Treatment of Same-Sex Spouses and Civil Union Partners Under Illinois Probate Law

Web Admin - Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Rolling Meadows same sex couple estate planning lawyerThe state of Illinois has recognized civil unions of same-sex couples since 2011 and same-sex marriage since 2014. But it was not until 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, that all states were required to allow and recognize same-sex marriages. These changes over the past decade have had a major impact on estate planning for same-sex couples.

Differences Between Illinois’ Civil Union Act and Marriage Fairness Act

The 2011 Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (750 ILCS 75) declares that a party to a civil union “is entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits” that the law of Illinois affords to spouses. This law did not, however, mention children of civil union partners or other family members.

The 2014 Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act (750 ILCS 80) more forcefully declares that its purpose is to provide same-sex and different-sex couples and their children “equal access to the status, benefits, protections, rights, and responsibilities of civil marriage.” It goes on to say that parties to a marriage and their children “shall have all the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law.”   

Conversion of a Civil Union to a Marriage in Illinois

Civil unions were not automatically converted to marriages when the 2014 law was passed. Rather, the Civil Union Act was modified in 2014 to allow the voluntary conversion of a civil union to a marriage at no cost. Through May 2015, a couple could have their civil union redesignated as a marriage just by applying to a county clerk. The effective date of the marriage would be the same as the effective date of the earlier civil union. 

As of June 2015, parties to a preexisting civil union must apply for a marriage certificate and have the marriage solemnized and registered as a marriage. The effective date of that marriage would be the date the marriage was solemnized.

Impact of a Civil Union vs. Marriage on Estate Planning

Spousal inheritance rights are the same in Illinois, whether you are legally in a same-sex civil union, same-sex marriage, or different-sex marriage. Still, if you entered into a civil union, you may want to convert that to a marriage, just to ensure that your relationship is recognized as a legal marriage nationwide and internationally. For example, when partners are citizens of different countries, an actual marriage certificate will generally be needed in order for the spousal relationship to be recognized for immigration purposes. In addition, the same-sex marriage law specifically references “children” and “family” of the couple.

Also, if you entered into a civil union at some point, and the relationship broke up, you should be sure that the civil union was legally dissolved; the process is the same as for the dissolution of a marriage in Illinois. If the civil union was not legally dissolved, or converted to a marriage followed by a divorce, one partner could still claim the right to inherit from the other.

Inheritance and Related Rights of Same-Sex Married Couples Recognized Nationally

Same-sex couples gained numerous inheritance-related benefits as a result of nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, such as:

- The couple no longer has to worry about moving from a state where same-sex marriage was recognized to a state where it was not.

- If one spouse dies without a written will or trust, the other will now automatically inherit under the laws of their state of residence.

- When one spouse dies, the other can claim the marital deduction for federal gift and estate tax purposes.

- When one spouse dies, leaving the other as beneficiary of a qualified retirement account, the surviving spouse can roll over those assets into their personal retirement account, allowing for optimal asset protection and income tax planning. 

- As a living individual in 2018, you can make inter vivos gifts of up to $15,000 per person per year with no tax implications. However, you can gift as much as you want to your spouse. 

- Spouses can make medical decisions for one another without requiring a power of attorney for health care.

Consult a Palatine Same-Sex Marriage Estate Planning Lawyer

Whether you are married to a same-sex or different-sex spouse, particularly if you have children, you should really have an estate plan, including basic documents such as advanced healthcare directives and powers of attorney. Talk to an experienced Schaumburg estate planning attorney at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. We can help you develop a will, trust, and other legal plans that will provide emotional and financial security for you and your family for the long-term. Contact us at 847-934-6000 for a free consultation.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


How Much Is Pain and Suffering Worth in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Web Admin - Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Schaumburg personal injury attorney pain and sufferingWhen you or a family member has suffered a personal injury as the result of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, you have probably suffered serious financial losses as well. Even if you had good health insurance, or the person who caused the accident had insurance that paid some or all of your medical bills, there are almost always uncovered costs.

Your uncovered losses may include: 

- Medical costs for treatment of the injury when it occurred.

- Costs to buy special equipment or even to modify your home to accommodate a disability.

- Costs for rehabilitation services which could be needed for months or even years.

- The cost of round-the-clock, long-term care provided in your home or at an assisted living facility.

- Costs for mental health treatment.

- Loss of income the person would have earned had they not been injured.

- Costs for your family to travel and visit the injured person.

- Non-economic costs, which are often lumped under the broad umbrella of “pain and suffering.”

