Marilyn Monroe’s estate sued for virtual 3-D image

Marilyn Monroe’s estate and an audiovisual firm adopting the persona of the actress in 3D are engaged in a probate battle that could have an extensive effect among the estates of celebrated people who failed to register their persona while still alive, Mail Online reported on October 2.

Monroe’s estate claims that Virtual Marilyn LLC’s use of Monroe’s persona will confuse people and uses her identity to garner an unfair following. However, a 13-page court document filed by the audiovisual firm at a U.S. district court states the company now owns Monroe’s persona rights. The suit explains that Monroe’s persona rights ‘died’ along with her in 1962, and that the actress never registered any aspect of her persona as a trademark when she was still alive.

In 2012, the United States Copyright Office awarded Virtual Marilyn LLC the right to use computer generated characters adopting Monroe’s persona, which may include her name, image, likeness, voice and signature.

Probate disputes and litigation such as this should be handled by qualified and highly professional probate litigation attorneys who know well how important it is to protect your rights in and out of the courtroom. At Peck Ritchey, LLC, we may advocate for you or a loved one’s welfare. To contact our Chicago office, call (855) 328-5787 today.

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Hiring Litigation Attorneys In Chicago

If the time has come for litigation, the first thing you’ll want to do is hire a good attorney. Litigation attorneys in Chicago are easy to find, but choosing the right one for your specific case takes a little homework.

Finding Litigation Attorneys In Chicago: Start With Concentration

To cut down on the amount of time you spend researching and interviewing attorneys, start your search for litigation attorneys in Chicago by seeking out only those who concentrate in your specific type of case. For example, if you’ve been wrongly terminated, you need to find an attorney who specializes in employment law as opposed to real estate law. Once you’ve determined what general area of expertise you need, you can begin a more effective search.

Thanks to the internet, a quick online search will pull up hundreds of results for you. You can begin your search by visiting several websites and gleaning what information you can from them or you can start your search with the state bar association. The Illinois State Bar Association allows you to search for litigation attorneys in Chicago. An added benefit of starting with the bar association is knowing that the attorneys who are listed have met the requirements that were set forth by this professional association. This means the attorneys who are listed are licensed to practice law, have professional liability insurance and are in good standing with the Attorney Regulation and Disciplinary Commission.

Membership in professional associations is also a good indicator of the quality of lawyer you’re researching. In general, attorneys who are active in professional associations are expected to adhere to the highest ethical and professional standards.

Take Your Time

It’s never a good idea to rush decisions. This is definitely true when you are hiring someone to represent you in a legal situation. That said, take some time to research the firms and attorneys on your short list. Just because your cousin had a good experience with a lawyer doesn’t mean the same lawyer will be the right fit for you. Ultimately the attorney you choose must be someone you feel comfortable with. Litigation attorneys in Chicago will have access to many private details of your life. You don’t want to share that information with a lawyer you don’t trust. Many firms offer free or low-cost consultations. Take advantage of these and meet with several litigation attorneys in Chicago until you find the right one for you.

Research the firm or attorney ahead of time. You should be able to gain a lot of information from the firm’s website, and find out if the attorney has any special experience in your types of cases or maintains membership in professional associations. You may find online reviews and recommendations on the attorney that you can use to aid your decision-making.

Nearly as important as the lawyer’s qualifications are his manners and treatment of you and your situation. During your consultation, try to gauge the attorney’s level of interest in your case. Is she interested in it or dismissive? Does he speak to you in terms you understand and treat you with respect? All of these are important considerations when hiring litigation attorneys in Chicago. Remember, not only will you be working with this attorney, he or she will need to present your case in front of a judge and jury. You want them to understand and trust your lawyer as much as you do.

For help in areas of litigation, contact Peck Ritchey at (855) 328-5787. Our litigation attorneys in Chicago will be happy to discuss your case and advise you of your options.

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A Worthwhile Cause

At Peck Ritchey, our attorneys are involved in various organizations that raise money for great causes near and dear to our hearts and the hearts of our clients. As attorneys practicing in the areas of elder law, guardianship and estate and trust litigation, many of our clients or their loved ones are living with severe cognitive, developmental and physical challenges. The courage, spirit and determination of these loved ones inspire us at Peck Ritchey to participate in charitable and other worthwhile causes.

