Four New Year’s Resolution Ideas

Chicago Elder LawThe start of the new year marks a time for resolutions. One of the best ways to make sure 2014 (and beyond) is a good year is to take steps to secure your family’s health and financial security, which is easier than you may think!

1. Get an estate plan. Make 2014 the year to start to protect yourself and your family. Whether it’s a simple will or an asset protection plan, contact one of our firm’s Chicago estate planning lawyers who will help you find the most appropriate plan for you.

2. Take Inventory. If you have aging parents, resolve to learn where they keep their important documents. That way, if there is an emergency you will know where to find important contacts and account information without added stress. Also, check to make sure their documents are up-to-date. If you find a 30 year old will or outdated powers of attorney it’s time to consult with an estate planning attorney.

3. Check In. In our busy lives, it’s hard to make time to check in with our elderly relatives. In the new year when you visit their homes, make sure that not only are their living conditions appropriate, but also that they have the help they need. Maybe getting a part-time caregiver or hiring somebody to clean the house once a month would increase their quality of life.

4. Keep in touch.  Resolve to increase the number of times you call or visit your elderly relatives. By making more frequent visits you will be better able to monitor their well-being.

To learn more about how a Chicago estate planning lawyer can help, contact Peck Ritchey, LLC at (855) 328-5787 for a consultation.

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What Your Chicago Will Attorney Wants You To Know

Estate Planning DocumentIf you don’t have a will drafted, you may now realize why it’s important to have one. Learn more about what a Chicago will attorney wants you to know regarding creating a will that can help protect your family members from fighting and stress.

Chicago Will Attorney Tip #1: Everyone Needs A Will

If you don’t have a lot of assets, you probably think you don’t even need a will. However, this is completely false! Everyone needs a will. Wills can help your relatives know what you want to do with your belongings after you’re gone, even if this just includes your furniture or other household goods. Without it, your family members could spend time arguing amongst themselves instead of pulling together and mourning your loss. Additionally, when you have a legally binding document from a Chicago will attorney that spells out your wishes, your beneficiaries will be able to access your estate more quickly.

Chicago Will Attorney Tip #2: Use A Lawyer

Everyone has seen the commercials for DIY legal services. This is a terrible idea. These documents may not be binding or they might not address your specific situation. Instead, contact a Chicago will attorney and have a lawyer draft the right type of documents for your individual situation. The cost is often negligible and the benefits can save your family members a lot of heartache after you’re gone.

Chicago Will Attorney Tip #3: Understand What Your Executors Do

Wills must have an executor appointed. This is the person who is responsible for making sure your wishes are carried out after you’re gone. Many married couples choose to name each other as executor, but what happens if there’s an accident and both spouses are killed or one is medically unable to act as the executor? These situations are why it is important to have someone named as a substitute executor.

Chicago Will Attorney Tip #4: Don’t Forget To Name A Guardian And Trustee

If you’re relatively young and have children living at home, it’s vital that you name a guardian for them. If you’re married and both spouses die in an accident, the children could be placed into a state run foster home, especially if it takes a while to contact your next of kin. Additionally, if you’re unmarried and living together, it’s important to name someone as guardian. An unmarried father may not automatically receive custody of his own children, especially if an aunt or grandparent contests the guardianship. For this reason, it’s important to appoint guardians.

If you put assets into a trust for younger children, it’s also necessary to appoint a trustee. This doesn’t have to be the same person as the guardian and many people choose to name a trusted attorney or family friend as the trustee. The trustee ensures that assets are managed well when the children are too young to make responsible financial decisions for themselves.

Chicago Will Attorney Tip #5: Let Your Family Members Know Where It Is

Lastly, it’s important that your family members know where your will is. The days surrounding your death can be stressful and chaotic, especially if it was a surprise. If your family members know where your will is, they’ll be able to make sure your wishes are followed.

If you don’t have a will drafted, let a Chicago will attorney from Peck Ritchey, LLC help create one. When wills are done correctly they can reduce a lot of stress and strife after a loved one’s death.

