We are now doing in-office conferences and signings and, with strict COVID guidelines as well as telephone and Zoom. Whether it is remote or in-person we are here to carry out our mission to help and serve our clients.

Articles Posted in Uncategorized

Over half of all Americans give money to charity, but many have not been able to take a tax deduction since a 2017 change in the tax laws. However, with the new CARES Act, most American taxpayers will be able to take a tax deduction for charitable giving again. The details are as follows:

Section 2204 of the CARES Act allows eligible individual taxpayers to deduct up to $300 of qualified charitable contributions made during the taxable year.

Only cash donations qualify, so donations such as clothing, stocks, automobiles, or other items cannot be counted toward this. This is also only for taxpayers who take the standard deduction, as the majority do. Those who itemize their deductions cannot take this new $300 deduction.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us in Illinois are complying with the governor’s stay-at-home order. We are hunkered down in our homes – making only necessary trips for essential matters such as medical treatment, supplies, or perhaps taking a walk to breathe in in some fresh air and soak in some sunshine while maintaining social distancing. We thank and applaud everyone who is doing their part in curbing the spread of this virus.

At this time, some of you may reflect on the “what ifs” of the future. What will happen if you become incapacitated, or worse, if you pass? What if your child has special needs and you wish to preserve assets for the benefit of your child? What if you have minor children? How or who will take care of them and assets for their benefit should you be unable to care for them, or worse, die? Are you able to make or coordinate health care and financial decisions for your spouse, parent or other elder loved one?

Illinois law provides defaults for distributions through probate court proceedings if you were to pass away and a legal process (namely, guardianship) should you become incapacitated. Depending on Illinois law could involve what could be costly court proceedings. Ultimately, the result of the Illinois laws may not reflect your wishes as to the disposition of your assets and/or who will be in charge. A properly executed estate plan sets out your wishes and names the trusted persons you want in charge of your affairs during life and afterward. Estate plan documents can and often include wills, powers of attorney, living wills, and trust documents – such as living trusts, special needs trusts, or asset protection trusts.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and the Illinois Department of Health (“IDPH”) have set guidelines for healthcare facilities, including nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic we are experiencing. These guidelines include visitor restrictions for the facilities. In a nutshell, if you are not considered an essential healthcare employee or a compassionate care visitor for end of life situations, you are not going to get near one of these facilities until…well we are not sure.

These guidelines have been put in place for the safety of the residents and employees, and understandably so. On the other hand, this guidance is missing clarity. The states (including Illinois) and, in-turn, the facilities are left to interpret what the definition of an essential healthcare employee and a compassionate care visitor means. Is a third-party caregiver an essential healthcare employee? Is being placed in hospice, in and of itself, considered an end of life situation? Based on experience over the past few weeks, the answer is no. It should be noted, though, that there is no real legal authority stating such. We are facing a time where loved ones could pass away alone because a facility did not interpret the guidelines to allow a visitor in such a situation. Seeking the courts guidance on the matter may be necessary. Until then, the facilities are given the freedom and flexibility to interpret the guidelines as they see fit.

What can you do until then? Often times, loved ones of the residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities provide care, love, and encouragement to them. During this time, more than ever, this encouragement and love is essential to the resident’s well-being. If you have a loved one in a facility, what can you do during this critical time? Technology has allowed us to connect with people in ways we never could before. Calling and video chatting with loved ones can provide them with the emotional support they need. Just the sound of a loved one’s voice can bring a smile to a resident’s face.  Online games can be played together as well. While we are getting back to the basics during this time, writing a good old fashioned letter is a great option as well.

Creating an estate plan is an important and challenging decision for all families. Often, one of the biggest initial obstacles is discussing your own death or the death of a family member. Estate planning is complex and very emotional. Therefore, it’s helpful to understand basics of the estate planning process before approaching a professional.

There are a number of life events that are important times to create or update an estate plan for your family or business. While the timing is different for every person, one should consider what could happen in the event of a substantial life change. These life events include:

  • Getting married.

Most people don’t want to think about estate planning because they don’t want to think about their own death. Unfortunately, it’s much worse to not prepare for when you’re gone. Because it can be so hard to think about, people tend to want to rush through it as quickly as possible, doing things such as using an online program and answering a few questions and then calling it done. Unless you have a very simple estate and maybe just a single beneficiary, it’s best to not take the path of least resistance. The reality is that estate planning often becomes complicated. There are a lot of things to consider in your estate plan – here is a list of many that might apply to you:

1. The documents that you need

A. Starting with the basics, you need a will to help pass along your belongings and nonretirement assets. Retirement accounts and life insurance both have named beneficiaries and don’t go through your will, so if you change your will, it does not change these beneficiaries on retirement and insurance policies.

Divorces that occur in farm and ranch families present challenges that are unique and that can impact agricultural operations. The National Agricultural Law Center has published a fact sheet series that explains family law in agriculture and addresses some of these unique challenges.

“Family Law Issues in Agriculture” is a set of fact sheets addressing legal issues for families going through divorce and separation – issues such as child support, spousal maintenance, equitable distribution, and community property. It also covers nuptial agreements, estate planning concerns, and tools for alternative dispute resolution.

This series is written by Cari Rincker, the principal attorney at Rincker Law, PLLC, a nationally recognized practice that focuses on food, farm, and family law. Rincker is a trained mediator and adjunct professor at Vermont Law School and the University of Illinois School of Law.

If you are a would-be snowbird, it pays to do some financial planning before you take flight.

According to a study by Merrill Lynch, by age 61, many people say they are free to chose where they most want to live. More than a third of the retirees surveyed said that they have already moved and 27 percent anticipate doing so.

Before you start splitting time between two or more states, you have to consider which one you want to be your primary place of residence – also known as a domicile, says John J. Scroggin, an accredited estate planner and partner with Roswell, Georgia-based law firm Scroggin&Co.

Most investors have one overriding goal: building a sum of money saved that can be used in the future (also known as a nest egg). But some investors who are talented and lucky focus on something else: passing their assets to their heirs.

It’s not as simple as leaving a list of accounts. Steps taken years before your death can help minimize taxes and headaches for those who inherit. The main issues for investors to consider for their heirs include family relationships, estate and gift taxes, insurances, Roth conversions, annuities, and record keeping.

Most small investors don’t need to worry about estate taxes these days, since the first $11.4 million per individual, and $22.8 per married couple, is exempt. Also, assets that are passed down to heirs while the investor is still alive are exempt from taxes below $15,000 per year per recipient.

What Makes a Will Valid?

Much of what we think we know about wills might be from dramatic media portrayal in movies, television, or books. However, these might not always show what is needed to make a valid will, especially when what makes a will valid can vary between states.

So, what exactly makes a will valid, and how can this vary?

In ten years, most middle-income American seniors will not be able to afford the rising cost of independent or assisted living.

A recent analysis in Health Affairs titled “The Forgotten Middle,” took a look at how middle-income seniors will be caught in the middle financially when it comes to long-term care – too wealthy to qualify for Medicaid or subsidized housing, but unable to afford the rising cost of independent or assisted living.

The researchers defined the middle-income group as Americans from the 41st to the 80th percentile in terms of financial resources, using data from the national Health and Retirement Study. They found that in a decade, 80 percent of middle-income seniors will have less than $60,000 a year in income and assets, not including equity in their homes. By conservative estimates, the cost of assisted living and out-of-pocket medical expenses for seniors will be $62,000.

Contact Information