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Lombard family law attorneysNo one wants to think about their own mortality, but it is an issue that must be faced eventually. This is especially true if you have minor children. Provisions must be made for them in case the unthinkable happens. While it may seem alarmist, it is actually quite common to draw up a plan or mechanism to ensure that your children are well cared for if you are suddenly removed from the proverbial picture. The most often used method of guaranteeing that stability is to set up a guardianship, but there are other possible options.

Superior Rights Doctrine

As one might assume, if you are married to your children’s mother or father (or once were), Illinois courts will usually grant custody to him or her under the so-called “superior rights doctrine.” There is a general presumption that a biological parent is the best person to raise children, and this will often be followed as long as the parent has not been found unfit. However, there is one doctrine that carries more weight than the superior rights principle, and that is the best interests of the child. Illinois public policy explicitly states that the best interests of the child are the primary concern when ruling on issues in family law, such as parenting time or allocation of parental responsibilities.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerMany of us have seen celebrity disputes in the news regarding a deceased person’s estate. For instance, after music legend Michael Jackson died in 2009, his family became embroiled in financial and legal arguments regarding his last will and testament. Jackson’s siblings—who were not named as beneficiaries—claimed that pop icon’s will was fake. Another dispute arose when Anna Nicole Smith’s billionaire husband J. Howard Marshall died. In a series of dramatic court cases, Smith was at first awarded but then denied a share of her late husband’s estate. Smith died just a year after her late husband and the argument was not resolved.

Celebrities are not the only ones to experience the tension of an estate dispute. Every day, families whose names we do not know experience the pain and trauma of arguments over inheritance. There is no way to eliminate the risk that your estate plan will be challenged by a family member, but there are some steps you can take to minimize the risk:

  1. Talk to your family about your plans. Although it can be an extremely difficult to talk to your family about plans for after your death, it is also critically important. By explaining your estate planning choices to your family, you can help avoid disputes in the future;
  2. Do not wait until you are sick to create an estate plan. People often think that only older individuals or those with a terminal illness should take estate planning seriously. In reality, having an estate plan in place while you are physically and mentally well can lessen the chance of problems later on. An estate plan which is created when the testator is in ill health is more susceptible to being contested;
  3. Update your estate plan appropriately. Estate planning is an ongoing process. Plans should be reviewed and updated based on changes in your family.  When a beneficiary gives birth, gets married or divorced, or passes away, you must account for these changes in your plan. It is also imperative to monitor your assets and your beneficiary designations;
  4. Consider using a revocable living trust to avoid probate. A revocable living trust puts property and financial assets into a trust which are then administered for the creator’s benefit during their lifetime. After death, the assets in the trust are either distributed or held in trust for future distribution to named beneficiaries; and
  5. Do not try to navigate the estate planning process alone. An experienced estate planning attorney will be familiar with changing laws and court decisions. He or she will be able to guide you in your estate planning process and help you lessen the chance of a contested will or dispute.

Seek Skilled Legal Assistance

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Lombard family law attorneyThe term “parental alienation” refers to the process through which a person psychologically manipulates a child into having ill feelings toward their parent. This most often occurs when parents divorce or separate. Parental alienation is a form of psychological abuse and it can be devastating to both the child and his or her parents. There is even evidence to suggest that a child who has been manipulated in this way will have a higher chance of mental and physical illness. Parental alienation is inexcusable.

Why and How Does Parental Alienation Occur?

Parental alienation most often happens to children whose parents are separating or divorcing. Of course, it can also be an issue for children of parents who were never married to one another. When the parents are in conflict, they can start to bring their child or children into the conflict. A parent who is jealous or angry toward the other parent begins to encourage their child to take “their side.”

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyerA person’s last will and testament is a vitally important document. In it, an individual can record their wishes regarding guardianship of children and the distribution of assets and property. However, there are instances in which the directives set forth in a will are not carried out. If a judge determines that the person signing the will was not of sound mind or was illegally influenced, the court can disregard the will. In these cases, decisions about property and guardianship can become incredibly complicated.

The Person Signing the Will is Not of Sound Mind

Often, as a person ages, they experience changes in cognitive capacity and memory. A will must be written and signed by a person of “sound mind” in order to be considered valid. A person has “testamentary capacity” if he or she fully understands the instructions set out in the will and agrees to them. It can be extremely difficult to prove that the testator was not mentally capable of understanding the will that they signed. Often the strongest evidence of testamentary capacity comes from the people who witnessed the will maker signing the will.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard family law attorneysSubstance abuse and addiction problems have touched most people’s lives one way or another. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 21.5 million teens and adults fought a substance use disorder in the United States in 2014. If you have ever been close to someone struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you know that the addiction can become all-consuming. Addicts can end up losing their jobs, resort to criminal activity, and be estranged from those who love them. Others with addiction issues seek professional help and are able to overcome the dependence. If you are married to someone with substance abuse issues, you know the toll those issues can take on the family.