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Important Questions To Ask Of Perspective Estate Lawyers In Chicago

Estate Planning DocumentLegal proceedings relating to estate matters can often be complex and intimidating, even for experienced attorneys who aren’t familiar with this particular specialty. They can also be especially difficult because they often deal with delicate family matters, both in the planning stages and when a trust or estate must be administered following the passing of a loved one. When choosing between estate lawyers in Chicago it can be helpful to keep a few basic questions in mind to ensure that the attorney you select will be able to offer you the best possible representation.

How Long Have You Been Practicing Law?

This is generally the first question that comes to mind for most families seeking estate lawyers in Chicago. An attorney with a wealth of experience, especially if they have spent a good portion of their tenure focusing on estate planning, will have had the opportunity to be exposed to a wide variety of case details and documentation. Estate proceedings involve a great deal of documentation and wills, trusts and power of attorney forms used by experienced attorneys have often been repeatedly revised to adjust to the varying needs of their clients.

Do You Primarily Focus On Estate Planning?

This question will be of particular importance if your case has the potential to present complications to a general attorney who may have only passing experience in preparing simple wills or healthcare documents. Extenuating circumstances involving family or financial matters, large taxable estates or pre-existing legal proceedings may require the expertise of a specialized attorney who devotes the majority of his or her time to dealing with such matters.

Have You Had Experience In Cases Similar To Mine?

Finding the right match for your individual needs is important in any legal proceeding. Taking the time to go over some of the basic details with perspective estate lawyers in Chicago will help to give you the peace of mind that the lawyer you choose has had experience, and ideally success, in handling similar cases. A reputable firm will be happy to provide you with a listing of cases they’ve handled in the past and provide you with an idea of how the proceedings unfolded.

How Will I Be Charged By Estate Lawyers In Chicago?

While the quality of the representation is paramount, it’s also very important to understand how a given firm’s fees are handled. While some attorneys charge a flat fee, others may bill an hourly rate. It’s also important to find out up front what is and is not covered by any flat rate fee in order to avoid any unexpected charges. Here at Peck Ritchey, there are no hidden costs or surprises, we strive to ensure that our clients receive the best possible representation while being fully informed about our fees.

What Is The Process Moving Forward?

If you’ve determined that a perspective attorney may be a good fit, ask them to lay out the next steps in the process. Having an idea of how different estate lawyers in Chicago might proceed in handling your affairs can give you peace of mind and insight into their particular process. This is also your opportunity to determine if you will be comfortable sharing the details of your life with a given lawyer. The more at ease you feel with the individual handling your estate matters, the more likely you are to be upfront and forthcoming with the information they require to help you make the best decisions possible.

For more information about how Peck Ritchey, LLC can help with all of your estate planning needs, contact us at 855-328-5787.

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Mistakes Estate Lawyers In Chicago Don’t Want You To Make

estate-planning-peck-bloomIf you’re beginning the estate planning process, you know how important it can be. However, understanding the importance just isn’t enough — you also need to make sure that you’re avoiding these common problems. Before you meet with an attorney, heed the advice of estate lawyers in Chicago and learn how to avoid these common mistakes.

Choosing The Wrong Executor

Choosing the executor of your will is a vital step. This person will be responsible for a number of major decisions, including whether your house should be sold and filing your final federal and state tax returns. The executor will make sure that the wishes of the will are enacted. He or she will make sure that pets and minor children are taken care of according to the will and that assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes. He or she is typically a family member, but it’s possible to name estate lawyers in Chicago or even a certified public accountant as the executor.

Before naming someone as an executor, estate lawyers in Chicago recommend that you ask permission, especially if you’re naming a friend or family member. Acting as an executor can be a major undertaking so it’s important that the person knows what they’re getting into before they volunteer for the job.

