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Lombard estate planning attorneysIf you have aging parents, you have probably already noticed a certain amount of role reversal. As children grow to adults and parents get older, it sometimes becomes the child’s job to help his or her parents manage life’s challenges. If you have worried that your parents do not have adequate estate plans in place but are unsure of how to broach the subject, experts have some tips to help.

The Risk of Dying Without a Will

Although they are arguably one of the most important documents a person could write, many people pass away without ever having written a will. When the world famous singer Aretha Franklin died last year at age 76, she had no will or trust to direct how her assets should be handled. Her lawyer explains that he encouraged her to draft a will or trust for years, but she never did. Her four children must now endure a public probate process which could take years. Passing away without a will leaves private decisions up to strangers and impersonal state laws. It can also have a negative financial impact on the decedent’s estate and his or her surviving family.

Start with the “Why” of Estate Planning

When you bring up the idea of creating an estate plan to your parents, make sure they understand why is it so important to have a will. Encouraging your aging parents to draft a trust or will is not about trying to gain more of their money. It is about honoring their final wishes and not leaving important decisions up to strangers. If you have friends whose parents died without an estate plan, you may be able to use their struggle through probate as an example of the turmoil that can result from failure to plan. Remind parents that estate planning allows them to govern who is in charge of their money, designate beneficiaries, ensure their final wishes are fulfilled, and minimize estate taxes.

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Lombard, IL Divorce Attorney

The annual military divorce rate is not as high as many people believe. The divorce rate has remained at 3 percent over the last four years. Numerically speaking, 21,290 of 689,060 married troops divorced in 2017. 

The legal issues surrounding military marriage and divorce can be difficult to understand, as military law is different than civilian law. Over the past few years, many changes have been made regarding military pension and its division with divorcees. 

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Posted on in Children

b2ap3_thumbnail_child-abuse-signs_20190130-181753_1.jpgA parent’s worst nightmare is their child being hurt in any way. This includes various forms of abuse such as physical, sexual, or emotional. It can be difficult to detect or prove that your child is being abused, especially if you believe the abuser is your child’s other parent. Here we will discuss signs of potential abuse and what you can do to protect your child.

Detecting Child Abuse

Knowing whether your child is suffering from abuse can be very difficult, especially since the accusation is so severe. Many children will not open up about the situation out of fear of their abuser, or they have built a mental block to protect themselves. Physical evidence can also be hard to use as proof. A couple of bruises are usually not enough evidence since children often get bruises playing with their friends. While it can be difficult to prove abuse based solely on suspicion, a combination of signs can provide enough evidence to be sure your child is being abused.

Signs of Physical Abuse

  • Bruises, welts, or cuts that the child has no explanation for;
  • Injury marks with a pattern from an object, such as a belt;
  • Avoiding physical contact; and
  • Consistent wearing of long-sleeve or baggy clothing to cover marks.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

  • Constantly worrying about doing something wrong;
  • Depression and low self-esteem; and
  • Distancing from close friends or family members.

How to Help Your Child

Discovering your child is a victim of abuse is devastating and infuriating to any parent, which can result in a myriad of reactions, some good and some bad. If your child tells you they are experiencing abuse, it is important to remain calm and process what they have disclosed to you. It can be difficult to refrain from interrogating your child about every detail of the abuse, but this forced discussion can lead them to relive the abuse and scare them from telling you anything more. It is crucial to reassure your child they did nothing wrong. Many victims, especially children, will blame themselves for the abuse. Once you have comforted your child, contact the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services for assistance.

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will-estate-planning-probate-law.jpgThere are many misunderstandings about wills and estate planning in general. People incorrectly assume that they do not need to worry about estate planning until they have retired or that only the rich need a last will and testament. The reality is that having a will is beneficial to people of all ages and lifestyles. Passing away without a will means that strangers will decide how your property and wealth is managed and distributed to heirs instead of you. Although it can be difficult to make decisions about what will happen after you die, creating an estate plan put you in control of the assets you worked so hard to earn. The following are the most compelling reasons to stop procrastinating and get started on your will today.

Choosing a Guardian for Children if You Pass Away

If you are a parent of minor children, have you ever considered what would happen to your children if you passed away suddenly? Even a family with two parents can be struck by an unexpected tragedy which leaves the children parentless. A will allows you to name a legal guardian or guardians for your children if the worst happens. Parents who pass away and did not name a legal guardian for their children leave that decision up the court.