Sometimes, a person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol becomes a danger to themselves or those in his or her household. How much should a spouse tolerate before they end the marriage? Every relationship is different and only the people in it know what is right for them. However, if you are married to an addict, there are a few things worth keeping in mind.

Is Your Partner Willing to Get Help?

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Lombard estate planning attorneyMost people are vaguely familiar with the concept of a last will and testament. However, there are actually many different documents that individuals use to distribute their assets and property upon their death. Wills and trusts sometimes get lumped together, but they serve different purposes. You may choose to use one, both, or neither based on your own personal circumstances and wishes.

A will is a document in which a person—the grantor—dictates what they want to happen to their property after they have passed away. He or she designates beneficiaries who then receive the assets and property upon the grantor’s death. A trust, by comparison, is a legal arrangement which allows a third party, called the trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries.

One significant difference between a will and a trust is that a will goes into effect only after the person who authored it, passes away whereas a trust can be effective immediately. Also, a will can only govern the distribution of property owned in the testator's sole name. Assets that pass directly to a beneficiary by contract or law, such as life insurance policies or joint tenancies with rights of survivorship, cannot be addressed by a will. Trusts, on the other hand, can manage and distribute any property the grantor chooses. Trusts can include life insurance policies and tenancy-in-common interests.

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Lombard divorce attorneysJanuary is often a popular time for couples to separate or divorce because many people wait until after the holidays to start the process of splitting up. If you are considering divorcing your spouse, or you have already decided to, you probably know you have a long road ahead of you. There is no perfect way to divorce, but following experts’ advice may help save you and your spouse from unnecessary stress and conflict as you end your marriage. In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, you may wish to:

Resolve to Communicate Better

Communication is one of the most important aspects to any relationship, and it does not become less important when a couple is no longer romantically involved. In order to undo a marriage, both members of it must be willing to talk to the other about the plans moving forward. Understandably, many individuals who are facing the end of their marriage are emotional. They may feel anger toward their spouse because of the hurtful things that happened during the marriage. Others who get divorced feel so upset that they shut down and stop communicating entirely. While these feelings are natural, refusing to cooperate with your spouse will only prolong the painful divorce process. Be willing to “be the bigger person” and work with your spouse, even if you resent him or her. You will be thankful that you did.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyOur society is becoming more accepting of non-traditional families which means that many couples no longer feel pressured to get married before starting a life together. In fact, the number of live-in couples in the U.S. rose 25 percent from 2000 to 2010. If you are in a committed relationship with someone but you are not legally married, you may miss out on some of the legal protections and advantages provided through marriage, particularly those related to inheritances and estate planning. However, with some preparation, it is possible to create an accurate estate plan which reflects your wishes even if you are not married.

Create a Will

An important step for anyone is creating a last will and testament. It is especially crucial for unmarried couples to be deliberate about their wills. In order to ensure that your assets are passed to your significant other when you die, you must specifically name your partner as your beneficiary on all pensions, retirement accounts, and insurance policies. Some retirement accounts have rules against nonfamily beneficiaries, so double check with an estate planning attorney that you are able to legally name your partner on all necessary accounts. You may need to designate your significant other as your power of attorney and sign an advance care directive if you wish him or her to make decisions about health care and finances if you ever become unwell.

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DuPage County family law attorneysUnfaithfulness in a marriage is unfortunately common. In fact, surveys show that one or both spouses admit to cheating in one-third of marriages. Men admit to cheating at an average of 22 percent, while approximately 14 percent of women admit to cheating. As any couple who has dealt with infidelity knows, cheating can take a serious toll on a relationship or marriage. There is no surefire way to predict if a partner will cheat on their significant other, but new research has shed light on the reasons that some people cheat.

Researchers from Texas Tech University and the University of Nevada Reno studied the childhoods of adults that ended up cheating on their significant other. They defined cheating as “concealment of behaviors and the resulting emotional fallout” it causes. The researchers discovered that individuals who had parents who were unfaithful to each other were more likely to cheat on their partner as adults. According to the researchers, social learning theory accounts for this trend. Basically, children whose parents cheated on each other are more likely to cheat as adults. The research team found that people whose parents were unfaithful were more likely to accept the favorability of infidelity. This made them more likely to be unfaithful themselves in future relationships.

How Parents Talk to Kids About Cheating Matters

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Lombard estate planning lawyersAs 2017 comes to a close and we venture into 2018, it is important to make sure your estate plan is still accurate and reflects your current wishes. An up-to-date estate plan will offer peace of mind that your family is taken care of and that your final wishes are fulfilled after you have passed. An estate plan also protects your rights and financial interests while you are still living.  