Not Including A No Conflict Clause And Not Treating Beneficiaries Equally

Another mistake that estate lawyers in Chicago want you to avoid making is not adding a no conflict clause in to the will. A no conflict clause will help eliminate fighting among family members and beneficiaries. It basically states that anyone who contests the contents of the will receives nothing. It’s an easy way to ensure that everyone gets along throughout the entire process.

Also, treating everyone equally will help ensure that beneficiaries don’t fight among themselves. If you have multiple children, ensure that everyone receives an equal portion of your assets. While it might seem like a good idea to give wealthier relatives less than relatives who aren’t as financially stable, this can create negative feelings and strife between family members.

Not Updating The Beneficiaries In Your Will

Estate lawyers in Chicago also want you to make sure that your beneficiaries are updated regularly in your will. If someone named in your will has recently died, it could cause problems if the document isn’t updated. It’s a good idea to take a look at your legal documents at least once a year to make sure the information is accurate and go to your estate lawyers in Chicago for updates if it’s not.

#1 Mistake Estate Lawyers In Chicago Want You To Avoid: Not Making A Plan At All

The top mistake that estate lawyers in Chicago want you to avoid is neglecting to make a plan at all! People who don’t plan for what happens to their assets after their death are setting their family members up for a nightmare of paperwork and potential problems. They could also lose a large percentage of their assets to taxes and attorneys’ fees. Instead of leaving your loved ones with a mess, make sure that the details are taken care of well in advance.

Avoiding these common mistakes can really help your loved ones through the difficult time after you’ve passed. If you haven’t planned for the future, contact top estate lawyers in Chicago at Peck Ritchey. We’ll be able to ensure your family members are taken care of, even after you can’t.

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How to Prepare for Legal Situations You May Face During a Medical Emergency

 Emergency Legal Planning ChicagoIt’s only natural for most people to put off getting an estate plan in order. But what people may not realize is that if a medical emergency happens, like a car accident or a stroke, their medical wishes and treatment may not be handled in the manner they would have liked.

Say your mother is in the hospital and incapacitated. Unless you are her Power of Attorney, you may not be able to make decisions with regard to her treatment.

It’s never too early to put Powers of Attorney in place because this will allow the person you select to make the decisions for your medical treatment as closely to your wishes if you become unable to make choices for yourself.  But it can be too late to get this important legal document drafted!

If you wait too long and suffer a brain injury or get a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease you may have to get a guardian; this can be a complicated legal matter you may wish to avoid.

Since you cannot plan for medical emergencies it’s best to be proactive. Drafting a will and securing Powers of Attorney are the first steps in protecting your future-and one less thing to worry about when a medical emergency does occur.

To learn more about Powers of Attorney, guardianship, and what estate planning is best for your family contact the attorneys at Peck Ritchey, LLC at (855) 328-5787.

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How Attorneys Concentrating In Elder Law In Chicago Can Protect Elderly Relatives

Estate Planning Lawyers ChicagoIf you have loved ones who are getting older, it’s important to plan for a number of situations. An attorney who concentrates in elder law in Chicago can help with quite a few issues, including financial planning, guardianship and preventing financial elder abuse through a power of attorney. Taking the time to prepare for these situations can help protect your loved ones as they age.

Attorneys Specializing In Elder Law In Chicago Can Help With Financial Planning

Getting older is expensive, especially if long-term medical care is necessary. The cost of long-term care can be staggering and can quickly wipe out a family’s resources in just a few short years. To protect your assets, meet with an elder law attorney. He or she will know what’s necessary for you to quality for services like Medicaid, how to legally protect your assets whenever possible and keep your relative living in her own home if that’s what she would like to do.

A Lawyer With Experience In Elder Law In Chicago Can Help With Guardianship

It’s very likely that your elderly relative will become unable to care for him or herself at some point. If you’re worried about them harming themselves in an accident, or you’re concerned that they could be swindled out of their financial resources, it may be necessary to establish a guardianship. A lawyer with experience in elder law in Chicago will be able to draw up guardianship papers so that you can be the one responsible for financial, health and living decisions.

