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When a non-lawyer ventures into the world of probate or guardianship, one item that usually causes confusion is the requirement for the representative to post a bond. Under Illinois law, a court-appointed representative is required to post a bond which covers 150% of the value of the personal estate. This requirement is in place for anyone serving as guardian of an estate for a person with a disability. It is also required for the administrator or executor of a decedent’s estate. Although in the case of decedents estates, the requirement for a bond can be waived, but only if the waiver is explicitly stated in the decedent’s will.

So what does a bond do? In essence, it acts like an insurance policy that protects the estate from the actions by the representative. The representative (although it can usually be paid out of the estate’s funds) is required to pay an annual premium which is a fraction of the full amount of coverage. The bond company then insures and protects the assets of the estate from any potential losses.

How does one actually acquire a bond? Most counties have their own standardized forms which the representative would need to sign called a “surety bond” form. This document needs to be signed and notarized and then sent to the bond company for execution. The bond companies also have their own forms and applications which need to be completed by the representative before they will approve the bond. In some counties, the bond companies have representatives who spend a portion of their day in the courthouse, which makes it easier to obtain a bond on short notice.

Many of our clients have children or grandchildren (beneficiaries) that need protection from their own proclivities even as adults.  Some of these habits include addictions, poor spending habits or just not living up to their potentials.

So what is a parent or grandparent to do?  Why not use an “Incentive Trust”?  An Incentive Trust is a type of trust that attempts to encourage and reward “good behavior” and discourage “bad behavior” of the beneficiaries.

For example, if a beneficiary is known to have bad spending or saving habits, the trustee of your trust can be directed not to distribute any monies or assets to that beneficiary unless the spending beneficiary shows by a check register or other record keeping system that he or she is spending monies responsibly in the eyes of the trustee.  The trustee can be given guidelines as to what the maker of the trust would consider responsible.  This might include percentages put away by the beneficiary for savings, housing, auto and auto allowances.

One of the most important, but most often overlooked estate planning documents, are the Powers of Attorney. Powers of Attorney fall into one of two categories: (1) Powers of Attorney for Property and (2) Powers of Attorney for Health Care. Essentially a Power of Attorney legally authorizes a trusted family member or friend to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you become incapacitated or are unable to make decisions on your own. Powers of Attorney are powerful documents that can protect you and your family from the need for expensive guardianship proceedings.

Although Powers of Attorney for Health Care are regularly accepted by hospitals and doctors, many banks and financial institutions are making it harder and harder to use a legally valid Power of Attorney Document. If a manager at your financial institution believes, in good faith, that your Power of Attorney is no longer valid you may be left with no choice but to petition a court for guardianship.

To avoid this from happening we advise that you review your Powers of Attorney to ensure (1) the your Power of Attorney documents are up to date and include the most recent statutory language; (2) that your Powers of Attorney are no more than 5 years old; and (3) that your Power of Attorney allow sufficient authority for your agent to amend trust documents, make gifts, and designate or change beneficiaries.

George Boxill, Prince’s sound engineer, was set to release on April 28, 2017 the “Deliverance” album that included  a total of 6 songs from the late performer.  However, a U. S. District Judge in Minneapolis agreed with Prince’s estate and issued  a temporary restraining order barring Boxhill from distributing any unreleased recordings, including the “Deliverance” EP.

Last week the estate sued Boxill , alleging that he violated his confidentiality agreement with Prince’s corporation and tried to financially gain from the release of the EP on the 1 year anniversary of the pop star’s death.  The suit went on to state that Boxhill had received no authorization to procure or release the songs and that the estate on March 21. 2017  demanded return of all recordings of Prince’s in his possession, including masters, copies or reproductions, but Boxhill refused.  Finally, the estate argued that the representative of the estate, Comerica Bank & Trust had the duty to maximize the estate, not Boxhill.

A Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) is a pre-trial petition usually filed along with a law suit which seeks to prohibit a person or entity from doing something that would cause “immediate irreparable harm” if it were allowed to happen.  If a judge is convinced that “immediate irreparable harm” would happen, she can issue a TRO without notice to the other party and without a hearing.  A TRO cannot be appealed.

If you are caring for your mother or father, you may be able to claim your parent as a dependent on your income taxes. This would allow you to get an exemption for her or him.

There are five tests to determine if you can claim a parent as a dependent:

  1. The person you are claiming as a dependent must be related to you. This should not be a problem if you are claiming a parent (in-laws are also allowed). Keep in mind that foster parents do not count as a relative. To claim a foster parent, he must live with you for a year as a member of your household.
  2. Your parent must be a citizen or resident of the United States or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
  3. Your parent must not file a joint return. If your parent is married, he must file separately. There is an exception if your parent is filing jointly but has no tax liability. If your parent files a joint tax return solely to get a refund, you can claim him as a dependent.
  4. Your parent must not have a gross income exceeding the allowable exemption amount for that year. Gross income does not include Social Security payments or other tax-exempt income.
  5. You must provide more than half of the support for your parent during the year. Support includes amounts spent to provide food, lodging, clothing, education, medical and dental care, recreation, transportation and similar necessities. Even if you do not pay more than half of your parent’s support for the year, you may be able to claim your parent as a dependent if you pay more than 10 percent of your parent’s support for the year, and, with others, collectively contribute to more than half of your parent’s support. To receive the exemption, all those supporting your parent must agree on and sign the applicable Multiple Support Declaration (Form 2021).

