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Lombard estate planning attorneyThe 2015 landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges was a game-changer of epic proportions. All couples—regardless of gender or sexual orientation—were given the right to marry in all 50 states. As such, they were afforded the very same rights as all married couples, including tax breaks and exemptions, ownership equality, and legal mechanisms that ensure survivorship and guardianship rights.

But, more than five years later, many couples are still facing legal challenges. Some are the same challenges experienced by all married couples. Others are completely unique to LGBTQ relationships. Regardless, couples should plan accordingly with an estate plan that reflects their needs and wishes in the event of an unexpected health complication or death.

Rights Under the Marriage Equality Law

Just like all other married couples, same-sex couples may file their taxes jointly, receive the same tax exemptions, have access to survivorship benefits under all pensions, insurance, and retirement benefits, give tax-free gifts to one another, and have spousal priority and identity in the event of their partner’s incapacitation or death. These provisions are guaranteed at both the state and federal levels and cannot, under any circumstances outside of divorce, be revoked by any government agency.

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DuPage County divorce attorney mediation

Many divorcing couples try to avoid the time, cost, and stress of a trial by pursuing an uncontested divorce, in which they come to an agreement on many important decisions. However, this can be easier said than done, and in many cases, it helps to seek the assistance of a qualified divorce mediator. Mediation can be especially beneficial when attempting to resolve the often complicated matter of dividing marital assets, property, and debts.

What Is the Role of an Illinois Divorce Mediator?

Unlike a divorce attorney, whose role is to represent the interests of one of the parties, a mediator remains neutral and seeks to guide negotiations between spouses to allow both perspectives to be heard, minimize conflict, and identify opportunities for agreement on the way to a finalized resolution. While there is usually some financial cost for divorce mediation, it is often lower than the expenses that the two parties may face if the divorce goes to trial.

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DuPage County family law attorney paternity

In many cases involving unwed parents, establishing legal paternity is important to ensure that the child has the financial support of both parents, and that the mother can rely on assistance from the father by way of regular child support payments. However, establishing paternity can also be crucial for unmarried fathers who wish to be part of their children’s lives, in that it helps them secure important father’s rights.

Benefits of Establishing Paternity for Unmarried Fathers in Illinois 

If you are an unmarried father, taking the steps to establish legal paternity can ensure that you have parental rights that may come into play in several different legal situations. One such situation is a potential adoption proceeding involving the child. If you have been legally recognized as the child’s father, the adoption of the child by another party will usually require your consent in addition to that of the child’s mother. By withholding your consent, you may be able to prevent an unwanted adoption and ensure that you remain your child’s legal father.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerThose with children often create an estate plan because there is this sense of responsibility—a need to ensure their children are cared for in the event of a premature death. In contrast, individuals that do not have children tend to overlook the importance of an estate plan, either because they assume they have time and do not feel the same sense of responsibility, or because they simply do not believe that one is necessary. Whatever the reason behind it, failing to create an estate plan can have devastating results.

Where Will Your Assets Go?

When you are married or have children, it is fairly easy to determine where your assets will go. If you fail to create a will and have children or a spouse, they are typically the default heirs for anything you have left behind, even if the matter has to be resolved in probate court. But, where do those assets go if you have no heirs? If you have not named a charity or individual to receive your assets, most often, your hard-earned money will end up going to the government.

Who Will Make Medical Decisions for You?

Imagine a car accident, a sudden illness—any kind of situation that could possibly leave you in a coma or unable to make your own medical decisions. Who will decide what type of treatment you should receive? Who will determine if your quality of life has diminished too greatly for you to continue living on machines? Again, when you have a spouse or children, the responsibility of this decision typically rests with family.

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DuPage County divorce attorney

Psychological research shows that when children are exposed to high levels of conflict between their parents, they may suffer from many long-lasting effects, including an increased risk of anxiety and depression. When you are in the midst of a divorce, it can be hard to shield your children from conflict entirely, but the more that you are able to do so, the better the position your children will be in to cope with the divorce and recover from the emotional trauma that it brings.

Protecting Your Kids from the Negative Effects of Conflict

The following suggestions can help you mitigate the effects of conflict on your children both during and after the divorce process:

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Arlington Heights, IL divorce attorney parenting plan

If you are a parent who is planning to divorce in Illinois, you may already be thinking about how you and your spouse will share child-related responsibilities. As part of the divorce process, you will be asked to describe the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time in your “parenting plan” and submit this plan to the court. If the court approves of the plan, the plan becomes a part of the legally enforceable divorce decree. Illinois law lists the issues that must be addressed in a parenting plan, but these are only the minimum requirements. You and your child’s other parent have the option of including additional agreements in the plan as well.