One of the organizations that is close to the heart of associate attorney, Cameron DeGuerre is the Auxiliary Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The Auxiliary Board is composed of young professionals who raise money to support research programs at Northwestern. For the past two years, the board has been supporting the work of Dr. Sunt Das and Northwestern’s Brain Tumor Institute to advance the research and treatment of brain tumors, like the tumor that ended the life of the famed Ted Kennedy. Currently, an adult with a malignant brain tumor is only 30 percent likely to survive five years, showing the desperate need for Northwestern’s research.

The Auxiliary Board’s annual event “Summer Lovin’” will be held this Friday, June 18th at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The event will showcase the museum, live music, 13 dining stations, 8 premium bars and Chicago Magazine’s “Most Outstanding Singles of 2010.”
So come support a great cause! You can buy your tickets at the door or save your spot online by clicking here.

*To learn more about the Brain Tumor Institute of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, click here.

*To learn more about the Auxiliary Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, click here.

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Disabled or Not Disabled? That is the Question

Last month, I had the opportunity to not only attend the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys conference, but also be a presenter….and it didn’t hurt that it was in Orlando, Florida at Disney World. I spoke with my good colleagues Diana Law, of Law Elder Law, and Ed Boyer, of Boyer & Jackson.

The topic of choice was Restoration Hearings: removing a guardian because the ward is no longer “disabled”. Restoration is rare, but not improbable. The basis for a determination of disability by the probate court may be reversed when the disabled person has dramatically improved. During a restoration hearing, medical evidence is presented which demonstrates that the disabled person is now capable of making personal and financial decisions and suffered from a medical condition that has vastly improved.

*Example: John Doe gets into a car accident resulting in a closed head brain injury and severe physical injury. He needs full time care and can no longer manage his estate; therefore, a guardian is appointed. Three years later after physical therapy, rehabilitation, multiple surgeries and drug treatments John is back to full capacity and no longer requires a guardian.

But the recovery does not always need to be this cut and dry. The ward does not need to be able to perform every task in regard to managing his estate and care himself. One issue is: has the disabled person recovered sufficiently enough to communicate to others “responsible decisions” regarding their care?

A restoration hearing is similar to a guardianship hearing because the bottom line is the same: What is in the ward’s best interest? What is the best way to safeguard the ward’s rights? The restoration process is rarely successful except in cases in which the disabled person has a severe temporary disability or a severe disability which improves in an incredible fashion.

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Where There’s a Will, There’s a Family Feud


Most people create a will with the idea that once they pass away, decisions regarding the distribution of their estate will have already been made, therefore, their wishes will be followed and they can have peace of mind.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Unless your estate planning documents: wills, trusts, etc…are drawn up properly (aka: NOT PRINTED OFF THE INTERNET) you may run into family battles and court litigation over who gets what. A carefully prepared and executed will is the ultimate shield to a disgruntled heir.

Tips to Prevent Post-Death Litigation & Create a Rock-Solid Will:

  • All conversations between the will maker and the attorney should be recorded (notes of conversations, cover letters, drafts, emails, phone conversations, etc.);
  • Clearly recognize special relationships in documents naming beneficiaries: step children, domestic partners, long time friends, and other non-heirs with close relationships;
  • If a legal heir is "disinherited" the will should state the name and relationship of each disinherited heir and the intent of the will-maker to "disinherit" each;
  • Keep a copy of the physician’s report of the will maker’s physical and mental condition on the day the will was signed;
  • Keep a list of everyone attending the signing ceremony and everyone who saw the will maker that day;
  • Life-long friends, not strangers, should witness the signing of all estate planning documents;
  • Execution of wills and trusts should be witnessed by more than the number of witnesses required by law (2);
  • Keep copies of all prior wills created.

The best advice is to be completely candid in your estate planning documents. Secrets are never a good thing within a family. If you expect family members to be disappointed, inform everyone of the changes in your estate planning documents in writing. Not every estate can be administered seamlessly, a good elder law attorney will make sure that all the tips I listed above are followed. So call an experienced estate planning attorney to help you navigate through the legal jargon and avoid disputes.

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Come Visit us at the Life Services Network Expo! (Booth #321)

Today is the LAST DAY of the Life Services Network Expo! Come visit Peck Ritchey at booth #321 for some fun freebies and of course, information on all of our elder law services! The expo is being held in Chicago at Navy Pier in the Festival Exhibitition Hall.

The Life Services Network represents long-term care providers of nursing care, supportive and assisted living, senior housing and home and community-based services for seniors over the age of 75. Peck Ritchey is a proud member of the Life Services Network.

For more information on the expo or the Life Services Network, click here.