Establishing guardianship can be difficult, especially if multiple family members don’t agree on who should be the guardian or if it’s even necessary. You will also need the help of an attorney who concentrates in elder law in Chicago to help get the person declared legally incompetent, which can cause plenty of hurt feelings.

An Attorney Who Concentrates In Elder Law In Chicago Can Prevent Financial Abuse With A Power Of Attorney

Elder abuse is a major problem and it can include physical, mental and sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment and financial abuse. While the police should be contacted if you suspect elder abuse, an attorney who concentrates in elder law in Chicago can help protect seniors against financial abuse. If you’re concerned that a loved one is being swindled out of their money, or someone is taking advantage of them, contact a lawyer about drawing up a power of attorney. A power of attorney will give financial control to someone else, which can protect your loved one’s bank account.

If you have a loved one who seems to be losing money, is worried about affording long term care or you think they’re unable to care for themselves, it might be time to contact an attorney who concentrates in elder law in Chicago. The attorneys at Peck Ritchey are elder law experts and can help you or your loved ones throughout every step of the aging process.

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Lawyers Aren’t Just For Lawsuits: How A Lawyer Can Help As You Age

Chicago Guardianship LawyerMany people watch legal dramas on television and think that an attorney spends the majority of his or her time in court, arguing before a judge or jury. While it’s true that some attorneys work in litigation, there is one group of lawyers that dedicate themselves to helping their clients as they age. Getting older is certainly inevitable, but there are certain steps that an attorney that concentrates in elder law in Chicago can take to help older adults as they age.

Estate Planning Lawyers Who Work With Elder Law In Chicago

Estate planning is a major part of an elder law attorney’s job. While many people know that estate planning is important, they don’t really understand what this means. One of the first things that needs to be done is writing a will. A will can help your family members understand what will happen with your belongings after you pass on, which can help alleviate a lot of stress for your family members after you’re gone.

However, a will isn’t the only document that needs to be drawn up. You’ll also need to create a power of attorney. This document is useful in the event that you’re unable to make medical decisions for yourself, because it gives another person the authority to speak for you. A living will can also help with specific medical situations, such as if you’re unable to breathe or eat on your own.

Guardianship Attorneys Who Specialize In Elder Law In Chicago

No one really wants to think about the day their parents are unable to care for themselves, but if this happens, it’s important to work with a lawyer who can help with elder law in Chicago. These attorneys can assist you throughout the legal process of taking over your parents’ medical decisions and finances, which can help keep older adults safe from scammers.

Planning For Unique Situations

Although it’s hard to talk about, many people will need some sort of professional care as they age. An attorney who understands elder law in Chicago will be able to plan for long-term medical care, including cases of Alzheimer’s disease. Long-term care can be quite expensive and these attorneys help families maximize care, while keeping finances intact.

If you’re concerned with taking care of your aging parents or another beloved older adult, the best thing to do is to contact attorneys who specialize in elder law in Chicago. The professional team of attorneys at Peck Ritchey always keeps your family’s best interests in mind. Working with a professional attorney who understands elder law in Chicago can help ensure that your family is well taken care of.

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Estate Planning Checklist: Vital Parts Of Your Estate Plan

Estate Planning DocumentEstate planning is important — estate attorneys in Chicago will tell you that. However, many people don’t actually realize why it can be so important. Before you meet with Peck Ritchey’s estate attorneys in Chicago, take some time to get to know about the different aspects of a standard estate plan. Each part may not apply to your situation, but some of the most common components of any estate plan are trusts for minor children, a will and a living will.

Estate Attorneys In Chicago Can Help You With A Trust

While many people think that a trust fund is something reserved for the very wealthy, the truth is that anyone with children can benefit from establishing a trust. Minor children are too young to be the direct beneficiaries of a life insurance policy or a retirement account. Instead, parents can place their money into a trust so that the money is held until the child reaches a certain age. To enable access to the funds, a trustee will be appointed with the authority to use the money for the child. Make sure that you have faith in your trustee since he or she will be responsible for keeping the money safe until the child becomes of age. While a child does become a legal adult at age 18, many parents are more comfortable with not releasing any trust funds completely until the beneficiary reaches age 21 or 25. This can help ensure that the beneficiary is financially responsible to handle a large sum of money.