Without an estate plan, a person’s assets are divided according to state laws. This means that a person without a comprehensive estate plan has little say in how their assets are disseminated after they pass away. If you currently have an estate plan in place, the end of the year is a good time to review and modify the plan as needed.   

Review Your Current Estate Plan  

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Posted on in Domestic Violence

Lombard family law attorneyThe recent allegations of sexual harassment or rape against many influential individuals have put the issues of harassment and abuse in the spotlight more than ever before. Important people such as President Donald Trump, Senator Al Franken, actors Kevin Spacey and Sylvester Stallone, and film producer Harvey Weinstein have been accused of forcing unwanted sexual contact onto victims. These allegations sparked a fury of media attention and have encouraged more victims of sexual assault to report the crime against them. Time Magazine even dedicated their “Person of the Year” title to “the silence breakers”: those women and men who came out with their own stories of violence, intimidation or harassment. Much of the attention regarding assault and violence has centered around inappropriate sexual encounters between acquaintances or coworkers. Sadly, many men and women who are victims of abuse or assault are suffering at the hands of their own spouse or romantic partner. This type of abuse is called domestic violence, and it is just as serious as any other type of abuse.

Warning Signs of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence or relationship abuse, is defined as a pattern of behaviors used by one person to maintain power and control over their romantic partner. Anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator of domestic violence. Such abuse does not discriminate based on age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. Often, women are assumed to be the only victims of domestic violence, but this is not true. Men can also be victims of abuse at the hands of their spouse and other family members. Perpetrators of domestic violence might:

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyOne of the greatest things about our country is that we have the freedom to define what family means to us. Some families consist of only one mother or father, others are the classic nuclear family, while still others contain step-parents and stepsiblings, half brothers or sisters, or even adopted members. If you have a large blended family, there are special considerations you should keep in mind when it comes to estate planning.

Remarrying With Children

The number of remarriages has been increasing over the last several decades. In 2013, 40 percent of unions included at least one spouse who had previously been married, and many of these unions involve children. One consideration for large or blended families to think about is how a person’s assets will be distributed in the event that he or she passes away. It is vitally important if you remarry that you change your primary beneficiary from your former spouse as soon as possible. Another common mistake happens when a parent names their new spouse as the primary beneficiary and names their biological children from another marriage as contingent beneficiaries expecting that they will all receive a portion of his or her estate upon death. What instead happens is that the primary beneficiary receives all the assets and becomes free to share or not share them with the children. One possible solution to this is to name multiple primary beneficiaries who each receive a percentage of your estate.

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Posted on in Spousal Support

Lombard family law attorneyWhen a married couple divorces, the court may award spousal support to one of the spouses. Spousal support is sometimes referred to as alimony or spousal maintenance. It refers to payments that one spouse makes to the other in order to help them financially post-divorce. Spousal support can be based on a court decision, a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement. Maintenance is not always awarded in Illinois. In some cases, both spouses are self-supporting so there is no need for financial assistance. Even if there is a substantial difference in income between the two spouses, courts may account for this difference by awarding more of the marital property to the lower-earning spouse.

Who Gets Spousal Support?

Illinois courts have wide discretion in determining if spousal support will be awarded or not, how much payments will be, and for how long payments will occur. The court must consider the following factors in making decisions about spousal support:

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyerThe reading of a deceased person’s will is often portrayed in movies and on television as a highly dramatic event. Usually, some conflict, plot point, or comic relief revolves around heirs being surprised about what they will be receiving as an inheritance. In some cases, the scene is meant to draw attention to someone being left out of the will. In real life, things are rarely so theatrical, though the feeling of being neglected or left out of a loved one’s will can be quite unpleasant and possibly offensive. Depending on the situation, such a person may wish to contest the will—especially if he or she believes that he or she was excluded by mistake or due to fraud of some kind.

Grounds of a Will Contest

If a loved one’s will left you with less of inheritance that you expected or none at all, contesting the will could be an option, but doing so is not likely to be easy. First, you must understand that a will contest must be based on legitimate grounds. A decision that you do not agree with is not enough. For a will contest to be successful, you will need to show that:

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Lombard family law attorneysMany have said that being a parent is the hardest job in the world. It is nearly impossible to know how to respond to every challenge parenthood throws at you—especially when you are co-parenting your children with an ex-spouse. You may be unsure of how to work with your former partner in creating the best life possible for your children.

Problems at school present a variety of issues for many parents. Some children go through phases where they are getting in trouble or letting their grades drop, How should divorced parents deal with school issues such as these? There is unfortunately no owner’s manual for children and no one-size-fits-all way to raise them. However, following a few simple pieces of advice can help you and your ex-spouse come together to do what is best for your children.