Determining How Your Assets Are Divided

Creating a last will and testament allows you to choose how your property and assets are divided among heirs. How your estate is distributed should be a personal decision – not one decided by strangers or impersonal state laws. If you do not create a will, when you pass away, your property and debt will be distributed according to Illinois law. This could mean that loved ones will not receive the inheritance you intended for them to receive and other heirs may be given these assets instead.

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DuPage County Divorce Lawyer

Abuse comes in various forms, and unfortunately, many people experience some form of abuse in a romantic relationship. The three most common forms of abuse are physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. While the definitions of physical and sexual abuse are fairly clear, emotional abuse can be difficult to detect.

Emotional abuse is classified as using a person’s emotions against them as a weapon of control. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly half of women and men have experienced psychologically aggressive behavior by an intimate partner. Emotional abuse may not be easy to recognize, but it is one of the most common forms of abuse that occurs between partners and often leads to divorce.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneysWhen creating your estate plan, it is vital to choose the right person to be your power of attorney, or agent. Powers of attorney have a tremendous amount of responsibility when it comes to estate planning, so choosing a representative who is accountable and trustworthy is imperative. A power of attorney document allows you to authorize someone to act on your behalf if you cannot do so due to illness or other incapacitation. The authority given to a power of attorney is largely dependent upon the document’s language. For help drafting a power of attorney document or for other estate planning assistance, contact a qualified estate planning attorney.

Types of Powers of Attorney

A non-durable power of attorney is designed to provide only a temporary solution. This document can be custom-made to authorize your agent to complete specific transaction. For example, you could give authorization to another person to sign a document that requires your signature if you are unable to do so yourself for some reason. A non-durable power of attorney terminates when you lose the mental capacity. Alternatively, a durable power of attorney is a more permanent solution which stays in effect even if you become incapacitated and cannot manage your own financial affairs. Both types of power of attorney can be designed to give your agent the level of authority you feel comfortable with.

The two types of powers of attorney listed above apply to matters involving property. By comparison, a health care power of attorney gives your agent the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so.

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DuPage County Paternity Lawyer

Getting pregnant and having a child does not always go as planned. Families come in many different forms, especially those created outside of marriage. Being married and having children do not always go hand in hand, but it often makes paternity much easier to establish. Here we will discuss Illinois parentage laws and proving paternity.

Presumed Parentage

Like many other states, Illinois has a presumed parentage law. The term presumed parent means an individual who is recognized as the parent of a child until that status is rebutted or confirmed in a judicial or administrative proceeding. The presumed parentage law makes it much easier for married couples to legally name a child as their own. This law was recently updated to apply to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. 

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DuPage County estate planning attorneysOne of the most important purposes of estate planning is safeguarding the best interests of minor children. If you are a parent with a child under the age of 18, you should be aware of your options regarding guardianship. Although it can be incredibly difficult to think about, all parents should consider who they would want raising their child or children should something happen to them and/or the other parent. In the tragic case that parents pass away before their minor children, an estate plan will dictate who will have legal guardianship of them as well as address inheritance benefits. While it can be an emotional process, creating an estate plan gives parents peace of mind knowing their minor children will be cared for should the worst happen.

When Parents Pass Away Without an Estate Plan

When someone dies without a will, his or her property is divided according to Illinois law during probate court. Minor children can inherit property or wealth but are legally unable to receive the property or manage it before they are a legal adult. The inherited property is instead be managed by a legally-appointed guardian. If no estate planning documents addressing guardianship have been created, this guardian will be appointed by the court. Without an estate plan, it is possible that children’s inheritance and guardianship decisions will be in hands of strangers.

Options for Establishing Guardianship and Inheritance

There are many different ways to manage your children’s inheritance. One way is to establish a trust. A trust allows you to designate someone to handle wealth and assets which will eventually be given to your children. Trusts can be individually established for children, or a single family trust can be drafted. Through the trust, an individual or party is named as the successor trustee and will hold and manage property upon your death. Trusts allow you to decide how your property is invested, used, managed, and distributed to your children, not a court. Trust provisions that assign a reliable relative or friend to hold assets for your children can also be included in a last will and testament. You also have the option of appointing a guardian for your child through a Power of Attorney document.

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Lombard family law attorneyHistorically, adoptions for same-sex couples have included their share of difficulties. Many people still believe children need a mother and father figure in their lives rather than two “similar figures.” This type of thinking has slowly phased out over the past 20 years, especially with the legalization of gay marriage. 