Planning in Advance to Prevent Future Conflict

Most parents have different beliefs, ideas, and strategies when it comes to raising their children. These differences can develop into arguments and legal disputes after divorce. One of the best ways to prevent conflict regarding child custody issues is to create a detailed parenting plan describing each parent’s responsibilities and expectations. The more you agree upon during the creation of the parenting plan, the fewer issues you will need to sort out in the future.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerFor married individuals, estate planning is typically pretty straightforward, as most assets are often allocated to a surviving spouse and/or children. However, statistics show that more people are opting for the single life with no children—either permanently or at least until later in life. This creates some important considerations when determining what to do with your savings and assets in the future.

Should You Wait to Create Your Estate Plan?

It can be tempting to wait to create your estate plan until you are married or older. However, it is important to consider the unexpected. Accidents, health conditions, and other unpredictable incidents can end your life suddenly or place you in a vulnerable medical situation. Because of this, every person over the age of 18 should create and execute appropriate estate documents, including a will, powers of attorney, and an advance medical directive such as a living will.

A large part of the importance stems from the risk of being incapable of making financial or medical decisions. However, you should also consider that, when there is no will or trust, the government takes predetermined paths that eat up valuable assets that could have gone to someone else.

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Wheaton family law attorney divorce

For many people, a divorce is a time of heightened emotions, including sadness over the end of your marriage, anger at your spouse’s behavior, and fear surrounding what will happen next. It can also be a huge source of stress, as you face the prospect of making important decisions that can affect the rest of your life, and possibly going through a lengthy trial or negotiation process. During this difficult time, it is more important than ever that you focus on your mental health while letting an experienced attorney help you navigate the legal proceedings. 

Strategies for Promoting Mental Health

It can be hard to put your mental health first with everything else competing for your attention during the divorce process, but here are some suggestions that might be beneficial:

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Wheaton estate planning attorney

When you are setting up your Illinois estate plan, it is important to consider more than just the laws that exist today. It is also a good idea to plan accordingly for rising interest rates. Of course, it is impossible to predict the future. However, there are some wealth-transfer strategies that could minimize the impact of estate taxes while also offering some additional tax breaks to trustees later on down the road.

Using Intra Family Loans

Some families opt to provide an intra family loan to their adult children, or they may transfer a promising investment to pass down an inheritance. Paired with a promissory note that requires the adult child to pay interest, the net returns of these investments are a tax-free transfer of wealth.

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DuPage County divorce attorney child support

If you are getting a divorce and have limited financial means of your own, it is important to work toward a divorce resolution that allows you to support yourself and your children. Often, this means ensuring that your ex is required to make regular child support and spousal support payments after the divorce. However, these payments do not take effect until the divorce is finalized, which may put you in a difficult situation during the divorce process, especially if your spouse is unwilling to cooperate. If this applies to you, you may need to petition for temporary maintenance or support.

How to Petition for Temporary Support in Illinois

In the midst of the legal divorce process, you can file a petition with the court for temporary spousal support, temporary child support, or both. However, it is important to be sure that you have good reason to do so. With your petition, you will need to submit a financial affidavit explaining your need for support with fact-based reasoning. You will also need to submit documentary evidence supporting the affidavit, which may include your bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, and evidence of any other income.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen creating an estate plan, most parents have the very best of intentions in mind. By taking the time to lay out their wishes, they are usually trying to not only manage their assets but also to provide for their heirs well into the future. Unfortunately, a lack of understanding of estate tax laws can lead to serious and significant mistakes—sometimes in the form of “tax bombs” for their children and grandchildren. You most likely have no intention of leaving behind unpleasant surprises for your heirs, so it is important to work closely with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that everything is arranged properly.

Tax Levies Will Vary

Tax levies—or the amount owed by an heir after receiving an inheritance or gift—can vary drastically, depending on a number of factors. Such factors include the size and value of the inheritance and how the asset was transferred to the heir. If, for example, a parent passes down an asset before his or her death, hoping to protect the asset from long-term health care costs or to avoid having the asset pass through probate court, the item can usually be considered a gift. Depending on the value of the gift at the time of the transfer and the amount originally paid for the item, the child may be required to pay gift taxes on the difference. The bigger the difference, and the higher the value of the item, the bigger that tax will likely be.