Measuring the Non-Economic Costs of an Injury

An attorney can tally up the financial costs listed above, make future projections, and come up with an appropriate figure as compensation for those losses. However, the calculation of the value of non-economic losses is much more difficult. Some of the specific factors that need to be weighed include: 

- Is the person permanently disfigured or physically impaired, such as by an amputation or paralysis?

- Will they have to suffer through numerous surgeries over the years to try to restore their appearance and/or function?

- Is the injury such that it results in long-term pain to the victim? This is often the case in spinal cord injuries or when a part of the body, such as a leg, suffers multiple fractures or fragmentation.

- Has the person suffered severe emotional distress, perhaps from seeing friends or family killed in the same incident?

- Has the victim suffered from severe insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder?

- Are there beloved hobbies or activities that the person can no longer participate in as a result of the injury?

- Have family members of the victim suffered loss of consortium or companionship due to the victim’s injuries?

The more of these factors that you can prove, the more non-economic damages you may be able to recover. Documentation will be important to prove that these factors are real, including physician reports, medications prescribed, and your own personal documentation, such as a diary noting how the victim was feeling from day to day.

An attorney who has handled many personal injury cases will likely have developed their own formula, or chosen useful formulas developed by others, to translate these non-economic costs into a dollar figure to cite in the lawsuit. One common method is to apply a multiplier to the total financial damages. For example, if the victim and family’s financial losses totaled $500,000, you might triple that figure and claim an additional $1.5 million for non-economic losses. The multiplier, of course, would depend on the severity of the injury suffered and the extent of the non-economic losses. 

Is There a Legal Cap on “Pain and Suffering” Damages in Illinois?

The Illinois legislature passed a law in 2005 to limit awards for non-economic losses in medical malpractice cases to $500,000 for physicians and $1,000,000 for hospitals. However, in 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court subsequently ruled that law unconstitutional. Thus, Illinois currently places no limit on the amount of compensation that can be awarded for non-economic losses.  

Consult a Rolling Meadows Personal Injury Attorney 

If you are wondering whether you should file a personal injury lawsuit, consult an experienced Palatine personal injury lawyer. The attorneys of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC will determine the best legal strategy for your case and fight aggressively to see that you are compensated for your losses. Contact us at 847-934-6000 to schedule a no-cost, no obligation consultation.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.


Considering a Personal Injury Lawsuit? Follow These Helpful Tips

Web Admin - Tuesday, November 06, 2018
Rolling Meadows personal injury attorneyIf someone in your family has suffered severe injuries and financial hardship as a result of someone else’s negligence, you are probably wondering if you should file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for your losses. 

Yet, like many people, you may hesitate to contact a personal injury lawyer about your situation for reasons such as:

- You believe the insurance company should handle everything.

- You feel intimidated by the legal system.

- You can see yourself in the other person’s shoes, and you do not want to cause problems for them.

- You do not have the energy to deal with a lawsuit while you are in the midst of dealing with serious medical and financial issues. 

If you find yourself in this situation, here are some helpful things to know: 

1. You Have to Act Quickly to Protect Your Family for the Long-Term

In the aftermath of a serious injury, you may feel like you have more important things to do than find a lawyer. However, there are two reasons why you might need to put a personal injury lawsuit at the top of your priority list right now. First, while insurance may cover your immediate medical costs, you have to consider both the long-term costs of caring for the injured person and the loss of income that will be suffered by both the injured person and any caregivers. 

Second, each state has a statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. Your lawsuit usually must be filed in the state where the injury occurred, not the state where you live. For most personal injury cases in Illinois, you must file your lawsuit within two years of the incident that caused the injury (735 ILCS 5/13-202).

2. It Will Be Easier If You Prepare Before You Call 

Before you contact an attorney, write down a summary of your case, including:

- The cause of injury, such as a car crash or dog bite. Be prepared to provide additional details that demonstrate the other person’s negligence, such as police reports indicating the other person was drunk driving or that the dog had bitten people before.

- The date and location of the incident. 

- The type of injuries, such as cuts, broken bones, paralysis, brain damage, etc. 

- Whether full recovery is expected, or whether there is some type of permanent damage such as loss of mobility, mental or psychological damage, or chronic pain.

- How long the injured person was unable to work as a result of the incident, and whether they will have long-term income loss and/or incremental healthcare expenses as a result of their injuries.

Once you have these basic facts on paper, you will feel more confident and ready to make that first call to an attorney.

Consult a Rolling Meadows Personal Injury Attorney 

If you are wondering whether you should file a personal injury lawsuit, consult an experienced Palatine personal injury lawyer. The attorneys of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC will determine the best legal strategy for your case and fight aggressively to see that you are compensated for your loss. Contact us at 847-934-6000 to schedule a no-cost, no obligation consultation.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.


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