Same-sex couple adoptions made progress in 2016, just months after that legalization became official. A lesbian mother finally won legal custody of her children in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. The woman had cared for the children most of their lives and wanted legal documentation to recognize her as their mother. After deliberation, the Court overturned an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that said the court should not recognize the woman as the children’s mother. This court case opened doors for gay couples across the nation, allowing for non-nuclear families to exist.

Second Parent Adoption in Illinois

While adoption by homosexual couples can prove difficult, the process is far from impossible. Adoption agencies and couples looking for parents for their child will usually choose married couples over unmarried couples. This is common because marriages are considered permanent, whereas those who are not legally bound by marriage can end their relationship with far less difficulty. 

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Lombard estate planning attorneysWhen you stop and think about it, you probably realize that it would be a good idea to have an estate plan—or at least a will—in place. We all understand, at least at a basic level, that it is better for us to decide what will happen to our assets after our death than to let the state decide for us. Put simply, we know that we cannot take our assets with us when we die, so there should be a plan for how they will be handled.

Despite knowing all of this, more than half of American adults still do not have created even a will, let alone other estate planning instruments. Experts have conducted surveys and studies to determine why this is the case, as people may put off estate planning for a wide variety of reasons. Let’s take a look at some of the common ones:

Facing the Reality of Death

Advances in Western medicine and knowledge about nutrition and related concerns have pushed the average life expectancy upward in America over the last few decades. (In the interests of accuracy, it bears pointing out that the average life expectancy has dipped slightly in recent years, but we are still living longer than we did a century ago.) The obsession with longevity and quality of life makes many people hesitant to truly accept the reality that everyone will eventually die. The refusal to confront one’s own mortality can result in avoidance of any topics related to death, including estate planning.

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DuPage County stepparent adoption attorneyBecoming a step-parent can be an overwhelming life change, whether you have biological children of your own or not. Approximately 40 percent of American families are blended families, making stepparenting a common occurrence. It can be a challenge to balance the desire to befriend your spouse’s child and earn their affection with the need to parent them when the time comes. Many stepparents form strong bonds with their stepchildren, and they should be sure to understand their rights and legal obligations both during their marriage and if divorce ever enters the picture. 

Throughout the Marriage

  • Discipline: Many stepparents leave discipline to their spouse, especially when they first join the family, but as time goes on, more and more responsibility can get placed in their hands. It is important to have a conversation with your spouse about parenting expectations. Though it may not feel like it, you must remember that discipline is intended to benefit the child, and as a parent, the child’s safety should be your first priority.
  • Education: Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), stepparents are allowed to receive and review their stepchildren’s school records. FERPA defines a parent as "an individual acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or guardian,” thus giving stepparents educational rights in regards to their stepchild.
  • Traveling: There is no law stating that stepchildren and stepparents cannot travel alone together; however, it is important to have both biological parents’ permission, unless the stepparent has adopted the stepchild and become their legal parent. There are also consent forms that can be signed to ensure no legal action is taken against the stepparent.

After Divorce

  • Custody/Visitation: Stepparents and stepchildren often share relationships similar to biological parents and their children, especially when this relationship existed for most of the child’s life. If the biological parent decides that the stepparent cannot have visitation rights after divorce, there is often not much that a court can do, unless the stepparent has formally adopted the stepchild. Once the divorce is finalized, a stepparent will lack the biological and legal ties to the child that guarantee parental rights. A stepparent does typically have the right to request visitation, but the court may not grant visitation rights.
  • Solidifying Legal Rights: The only way to ensure legal rights of the child is through adoption. Many stepparents decide to adopt their stepchild, especially if the child’s other biological parent is no longer in the picture. It is easier to adopt the child before divorce, because the biological parents’ permission is required for an adoption.

Contact a Lombard Adoption and Divorce Attorney

Blending families and learning to be a good stepparent can be challenging tasks. Stepchildren often feel like one’s own children, and the possibility of losing the connection with them after divorce can be unthinkable. Our DuPage County family law attorneys can help you address your legal concerns regarding adoption, divorce, or other issues regarding your stepchildren. Contact us at 630-426-0196.

Sources: 

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Lombard estate planning attorneyAccording to several recent surveys, about 55 percent of American adults do not have a will. Of those, approximately 60 percent say it is simply because they have not had the chance to create one, but human nature suggests that there may be another motive. Many people are simply unwilling to consider their own mortality and to face the reality of death. Unfortunately, this can lead to serious consequences, even for those who do not have particularly large estates. Unfortunately, dying without a will or other estate planning tools can lead to some unpleasant consequences.