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New Changes in the Guardianship Arena

The Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act main concern is to address mulit-state jurisdiction issues in conjunction with guardianship proceedings.  The new guardianship laws should reduce elder abuse, financial exploitation and give older adults protection in the 20 states that have adopted the Act thus far. The act specifically targets “granny-snatching” cases, but  also focuses on adressing out of state guardianship recognition, allowing for a  prompt and friendly reception in the Courts of other states should the elder suffer a stroke or have a medical emergency while travelling.

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Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney?

First of all, a living will is not a will.

A living will and power of attorney for health care are both types of advanced directives: a legal declaration of how you want future medical decisions to be made should you be unable to make that decision yourself. Both documents, in essence, force caregivers to give you the specific treatment you want even when you cannot communicate that choice. Advanced Directives are drafted earlier in life, when you can fully understand the choices you are making (capable) and jump into effect when you no longer can understand those choices (incapable).

A health care power of attorney authorizes the trustworthy person of your choice to make medical decisions for you, based on the preferences you stated in the power of attorney. People often choose a family member, close friend or their attorney to act on their behalf.

A living will entrusts the medical preferences you dictated within the document to be followed by a doctor directly rather than electing a family member or friend to speak on your behalf. Also, while a power of attorney can go into effect at anytime you are incapacitated (ex: having surgery) a living will is ONLY for using, withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment (to pull the plug or not to pull the plug). The living will becomes effective legally when you are determined to be permanently unconscious or brain damaged by a certified physician.

The power of attorney document is more flexible as it is not confined to terminal conditions, like the living will. Also, the power of attorney can either direct the agent to follow their specific instructions or to use their own best judgment based on the circumstances. While a living will only addresses issues relating to the postponement of your death, the health care power of attorney can address all types of issues, including life-sustaining treatments.

By making these end-of-life decisions ahead of time, you save your family the difficulty, confusion and burden of making life and death decisions during an already emotionally tumultuous time.

For more information, check out the Chicago Tribune article, "Help with End of Life Plans" I am quoted in:

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Dementia Versus Alzheimer’s Disease: Not One and the Same

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia are not interchangeable terms. Although they have similar symptoms and are branches of the same overall problem, it is critical to make a distinction between the two through a medical diagnosis by a dementia specialist. I scanned through several articles on the Internet and made a small comparison of the two conditions.

1. Alzheimer’s Disease: (Unique Disease)

  • Alzheimer’s is the most common FORM of dementia.
  • Severe memory LOSS (as the disease progresses).

Ex:) Forget how to dress, Fail to recognize familiar people/places, Problems speaking/reading/writing, Tendency to wander away.

  • Can occur as early as 45 years old.
  • Different for each individual affected by the disease.
  • Progressively gets worse, is fatal.

2. Dementia: (Umbrella Term)

  • Describes a number of symptoms related to mental degredation.
  • Common problem in the elderly population
  • Diagnosed later in life: 70-80 years old
  • Some causes of dementia are treatable
  • Memory IMPAIRMENT related with old age

Ex:) Forgetfulness, Difficulty making plans/thinking ahead, Orientation problems.

  • Includes: Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Vascular Dementia, head injury, delirium, stroke, brain tumor, Alcoholic Dementia, Multi-Infarct Dementia, etc…

For more information on Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias, visit the wealth of information at the Alzheimer’s Association website at:

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The Aging Population is Growing, So What?

Politicians and the media keep throwing out numbers regarding the size of the older adult population in America as if it was dooms day. While researching for this blog I saw the increase in elderly termed as the “Longevity Revolution.” But seriously, how does this really effect us?

In 1950, 12.7 million people lived to 65 or older. In 2004, that number increased to 36.3 million. The life expectancy is currently 78 years old with most people living longer due to advances in science, medicine and technology. The elderly population now outnumbers children under age 5. The elderly have gone from something businesses termed as “not a viable demographic” to having considerable clout- there is power in numbers. On top of having the numbers, seniors control about 3/4 of the country’s wealth. Seniors previously labeled as frail or feeble, are stepping out of the stereotype, enriching their lives through traveling, continuing their education, and exploring new hobbies.

The extended human life span is both an achievement and a challenge. Seniors can no longer be ignored and now the country is scrambling to address the needs and concerns of the aging population including caregiving and health costs. With an increase in age comes an increase in chronic diseases. There are strains in social insurance, pensions and other government support systems. Retirement patterns are changing causing a clash between the official and actual retirement age.

The statistic equation of the aging population is something that effects everyone. Long life means changes in health and well-bieng, economic activities and social cohesion.

For more information you can visit Illinois’ Department on Aging or the Federal Administration on Aging.

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