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Cook County Trusts LawyerThere are multiple estate planning tools available that can help ensure your family is protected when you are no longer here. One of the most common instruments used is trusts. Trusts allow individuals to transfer assets to their beneficiaries while avoiding probate and minimizing tax liabilities. There are several different types of trusts available, each with its own unique benefits and limitations. The following is a brief overview. For more detailed information, call our office to speak with a seasoned estate planning attorney.

Revocable Trust

A revocable trust, also known as a living trust, is a trust that can be amended or revoked during the lifetime of the grantor. This type of trust allows the grantor to maintain control over their assets while alive. Upon the death of the grantor, the assets are then turned over to the beneficiary of the trust, avoiding the probate process for those assets.

Irrevocable Trust

An irrevocable trust is a trust that cannot be changed or terminated once it has been established. This type of trust is often used to transfer assets to beneficiaries while minimizing tax liabilities since assets held in an irrevocable trust are typically not subject to estate taxes.


DuPage County Business Formation AttorneysA business partnership allows a company to benefit from the skills, experience, and unique perspectives of multiple people. Partnering with another person also allows you to share expenses and job responsibilities, promoting a healthier work-life balance.

However, partnerships are not without risk - especially if you do not have a solid partnership agreement in place. To give your company the best chances of long-term success and reduce the risk of conflict, make sure you have a well-written partnership agreement that includes details about decision-making authority, profits and distribution, ownership percentages, and how the partnership can be modified or dissolved.

Ownership and Capital Contributions 

Define the ownership percentages of each partner in your agreement. Each partner's share of ownership is usually proportionate to how much capital each partner has contributed (or will contribute) to the business, such as start-up costs or ongoing investments.


DuPage County Estate Planning LawyerFor many people, estate planning and incapacitation planning are responsibilities that get put off as long as possible. Understandably, most people do not want to face their own mortality and plan for incapacitation or death. However, these responsibilities are extremely important and should not be procrastinated. A severe injury or illness can occur at any time to anyone.

Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to make decisions about how your medical and financial decision making will be handled if you cannot make the decisions yourself.

Types of Advance Directives

Advance directives allow you to remain in control of your personal affairs even if you are incapacitated by a medical condition. Using these documents, you will make decisions in advance so that there is no question as to what your wishes are, in the event that you cannot express the wishes yourself. Some of the most common advanced directives include:


DuPage County Landord-Tenant Dispute LawyerLandlords wear many hats and juggle countless responsibilities. For many landlords and property owners, one of the worst aspects of the job is handling tenant evictions. It is an unpleasant process that nobody wants to face, and the global pandemic has presented landlords with even more challenges when it comes to evicting tenants.

Although most eviction moratoriums and other covid-related restrictions have been lifted by now, the pandemic changed the nature of the landlord-tenant relationship. Many tenants are set on doing everything they can to avoid meeting the terms of their lease agreements while remaining in their homes. If you are struggling to evict a tenant, it is important to understand the current eviction process in order to ensure that you are following the law and protecting your rights as a landlord.

Cook County, Illinois Eviction Process

Most evictions occur because a tenant is not paying rent or otherwise violated the lease. In Illinois, evictions are a judicial process. The first step is serving a notice to the tenant. If the eviction notice is based on failure to pay rent, the notice is a 5-day notice. If the tenant is in violation of the lease agreement, it is a 10-day notice. Month-to-month renters must be served with a Notice of Termination of Periodic Tenancy. The type of notice you will need to provide depends on many different factors, including the Illinois county where the rental property is located. This is why many landlords work with real estate lawyers to ensure they are following the current law correctly.


DuPage County Commercial Real Estate LawyerPurchasing a commercial property represents an exciting opportunity for any investor. If you own commercial real estate, you know this firsthand. Whether you plan to use the commercial property yourself or lease it out to another party, you likely have ambitious plans for the future. Unfortunately, many commercial real estate investors find their plans derailed by excessive property tax obligations.

In this blog, we will discuss the legal options available to commercial real estate owners in this predicament. It may be possible to lower your tax burden by filing an appeal or taking advantage of certain tax incentives.

How to Appeal a Property Tax Assessment for a Commercial Property

An old saying states that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. Still, your tax bill should not be so demanding that it ruins your future ambitions. If you think a commercial property tax assessment is too high, you should consider filing an appeal with the local taxing authority. The exact process for appealing depends on your jurisdiction, but here are some general tips to keep in mind:


cook county estate planning lawyerMany people put off conversations about estate planning for years, and understandably so. Conversations about end-of-life care, inheritance, and other sensitive topics around estate planning can be uncomfortable and sad for parents and children. Furthermore, many parents assume that if they do not write a will, their children will automatically inherit anything they have. If the family home is the single or most valuable possession they will pass on, they may assume the children will inherit it equally. 