Advance Preparation May Protect Assets

Instead of using the gifting process to protect large assets from probate court or being chipped away at by long-term healthcare costs, individuals can utilize other planning and preparation tools to effectively manage their estate. One such example would be the use of a revocable living trust.

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Lombard, IL family law attorney legal separation

The decision to get a divorce is hardly ever easy, and it is understandable that you would want to pursue all other possible avenues before beginning the process of legally ending your marriage. You may even hold out hope for reconciliation if you and your spouse can find a way to work together to resolve your marital issues. If you feel that some time apart from your partner would be beneficial, a legal separation could be a good option, but you may wonder how, or if, reconciliation may be possible after you take this step.

Coming Together After a Legal Separation

A legal separation means that you and your spouse stay legally married but begin living separately. Depending on your financial and family situation, you may need to reach an agreement on spousal support, child support, and parenting time like you would if you were getting a divorce, but the option remains open for you and your spouse to end the separation if you both agree to do so.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerOut of all the younger people who are considering creating a will, parents are most likely to see the value and importance of this legal document. In addition to knowing where their assets will be going, they want the added security of knowing who will be caring for their children in the instance that they can no longer do so themselves. Of course, this is a very difficult decision to make. The following tips are designed to help you on your journey.

Know the Why Behind Your Will

Sometimes, even the best-intentioned parents can put off making arrangements in advance because they mistakenly assume that the person they want to care for their children will automatically step up and be given these rights. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. When there is no will (or when a guardian is not named in it), anyone can step up for the job, including extended family members that you may not consider suitable. In the event that more than one person comes forward, the judge would consider a variety of factors and then decide who will be given the responsibilities.

Accept That No One Else Will Compare to You

Probably the hardest step in choosing the right guardian for your child or children is to accept that no one will ever do the job quite the same, or as well, as you. There will be things about each person that may cause you to reconsider, but you must remember that the idea is to choose the person you feel will be best suited to responsibly, lovingly, and permanently care for your children. The following are points you may wish to consider:

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Posted on in Adoption

DuPage County family law attorney adoption

When you think of adoption, chances are that you envision a situation in which a child in need is welcomed into a home and family that will love and care for them. It is true that most adoptions involve a child under the age of 18, but in Illinois, it is also legal to adopt an adult under certain circumstances. This process may not only cement a family relationship that the adopter and adoptee already feel on an emotional level, it can also provide the adoptee with important benefits under Illinois law.

When Can an Adult Be Adopted?

According to Illinois law, a person over the age of 18 can be adopted by someone who is related to him or her, such as a step-parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, cousin, or sibling, or by someone with whom the person has lived for at least two consecutive years. If you wish to adopt an adult and you meet one or both of these criteria, you can file a petition with the local county court to do so at any time. Unlike with the adoption of a child, you will usually not be required to undergo a home investigation, nor will you need to obtain the consent of the adoptee’s current legal parents. Rather, you will only need to be sure that the adoptee himself or herself consents to being adopted.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyIn life, there are few absolute truths; the fact that things change is one of them. When such change includes divorce or remarriage, other aspects of your life—including your estate plan—must be adjusted to accommodate. Failure to do so can result in negative consequences, particularly for those who stand to inherit. So, if you are planning a major life change, it is important to know how you can address it accordingly in your Illinois estate plan.

Estate Planning After a Divorce

After a divorce, all of your financial documents must be reviewed and updated as needed. This, of course, includes all aspects of your estate plan, including your health or financial powers of attorney, beneficiaries, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts. Keep in mind, however, that these changes should be done according to the agreement made during your divorce. In some instances, the judge may rule that your ex-spouse remains a beneficiary on certain policies or accounts—possibly as security for maintenance or child support payments. Clarify these agreements whenever possible, and always request written confirmation from insurance companies or life insurance companies to ensure they have received your change requests.

Also, remember to make considerations regarding any family members of your ex-spouse. Under Illinois law, any provisions in your will and many other estate planning documents that pertain to your spouse are automatically voided when your divorce is finalized. However, this is true for your spouse only. Any provisions that you made in your estate plan regarding your spouse’s family will remain in effect until you change them. Failure to do so could mean that your in-laws will inherit a portion of your estate upon your death, and there will be little anyone can do about it at that point.