Depreciation of Assets

There are a number of reasons that assets may depreciate after death. It could be due to the red tape and time it takes to go through the Illinois probate system. Alternatively, valuable funds may need to be spent on tracking down family members that you might not have even had planned to inherit (or may very well be deceased). Taxes, which often end up being higher in the absence of a will, can also affect the value of the estate. Regardless of the reason, the absence of a will makes depreciation almost unavoidable.

Family Disputes

Families do not often intend to fight over items of value. Sometimes, it is simply a manifestation of troubling economic times. In other situations, it is because one family member has an emotional attachment to an item that is separate from its appraised monetary value. In still others, there are issues of speculation and feelings of being betrayed that may play a role. By taking the time to create a will, you can help your family members avoid such issues after your death.

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Lombard Prenup Lawyer 

For many people, pets are a part of the family. You get them when they are young and you take care of them as they grow older, much like parents do with their children. Whether the pet is a dog, cat, bird, or reptile, many pet owners view their pets as children as well. 

Divorce means the division of assets between two spouses, but also a decision on who gets the pet after the divorce papers are signed. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are a way to make these decisions while a couple's relationship is in a good place, instead of during the often contentious divorce process if they reach that unfortunate conclusion. Much of the negative perception regarding these agreements has faded in the public consciousness because couples now see the value of expecting the best but planning for the worst.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersMost people know that estate planning chiefly deals with the distribution of assets and personal wealth after a person passes away. A last will and testament or trust can enable an individual to decide how his or her hard-earned assets are divided among heirs. While having a will is a critical part of making sure your final wishes are fulfilled and your family is provided for, wills do not address what will happen if you become incapacitated due to illness or injury. This “incapacity planning” is often disregarded as unnecessary or too emotionally burdensome to manage, but planning for potential incapacitation is critical to having a comprehensive estate plan.

Do Not Burden Your Family with Making Health Care Decisions on Your Behalf

Have you ever considered what would happen if you became unable to make decisions about medical care or financial affairs because of a serious illness? Often, when people fall ill and are near death, their family members have to make excruciating decisions about death-delaying procedures. Deciding when and if procedures like mechanical ventilation, surgery, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), dialysis, antibiotics, or transfusions should be used can be a tremendously burdensome task for family members. However, those who have incapacitation plans in place save their family members from being forced to make blind decisions about financial matters and medical procedures.

Living Wills and Power of Attorney

In Illinois, individuals can make their desires regarding your medical treatment known by executing an advance directive such as a living will. A living will differs from a regular will in that it only takes effect when a person is incapacitated by a terminal illness and cannot speak for himself or herself. Another option to plan for potential incapacitation is to use a healthcare power of attorney. Assigning a trusted loved one to be your healthcare power of attorney is another way to plan for potential incapacitation. A healthcare power of attorney allows you to choose a representative who can make healthcare decisions for you when you are unable to do so.

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DuPage County Family Lawyer

The term “blended family” refers to families that come together with a  relationship that follows a previous marriage or marriages. This often means connecting children who are unrelated to form a new, larger family. Every situation is unique. Some spouses both have children from their previous relationship while others do not. Both families are accustomed to “how things used to be” and it can be a difficult transition for parents and children alike. 

There are many different strategies that can help families come together, even if it does not feel natural at first. Listed below are various ways to strengthen your family as it begins to form:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysSadly, as long as there are vulnerable people in the world, unscrupulous individuals will attempt to exploit that vulnerability. This is especially a concern for those with elderly or disabled relatives. When someone exerts “undue influence” on an elderly or otherwise incapacitated person, they try to convince that person to make a different decision than he or she planned to make. This often occurs with financial and inheritance concerns. If you believe that your relative was under undue influence when he or she created a will or other estate planning document, you may be able to bring these suspicions to probate court.

Elderly Individuals and Those with Dementia Can Be Taken Advantage Of

Probate is the verification process which every will goes through in order for inheritance directions to be carried out after an individual dies. If you have recently lost a loved one and you suspect that his or her will does not actually reflect his or her final wishes, you may petition the court to have the will invalidated. This is called contesting the will. In order to prove your relative was under undue influence, you will need to show that:

  • Directions for asset distribution in the will are much different from what people close to the deceased would expect. For example, if close family members were left out of the will with no explanation, this may be evidence of undue influence or coercion;
  • The deceased person was particularly reliant on or trusting of the individual who you believe exerted influence;
  • Illness or cognitive decline made the deceased person susceptible to undue influence;
  • The person who you believe influenced the testator took advantage of him or her and benefited from this deceptive intimidation; and
  • The suspected influencer substituted his own desires for that of the will-maker.