Unfortunately, this is not always true. Although making an estate plan can bring up unpleasant thoughts and feelings, putting it off or not doing it at all is a mistake for the parents and the children. If distributing your property after you pass away is important to you, it is essential to create an estate plan reflecting your wishes. 

What Happens to a Home If There is No Will? 

If one partner in a married couple passes away and there is no will, what happens next will depend on whether the deceased partner has any living descendants. If there are no children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, the surviving spouse inherits the full property of the deceased spouse. If there are living descendants and no will, the surviving spouse receives half of the deceased spouse’s inheritance, and the first line of living descendants (usually the deceased spouse’s children) will divide the other share. If there is only one parent alive and that parent passes away, the children inherit everything. 


An Overview of Short Sales in Illinois

Posted on in Real Estate

Oak Brook residential real estate lawyerRising mortgage rates, property taxes, and other economic challenges mean that many homeowners are struggling to make monthly payments on their homes. This can put enormous pressure on a family and require them to make a decision about how to manage their spiraling mortgage debt fast. One option may be putting a house up for short sale. If you are interested in learning more about short sales, how they work, and how one might be helpful to you, read on and then contact an Illinois residential real estate attorney. 

What Is a Short Sale? 

A short sale is when a homeowner sells their house for less than they owe on their mortgage. The biggest benefit of a short sale is that the homeowner has a better chance of selling the home before it is repossessed in a foreclosure by the mortgage lender. If someone makes an offer on the home, the mortgage lender has to decide whether to accept the offer. 

If a home is sold in a short sale, all of the proceeds go to the mortgage lender, who then decides whether to forgive the remaining balance or to try to get the homeowner to pay it. Certain programs, such as the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program, may be available to help people get into a more affordable housing option while getting the remainder of the balance on the original mortgage forgiven and a small cash payment to assist in relocating to a new home. 


The Possible Effects of Foreclosure

Posted on in Real Estate

Chicago foreclosure defense lawyerAs inflation continues to rise and the economy enters a period of unpredictable highs and lows, many people are left in the middle, trying to afford their family’s lifestyle and feeling as though the most basic things in their lives have become threatened. When it feels like you are at risk of losing your home because you cannot afford the mortgage payments, the serious potential consequences can make it hard to think straight. 

Foreclosure may be in your future, but it does not necessarily have to be the end of the world and you may, in fact, have other options that you are unaware of. At Whitacre & Stefanczuk LTD, we take your concerns seriously and work to communicate clearly with you so you can make wise decisions about your financial future. Our real estate attorneys are here to help and, if appropriate, we provide excellent foreclosure defense services for our clients. 

How Does Foreclosure Work? 

If you do get far enough behind in payments, your mortgage lender will eventually file a lawsuit that asks the court to give them permission to sell the house in a foreclosure sale. If you ignore the lawsuit, the judge typically will grant a default judgment, and your house can be sold. 


cook county real estate lawyerWhen people buy a home - especially when it is their first home - they are often so caught up in the excitement and joy of such an exciting experience that they rarely are on the lookout for scams that are specifically targeting unsuspecting Illinois homebuyers. Yet an entire industry of criminals exists who are thinking up ever more sophisticated ways of scamming people out of the money they worked hard to save so they could buy a home. If you are buying a home, especially for the first time, it is essential to understand some of the most common scams homebuyers face and how an Illinois real estate lawyer can help protect you from them. 

How Do Scammers Target Homebuyers? 

One of the most common ways that homebuyers suffer financial fraud is when a criminal poses as the client’s realtor by tracking the realtor’s email correspondence and seizing opportunities to send a homebuyer false information so earnest money or closing funds get wired to the scammer instead of the bank or the realtor. 

To avoid this, make sure you talk to a trusted person so you can get and give sensitive information while hearing their voice - not just over email - and get details about how to send any money very carefully. Usually, once money is wired, it is gone; if a scammer receives it, he or she will take it and disappear. Have an attorney review any financial transactions before you send them so you have a second pair of eyes checking these major transfers. 


cook county real estate lawyerFirst-time homebuyers are often filled with joy and relief at finally achieving a major part of the American dream. Unfortunately, owning a home also comes with its share of complications and difficulties, and one of these is dealing with property taxes. Illinois is notorious for having some of the most expensive property tax rates in the nation, although the exact rate depends on where you live and whether you have exemptions you qualify for. If you recently had your property taxes levied and you believe the amount is too, you may be able to appeal your taxes and pay less. 