Estate Attorneys In Chicago Prepare Living Wills

A living will is a document that’s only needed if you’re suddenly unable to make medical decisions for yourself. The living will covers very specific situations, such as if you’re unable to breathe on your own or if you require a feeding tube to survive. Spelling out your wishes can help your family if they’re suddenly faced with making serious medical decisions.

Estate Attorneys In Chicago Prepare Wills

Your will is probably the most important part of your estate plan. This tells your loved ones where you want your belongings and assets to go once you pass on. Neglecting to prepare a will is often a cause of family strife, as family members argue about dividing up the assets during an extremely stressful time.

Other Ways Estate Attorneys In Chicago Can Help

A trust, living will and will aren’t the only ways estate attorneys in Chicago can help. Other services include legally protecting assets from Uncle Sam and funeral preplanning. It’s not uncommon for estate attorneys in Chicago to also concentrate in elder law, and many of these attorneys can help protect older adults through guardianships or powers of attorney.

If you suspect you need estate attorneys in Chicago, the law offices of Peck Ritchey can help. We work with clients when they’re going through some of the most difficult times in their lives and we know how important it is to treat each client as we’d like our own family members treated.

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Count On A Peck Ritchey Guardianship Lawyer In Chicago To Help You Manage Your Loved One’s Affairs

Planning for the future of your children or loved ones without you in it is not a task that anyone enjoys, but it’s a necessary one in many cases. Guardianships are designed to help care for your loved ones if you’re unable to. They can be created to care for minor children, adults with special needs or elderly relatives. No matter whom the arrangement will protect, a guardianship lawyer is necessary to help you navigate the legal requirements of creating a guardianship. A Peck Ritchey guardianship lawyer in Chicago can help you create, manage, change or terminate a guardianship.

Why You May Need A Guardianship Lawyer In Chicago

As mentioned above, there are three main situations in which guardianships are used: to care for minors, to care for adults who cannot care for themselves and to care for the aged who are also unable to care for themselves.

A guardianship is a court order that assigns a responsible person the job of making important life decisions for their wards (persons being protected by the guardianship) because they can’t do so on their own. They are common in cases where the ward is a minor with parents who are no longer living or who are unable to care for their children due to extenuating circumstances.

For parents with special needs children, talking with a guardianship lawyer in Chicago can help them plan for the future care of their child once they are unable to do so themselves. In these cases, the parents want to designate someone to care for or assist their child in decision-making, depending on the child’s specific needs. Some adults with special needs are capable of independent living but may need some help managing their finances, while others need around the clock care, for example. A guardianship lawyer in Chicago can help the parents determine what type of guardianship will best suit their specific situation.

Adult children with aging parents sometimes find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to take control of their parents’ lives. A formal guardianship is a way to protect everyone’s interests. Since it is court-supervised, it ensures the parents’ best interests are being looked out for and it protects the guardian in decision-making if another relative raises questions or complains about the care given. These types of guardianships can be set up long before they are ever needed, with the full agreement of the parents and children, or they can be set up once it becomes obvious that the parent is unable to make sound decisions.

Responsibilities Of The Guardian

Every guardianship is different, just as every personal situation is different. There are several types of guardianships, but the specific responsibilities under each type vary from case to case. Some guardians have full control over decisions affecting their wards, while others only support and advise the ward in their decision-making and still others only manage the property or finances of the ward.

If you want to learn more about guardianships, contact Peck Ritchey at (855) 328-5787. An experienced guardianship lawyer in Chicago will be happy to discuss the options with you and help you get the process started.