It is important to note that unsolicited opinions and casual suggestions are not the same thing as undue influence. If your relative was mentally and physically independent, you may have a difficult time proving that his final wishes were not his own.

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Lombard divorce lawyer irreconcilable differencesThroughout the history of marriage, adultery has been socially frowned upon as a betrayal of trust, and it often leads to divorce. Public opinion and religious beliefs are often believed to be the driving factor behind these negative views, but the laws regarding marriage also play a role. However, many people do not understand how these laws may affect them.

The Legality of Adultery

As is common with most laws, the way adultery is defined and handled varies from state to state. What many fail to realize about adultery is that in Illinois, it is considered against the law and can result in legal repercussions. Illinois is one of 18 states that have made adultery a crime. Illinois law defines the act of adultery as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse, if:

  • The person is married and knows the other person involved in such intercourse is not his spouse; or 
  • The person is not married and knows that the other person involved in such intercourse is married.

Based on the law, if two parties engage in such action, and their actions are “open and notorious,” they are committing a misdemeanor, which can be punished by up to a year in prison. However, even though this law exists, it rarely results in criminal prosecution, so a person is unlikely to actually receive jail time for their extramarital activities. 

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt seems like just recently that we ventured into the year 2018, but soon this calendar year will come to a close. As you ready yourself for the new year, take some time to evaluate your estate plans. Although it may seem like a chore, scheduling regular estate plan “maintenance” is critical to ensuring that your estate plans reflect your actual wishes. Keeping estate plans up-to-date can take some time and energy, but the peace of mind you will feel knowing that your estate plans are current, accurate, and legally-binding is well worth the effort.

You Give Up Control Over Inheritance Decisions Without an Estate Plan

A comprehensive estate plan allows you to make decisions for your future which would otherwise be decided by others. Not only can estate planning tools like a will or trust help you decide how your property is divided after you pass, it also protects your financial interests and rights while you are living. When no valid estate plan exists and an individual dies, his or her wealth and property is distributed to heirs according to Illinois state law.

Evaluate Your Current Estate Plan

When reviewing your estate plan, consider the following questions:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIf you have recently decided that it is time to create an estate plan, congratulations! You are one vital step closer to preserving the financial future of your family. However, it is important to understand that, when it comes to estate plans, one size does not always fit all. In fact, using so-called “boilerplate” forms or documents could lead to devastating oversights, as there are many different situations that could require special consideration.

Special Needs Children and Adult Dependents

Children who have special needs are often entitled to government benefits to help ensure that their medical and daily care needs are met. In many cases, these benefits continue well into adulthood. Unfortunately, when parents, siblings, or other family members leave behind an improperly planned inheritance, the benefits available to a special needs individual could be placed at risk. Then, rather than enhancing their lives, the inheritance ends up being spent on their daily needs.

Parents and loved ones can avoid this risk by taking the time to speak with an attorney about the child’s specific needs. In many cases, a special needs trust could be appropriate to protect the heir’s best interests.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersOne of the most important decisions in the estate planning process is who will be named as executor of the estate. The executor is the person who is responsible for overseeing and protecting the assets of the deceased person. He or she is responsible for ensuring that the wishes of the decedent are carried out, as well as maintaining any property of the estate until disbursement, settling the debts of the estate, and paying any taxes owed. It is critical for the person who is appointed executor to understand how to manage the estate. If they mismanage estate assets that add up to a loss to the beneficiaries of the estate, they can be held liable for those losses.

Short-Term Responsibilities

Unless arrangements have been made before the person’s death, it is typically the executor’s responsibility to handle the financial arrangements for the deceased’s funeral and burial expenses. The funeral parlor also provides copies of the death certificate to the executor. It is important to obtain several copies of the death certificate since a copy will be necessary in order to access financial accounts and canceling government benefit checks (i.e. Social Security). A copy is also required to be filed with the final federal tax return of the estate.

Probate and Beyond

It is also the executor’s responsibility to file the deceased person’s will for probate. There can be no division of the estate until a probate judge gives their approval. Exceptions to this rule is if all the assets had been transferred to a living trust before the person died. Those assets can be disbursed to the designated beneficiaries without having to go through the probate process.

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