If you cannot claim your parent as a dependent because he filed a joint tax return or has a gross income above the limit for that year but you have been paying for your parent’s medical expenses, you may still be able to deduct those expenses from your own taxes.

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Most seniors prefer to stay at home as long as possible before moving into a nursing home. For many families, this means eventually hiring a caregiver to look after an aging relative. Caregivers can be hired directly or through a home health agency.

When a caregiver is hired directly, you need to consider all of the tax and liability issues. As an employer, you are responsible for filing payroll taxes, tax forms and verifying that the employee can legally work in the United States. In Illinois, if you pay $2000 or more in wages in 2016 to any one employee, you need to withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. Unemployment insurance contributions must be made if you paid cash wages of $1000 or more in any calendar quarter during 2016 or 2015. Insurance for an accident which occurs on the job should also be addressed.

The benefit of hiring a caregiver directly is that you have more control over who you hire and can choose someone who you feel is right for your family. In addition, hiring privately is usually cheaper than hiring through a home health agency.

When you hire through a home health agency, the agency is the employer, so you do not need to address the tax and liability issues. The agency takes care of screening the employees, doing background checks and providing insurance. A licensed home care agency must provide ongoing supervision to its employees. It can help the employees deal with difficult family situations or changing needs. The agency may also be able to provide back-up if a regular caregiver is not available.

The downside of going through an agency is not having as much input into the selection of a caregiver. Caregivers may change or alternate, causing a disruption in care and confusion. Continue Reading

Once someone enters a nursing home it is not always easy to leave. While some residents may prefer nursing home care to living on their own, others would rather be independent. Residents who have been in a nursing home for a long time may have to start all over again when they move out. They may need help finding a place to live, establishing a bank account, making a home accessible and locating home care.

For residents who want to move out but need some assistance to live on their own, there may be help available. A federal program is trying to help nursing home residents regain their independence.

In 2005, Congress established a program called Money Follows the Person which is designed to make it easier for nursing home residents to move out. Illinois participates in the program which provides personal financial support to help eligible nursing home residents live on their own or in group settings. The amount of time an individual must reside in a nursing facility to qualify for the program is 90 days. Continue Reading

In Illinois, estates can be administered under an Independent Administration or a Supervised Administration.

Unless an interested party requests a supervised administration, an estate is opened as an independent administration. Unlike a supervised administration, an independent administration does not require filing an inventory and accounting with the Court for the Judge to review. This keeps the inventory and accounting from becoming public record. However, the inventory and accounting are sent to the beneficiaries for approval.

No Court authority is needed to sell real estate when there is an independent administration. An independent administration may be converted to a supervised administration at any time by any interested party upon request to the Court. If the will specifies that the administration is to be independent, the party requesting the change to supervised administration must provide the Court with good cause for changing to supervised.

With a supervised administration, the inventory and accounting are filed with the court and become public record available for anyone to see. The accounting is subject to approval by the judge, including the attorney and executor/administrator fees. Also with a supervised administration, the executor/administrator needs court approval to sell real estate. Continue Reading

What do wills, trusts and ping pong have in common? All three will come together for the Fifth Annual LaGrange Area Table Tennis Tournament on Saturday, NOVEMBER 9, 2013 at 10 am sponsored by the Law Offices of Wilson & Wilson.

The tournament will take place at Hinsdale South High School, 7401 Clarendon Hills Road in Darien. Anyone 18 or younger may enter by just showing up at 10 am at the school. T-shirts will be given to all participants and cash prizes ranging from $300 for the 1st Place Champion to $50 for the 16th Place Winner will be awarded.

Elder care managers evaluate the needs of an older individual. Often care issues have been over looked. For example, 12 million Americans live with chronic pulmonary disease, 1.5 million have Parkinson’s disease and researchers estimate that by 2050, 13.2 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s disease.

Care managers meet with individuals at their homes and get a feel for the personal and medical considerations which should be taken into account. If the individual has special health care funding requirements now or in the future, care managers have first hand knowledge and are in a position to accurately project future cash needs.

Because many children live far from their elderly parents, elder care managers provide independent evaluations and send their findings in a report to the children. This gives the children peace of mind knowing that an independent evaluator with no ties to local siblings, institutions or medical providers is generating the report.

ElderCareSolutions, Inc. provides care managers and serves the Chicago area. It is based in Naperville, Illinois.
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