What Are Property Taxes Based On?

In theory, property taxes match the value of your house, so the amount of property taxes you pay will depend on where you live and how much your house is worth. Real estate often increases in value year over year, especially if the owner puts work into improving the house. Certain owners and organizations are exempt or have deductions from property taxes, so it is important to do some research to determine whether you fall into this category. 

While the exact strategy of assessing property taxes varies by state and county, in Cook County, for example, an assessor determines the Fair Market Value of your home and then determines the assessed value, which is 10 percent of the fair market value. Then, the State Equalization Factor is applied to the assessed value to determine the Equalized Assessed Value and any exemptions are subtracted. The local tax rate is then applied to this number to determine the estimated tax bill. 


dupage county estate planning lawyerAs you begin the process of planning your estate, you may be worried about making sure you take the right steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. Unfortunately, mistakes are common during estate planning, especially when people do not have the help of an attorney. Before you take steps to protect your wishes in a will, trust, or other estate planning instrument, consult with an Illinois estate planning lawyer who can help you make sure you have all the information you need to set up a plan that meets your needs. Here are some common estate planning pitfalls to avoid. 

Not Discussing Your Estate Plan

Many people keep their estate plan a secret because they fear they will expose themselves to criticism, open up interpersonal conflict within their family, or because they are just afraid to bring up an unpleasant topic. But experts say it is better to have these sensitive conversations before someone is surprised by being designated as your beneficiary, executor, or power of attorney. You do not need to divulge all the details of your estate plan, but you can minimize confusion and provide clear direction by keeping all relevant parties informed.

Not Updating Your Estate Plan

The only constant in life is change, and this is never more true than when planning for how your estate will be managed. Divorce, death, new additions to the family, or family disagreements may necessitate updating your estate plan from time to time. Even if you are not sure whether you need to make any changes, regularly reviewing your estate plan will ensure it is still meeting your needs. 


shutterstock_1576779889-min.jpgBuying a home for the first time can be an exhilarating experience. Most people have saved for many years before they can make their dream of home ownership come true, and buying a home has more symbolic meaning than just purchasing a house. It may mean that a family is in the near future, that a couple has decided to put down roots in a community, or that an individual is at a point in their lives where investing in real estate has become a possibility. Whatever your reasons for buying a home are, having a real estate attorney helping you throughout the process can ensure you avoid time-consuming and potentially expensive mistakes. 

Get Your Credit Score Where You Want It

While programs for first-time home buyers are often forgiving of low or moderate credit scores, mortgage rates have gone up substantially in recent months. Waiting to buy a home until your credit score is strong can end up saving you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a mortgage by helping you secure a lower interest rate. Lowering your income-to-debt ratio can help improve your credit score, as can paying down debt and making credit card payments on time. 

Secure Preapproval

First-time home buyers are often unsure of how large a mortgage they can qualify for. Working with a lender to get preapproved will let you know how much you can expect to be able to loan so you can set realistic expectations and look at homes within your means. 


dupage county estate planning lawyerDespite the importance and usefulness of a will, fewer than one-third of Americans have one. Yet having a will is a very important part of protecting your beneficiaries (the people who will inherit your belongings), and is even more important for parents of young children. Even if you think you have very little wealth to pass on, a will contains information that will protect your children and your wishes for them if something happens to you. Learn more about why wills are so important for young parents, and then contact an Illinois estate planning attorney for help writing yours. 

Why Should Young Parents Have a Will? 

For young parents, the single most important reason to have a will is that it provides the opportunity to designate your child’s legal guardian if one or both parents pass away. If only one parent passes away, the surviving parent is usually given legal custody. However, not all children have two parents who can care for them. In some tragic cases, both of a child’s parents pass away. If something happened to you and your child’s other parent, who would you want to care for your child? Naming a guardian is the best way to ensure that this vital decision is up to you. If you do not name a guardian, the decision about who will care for your child will be left up to the court. 

Another important reason to create a will is to ensure that property is distributed according to your wishes if you pass away. Without a will, state law dictates how belongings are distributed. Minors cannot legally manage money or property that they have inherited until they turn 18 in Illinois. You may want to set up another legal instrument, such as a trust, to manage your property. A trust enables you to designate a trustee who will hold property on behalf of your child. 

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