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DuPage County divorce attorney child custody

In most cases in which a child has two known, living parents, Illinois courts will determine that it is in the child’s best interest for both parents to share custody. In fact, in 2016, the state of Illinois changed the laws and language surrounding child custody so that the term “custody” is no longer officially used. Instead, these decisions are now referred to as the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, out of recognition of the benefits of a cooperative arrangement. However, there are still situations in which a parent or another party acting on the child’s behalf can legally challenge the other parent’s rights to parenting time and parental responsibilities.

When Can a Parent Be Denied Parenting Time or Responsibilities?

First and foremost, an Illinois court will seek to establish a parenting agreement that serves the child’s best interests. It may be considered in the child’s best interests to restrict or deny one or both parents’ rights to parenting time and decision-making responsibilities if the parent:

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Lombard estate planning lawyerEvery day, our world becomes increasingly reliant on digital technology. In many ways, it has made life easier to manage. We can transfer money from savings to our checking accounts through our phones. We can deposit checks with the simple click of a button. We can change our investments in the blink of an eye. But, there are some blind spots when it comes to technology and the way we use it, especially when it comes to estate planning.

Overlooked Assets

One of the biggest issues with the digital era is that there are so many accounts in so many places, from social networks to music and video libraries, and even smartphone-accessible investment accounts. Sometimes, those planning to pass on their assets forget to list some of their accounts. In other instances, they simply did not understand the importance of their account. Alternatively, they may acquire the account after creating their estate plan and forget to update their plan to add it. Regardless of the reason, the end result of a forgotten account is the same: money that should have gone to one’s heirs is left on the table.

The Password Protected

Most accounts—whether they be social, personal, or financial—require that the owner set up a password to protect their account. Even when various accounts are connected, family members and estate executors must access the initial account. Unfortunately, if such individuals do not have the passwords, they are likely to experience a great deal of trouble gaining that access—so much so that the courts may not even be able to untangle the matter.

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Lombard, IL divorce attorney parenting time

A divorce can not only change the lives of you and your spouse, it can affect your whole family dynamic. Your children will have to adjust to living in two different households, and the nature of your relationship with them may change, especially if you will not be spending as much time with them as you used to. However, your relationship does not have to deteriorate, especially if you continue to make an effort to foster love, trust, communication, and quality time with your children. Working with your co-parent can also help your children feel more at ease during this major life transition. 

How to Keep a Close Bond With Your Children

As you and your children acclimate to life after your divorce, here are some things to keep in mind that can help you maintain a strong relationship:

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Lombard estate planning lawyerThere is nothing wrong with a little do-it-yourself (DIY) work. In fact, there are few things that are quite as satisfying as a job that you have done well. However, there are times when a particular job is best left to the professionals. You would not try to completely rewire your house if you had no experience in electrical work. Similarly, estate planning should be done with the help of someone with working knowledge and experience in the industry. Granted, an estate plan gone wrong may not pose the same physical threat as an electrical DIY project, but there are still dangers that can and should be avoided.

The Importance of a Clear and Valid Estate Plan

When it comes to mistakes in estate planning, the future of your loved ones may be placed at risk. Efforts to save money in the short-term—such as using commercially available kits or DIY programs to create your estate plan—could end up costing your heirs more down the road. Unclear or improperly executed estate plans can take months, if not years, to hash out in probate court. All the while, your estate dwindles as a result of attorneys’ fees, taxes, court costs, and other administrative expenses. In some cases, this could take a sizable chunk out of your estate, which means you will be leaving behind a lot less than you had intended.

Common Mistakes Made in DIY Estate Planning

The opportunity for mistakes in estate planning are nearly endless. Some are more common than others, however. For example, many DIY estate planners use the wrong documents or make critical errors in their preparation. Others fail to accurately consider the tax implications of their estate. For example, a DIY estate planner may draw up a plan according to federal tax laws but fail to factor in how local state taxes will affect their estate. Or, they may attempt to consider both state and federal tax implications but improperly calculate their earnings or the value of their estate.

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Lombard, IL divorce attorney parenting time

Divorce may be difficult for children of any age, but it can be especially confusing for toddlers who cannot fully understand their parents’ separation and the reasons for the change in their routine. If you decide to get a divorce while your children are still very young, you should be aware of the effects it may have on them and do everything you can to make the transition easier for them and continue providing them with a happy and healthy life.

Effects of Divorce on Young Children

Due to the stresses placed on your toddler both during and after your divorce, you may see some concerning changes in his or her behavior, including:

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