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Don’t Let Your Will Become A Battleground: Simple Steps To Shield Your Estate

It’s well known that the death of a relative, particularly one who has a substantial estate, can bring out the worst in some people. If you worry that your descendants or beneficiaries may not see eye to eye, you need to consider safe guarding your estate. In Chicago, estate planning lawyers can walk you through the steps needed to make your last will and testament as clear and ironclad as possible. Some of these steps will seem obvious, but others may surprise you. Talking to Chicago probate attorneys may also help you clarify certain problems in your estate and resolve them.

Keep Clear, Concise Records

There are few documents as important as your will and testament. Careless record keeping or the lack of clear instructions can immediately turn your demise into a war, particularly if you’ve written more than one will in the past. If someone is questioning the validity of your latest will, the executor of your estate or your estate planning lawyers should be able to produce unmistakable proof that the will in question is not only the last one you signed, but that it was clearly your intent that its instructions be followed.

Keep detailed, precise notes of every meeting with your Chicago estate planning lawyers, including any conversations about the content of your will. Record every date and time that you meet with your estate planning lawyers and the result of each meeting. Keep signed, witnessed copies of your current will as well as any prior wills in existence, but make sure you clearly designate which one is currently in force.

Taking notes during meetings with your estate planning lawyers is always a good idea. Trying to reconstruct your conversations after the fact can lead to problems, particularly if others remember the conversation differently. If you don’t think you can take accurate, detailed notes, invest in a small tape recorder or video camera and record the meeting with your estate planning lawyers, keeping the tape or tapes in a safe place with all copies of your will.

Among the records you should keep are any talks you have with your estate planning lawyers, discussions that take place while you’re drafting the will, and any guidance given to you by your will attorney. A detailed paper trail and recordings can combine to ensure that your final wishes are clearly understood by your heirs and estate planning attorneys. Your heirs should be able to produce a definite paper trail that ends with your current will, but don’t neglect leaving copies with others, including your will attorney.

Don’t Let Your Competency Be Called Into Question By Probate Attorneys Or Unhappy Heirs

You’ve probably heard of cases where neglected heirs have called a will into question because they believe the author of the will wasn’t in his or her right mind. Some people contest a will based on the premise that the author was being coerced or unduly influenced when the will was written. To be sure this doesn’t happen with your estate, have a doctor examine you on the day you sign any legal documents, including your will. Have the doctor verify in writing that you are of sound mind and body and keep this document with any and all copies of your will.

The witnesses you choose for your will can also verify your mental state when you sign your will. This is why Chicago estate planning attorneys recommend you have three witnesses or more, rather than the two witnesses required by law. Choose your witnesses carefully; they shouldn’t be strangers to you or each other. Close friends or acquaintances you’ve known for years are the best witnesses, as they can testify at a later date as to your mental state and competency.

Make Sure Your Will Is Clearly Written, With No Ambiguity

Chicago estate planning lawyers have seen many wills that are poorly drafted or unclear. They know how difficult it can be to enforce an ambiguous will and they’ll help you write a will that is crystal clear. One of the most common mistakes Chicago probate attorneys see is wills that were written by individuals using budget, “one size fits all” templates found online. Trying to write a will using generic legal software is also a recipe for a long, drawn-out legal battle over your estate. Always have your will written by experienced estate planning attorneys.

Be Honest When Talking To Your Heirs

Many wills turn into estate battles because the deceased re-wrote his or her will and either didn’t tell anyone, or didn’t explain any changes clearly. While you may want to avoid a confrontation with potential heirs who may be disappointed, it’s always best to be honest. Letting everyone know the specifics of your will can eliminate thousands of dollars in legal fees and prevent an ugly family feud after your death.

You should also make sure anyone you want to disinherit is unmistakable designated as such in your will and testament. Chicago estate planning lawyers can help you deal with this sensitive situation. This will minimize potential disagreements based on someone’s claim that they were accidentally or unintentionally excluded.

Take the time now to meet and work with experienced estate planning lawyers in order to reduce the chances of a protracted battle among heirs later. If your will is concise and clearly drafted, the chances that probate attorneys will be needed is minimized and your heirs will be more likely to abide by your wishes.

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