Planning Ahead for Life Transitions In 2021 With a Chicago Attorney

2020 has been an unpredictable and unorthodox year — and with 2021 just around the corner, now is the time to plan ahead for whatever the new year might have in store. 

The year behind us was full of tough decisions and tricky life transitions, for millions of people and families here in Chicago and around the world. The devastating outbreak of COVID-19 has affected us all, in ways both large and small. And we will more likely than not continue to feel its long-term ripple effects into 2021 and beyond — on an economic level, a social level, and an individual level. 

The turbulence of 2020 is causing many people to look to the future with optimism, while also underscoring the importance of planning ahead — and being able to respond quickly and seamlessly to whatever new obstacles or challenges might come around next.

Preparing to make a change in 2021? Studies show that in past years, about a third of all Americans have made new year’s resolutions, which might include important goals like saving more money, eating more healthily, reducing stress, or strengthening personal relationships with friends and family. With that being said, one in five people also say that they are “not confident” about sticking to their new year plans, and only about 7-8% of people actually achieve all of their new year goals. 

This year, it may help to go in with clear expectations — and a partner and advocate you can trust to help you achieve your goals during some of life’s biggest transitions.

Is 2021 the Right Time to Create or Update Your Estate Plan?

For individuals and families in Chicago and around the country, navigating through the coronavirus crisis has been an eye-opening experience. For many, the pandemic has revealed  the vital importance of having a plan in place in the event that something serious should ever happen to you or someone you love. 

Broadly speaking, estate planning refers to the process of making arrangements during your life for what will happen to your estate when you become incapacitated or pass away.

Estate planning is one of the most important things you can do to provide for your family in the future. In addition to helping to guide the distribution of your most important assets — including your home, vehicle, investments, savings accounts, and personal possessions — estate planning is a process that can help empower you to choose who will protect your children if you cannot, while also setting your family up for the future. Estate planning can help streamline the complex and time-intensive probate process for your loved ones; it can also allow you to put in place protections and directions to follow in case you become incapacitated due to a severe illness or an unexpected accident. 

As we head for 2021, it’s important to remember that there are estate planning steps you can take at every stage of life’s journey. In particular, it’s important to think about how big life events might affect your estate plan — such as getting married, having kids, or buying a house.

As we head for a new year full of new opportunities, an attorney can help you begin the process of creating a comprehensive estate plan, or guide you in updating or reviewing the estate planning documents you already have in place. 

There are many different tools and mechanisms to consider as part of a “typical” estate plan, including: 

  • Wills. A will is a legal document by which a person may express their wishes as to how their property is to be distributed at their death; name guardians for their children; and appoint the executor who will manage their estate until its final distribution.
  • Trusts. This legal arrangement allows a third party, known as the trustee, to hold and manage assets chosen by the settlor or grantor, on behalf of one or more chosen beneficiaries.
  • Powers of attorney for healthcare and finances. These legal documents outline who will make your medical and financial decisions if you become incapacitated.
  • Living will. Also known as an advanced directive, this short legal document allows you to provide a medical directive and dictate your end-of-life wishes.

And if 2021 unfortunately brings the loss of a loved one, we know that settling one’s financial matters after a death, with both family members and creditors, can be daunting. An experienced attorney can help you to navigate the administrative and legal process of probate, including handling contested matters involving wills or trusts.

Is It Time to Grow Your Family?

Weddings looked a little bit different in 2020, with couples adapting to pandemic restrictions by celebrating with only close family and friends in intimate ceremonies. 

This past year was an important reminder that marriages, adoptions, and other important family milestones don’t stop in tough times. If you’re looking to take a step forward with your loved ones in the year ahead, there are lots of steps you can take to protect your peace of mind. 

For instance, for couples getting married in 2021, it may be beneficial to consider creating a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement with an experienced family attorney. 

Contrary to some all-too-common myths, prenups are not only for the rich and famous. They can be helpful for any couple looking to enter into their marriage with clarity and peace of mind. Working through the process of creating a marital agreement can help couples understand and communicate with each other better, while strengthening your partnership for the future. At the same time, these agreements have many practical benefits, including beginning the process of estate planning, responsibly allocating debts, determining how bills and other joint obligations will be paid, and setting down boundaries and guidelines for how to conduct business operations.

Whether you’re single, married, or cohabitating, you may also be thinking about bringing home a child in the next few years. For those who are unable to have their own biological children or those who simply wish to expand their family in other ways, adoption can be a meaningful way forward. Adoption can be a complicated and overwhelming process. Experienced adoption lawyers can help you understand all of your options and navigate this process from beginning to end — so that you can bring home a child of your own knowing that all legal steps have been successfully addressed. 

Is It Time to Make a Change?

2020 has led to new challenges for many families — and exacerbated existing cracks and divisions among others. For instance, many experts continue to anticipate a post-coronavirus surge in divorces. For couples who are already separated or divorced, the events of the past year have led to friction and fighting over important matters like sharing parenting time or delegating parental decision-making. 

No matter what the future may hold, an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney can help you rise to the challenge. 

Skilled attorneys can help you handle the many moving pieces that go into a contested or uncontested divorce, which often includes issues of property division, maintenance (spousal support), and allocation of marital debt. 

Whether married or unmarried, an attorney can also help you to get a better handle on child-related matters including child support, allocation of parental responsibility, and parenting time agreements, as well as post-decree matters such as determining college contributions or seeking a change of residence. 

Your family’s changing circumstances may also mean that it’s time to think about guardianship. Whether you have a child with special needs or an aging parent in need of hands-on care, guardianship can be a healthy and proactive option for all involved. An attorney can help you determine a course of action based around your family’s unique situation so that you can better protect your family member’s well-being and assets, while making the process as efficient and helpful as possible for all involved. 

Your Partner for 2021 and Beyond

Whatever the year ahead brings, our skilled team will work with you to efficiently and effectively meet your goals. The Law Offices of J. Jeltes offers skilled, efficient, and affordable representation during some of life’s most difficult transitions. We are compassionate advocates dedicated to your challenges in contested and uncontested family law matters, probate, guardianship, and adoption. 

Founded in 2009 and offering more than 20 years of combined experience, the attorneys and staff at The Law Offices of J. Jeltes know that every situation is unique. Restructuring a family or making a huge life change is a vulnerable time for most.  We know this, and will endeavor to remain extremely thoughtful, compassionate, and effective in helping you achieve your goals — no matter what stage of life’s journey you may be on.

Interested in learning more or getting in touch? Don’t hesitate to connect with us to begin the conversation.