Be Honest and Transparent With the Other Parent

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Posted on in Estate Planning

DuPage County estate planning lawyerWhen someone asks you to be the executor of their last will and testament, you may feel both honored and also overwhelmed. What exactly does an executor do? Who can be an executor? Being an executor of someone’s will is a huge responsibility, but with some research and help, most are able to take on the challenge.

An Important Role

The overall job of an executor is to make sure a person's last wishes are granted with regards to the disposition of their property and possessions. He or she is responsible for paying the deceased's debts and creditors, and distributing any remaining money or property according to the deceased’s wishes. The law does not require an executor to be a lawyer or financial expert, however, it does require than an executor fulfill their duties with honesty and diligence. This responsibility is called "fiduciary duty," which means that the executor must act in good faith and in the best interests of the deceased person’s estate.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneysDivorce can touch the lives of people of any race, gender, income level, or age. Some marriages that seemed doomed to failure from the beginning end up flourishing while other marriages that seemed like perfect matches end up dissolving. Researchers have known for years now that there are certain demographics of people who are statistically more likely to get divorced than others. For example, those who marry very young or wait until their late 30s or longer to marry are more likely to get divorced than those who get married in their 20s. It is also fairly well-known that women are more likely to initiate divorce than men are. For non-married couples, however, men and women are equally likely to end the relationship.

Women More Likely Than Men to Be Unhappy in Their Marriage

A survey conducted by the American Sociological Association found that in heterosexual couples, women start the divorce process or first seek a divorce 70 percent of the time. The study’s lead author, Michael Rosenfeld, theorizes that women may be more likely to initiate divorces because they are more likely to be dissatisfied with the quality of the relationship than men are. Rosenfeld said that these results support the idea that some women experience heterosexual marriage as oppressive or unfulfilling. He explains further, “I think that marriage as an institution has been a little bit slow to catch up with expectations for gender equality. Wives still take their husbands’ surnames…husbands still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and the bulk of the childcare.”

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyThe Illinois Living Will Act states that every citizen has the basic right to control decisions about his or her health care. Unfortunately, however, there may come a point in a person’s life where he or she is not able to make such decisions on the spot. Advance medical directives, including living wills, can be used to document a person’s wishes regarding certain types of medical care in certain situations, removing the burden of making such decisions from family members and loved ones.

Those who advocate for living wills say that such instruments are crucial in protecting a patient’s rights. Living wills, in particular, address which types of death-delaying procedures the patient wishes to receive—or not receive—if he or she is ever diagnosed with a terminal condition and is unable to communicate his or her wishes at the time. A terminal condition is one that is incurable and will ultimately result in the patient’s death. Death delaying procedures are defined as treatments that will only serve to postpone the moment of death and commonly include:

  • Assisted ventilation and the application of artificial respirators;
  • Intravenous medication and nutrition;
  • Whole blood transfusions; and
  • Artificial kidney treatments, including dialysis.

A living will cannot direct medical personnel to withhold food or water to allow death to occur from starvation or dehydration.

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Lombard family law attorneyMarried couples get divorced for an endless variety of reasons. For some, infidelity may an issue while financial stresses drive others apart. Of course, there are often many factors that play into a couple’s decision to end their marriage, and researchers are always trying to identify trends that could help married couples recognize possible red flags. According to several recent studies, however, a first-born daughter could be one of the potential warning signs.

Australian Team Studies Dutch Families

Dr. Jan Kabatek and Dr. David Rebar, faculty members at the University of Melbourne, conducted one such study. The pair examined more than two million marriages in the Netherlands over the course of 10 years. They chose the Netherlands because Dutch marriage and family records are very comprehensive and provide exact dates of marriages, divorces, and births. Other, similar studies have been based on participant’s responses to surveys—which rely on memory and recollection as opposed to objective data.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerRecently, a previous post on this blog discussed the definition and some of the possible benefits of reverse mortgages. In that article, we talked about how reverse mortgages are often taken out by seniors to supplement their retirement income by borrowing against the equity they have built in their homes. In many situations, a reverse mortgage may be an appropriate option, but it is important to consider that reverse mortgages could also have some disadvantages—including an impact on the assets passed down to a person’s heirs.

Unforeseen Costs

The entire point of a reverse mortgage is to give an elderly person—62 is the minimum qualifying age—access to additional money during his or her lifetime. The amount a person can borrow in reverse mortgage is dependent on a number of factors including the type of reverse mortgage, the borrower’s age, the value of the home, and interest rates. Of course, in most cases, the lender will also apply a number of costs and fees, including an origination fee, costs at closing, and servicing fees for the life of the loan. Some lenders also charge for mortgage insurance premiums for certain reverse mortgages.

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