designating secondary or tertiary beneficiary levels, you and your executor will maintain more control over the distribution of your estate.

Consider Family Dynamics

Although it may not seem fair to have to do so, you should also give thought to the way in which your family is likely to react to your decisions. Try to avoid a “who cares, I’ll be gone” attitude. In your estate planning, you have the opportunity to promote family harmony or to sow discord. Obviously, you cannot always predict emotional reactions, but you can take reasonable precautions and eliminate potential loopholes. For example, you may choose to leave a majority of your estate to one child with the understanding that he or she will distribute the inheritance among siblings and descendants. An “understanding” is not the same as explicitly naming the other beneficiaries, however, and there is no law preventing the beneficiary child from keeping the full inheritance.

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DuPage County family law attorney child custody

In Illinois, the term “child custody” was replaced by the “allocation of parental responsibilities” in 2016. Instead of one or both parents having “custody” of their children, the parents are expected to create an agreement that allocates the parental responsibilities and parenting time—formerly known as visitation. This agreement is called a parenting plan, and it involves careful consideration to create one that makes the children’s well-being a priority. 

What Is a Parenting Plan?

When getting a divorce, the parents of children must decide how the children will be taken care of after the separation. A parenting plan will be drafted that explains which parent has what responsibilities, and who the children will see, and when. A schedule will be created that both parents and the children will follow after the divorce. That schedule may include what days children spend with either parent, who picks up the children from school, and what activities each parent is involved in. 

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