In disputed matters, we strive to obtain cost-effective solutions to complex problems.
At every step of the way, Steve will provide you with options, explain anticipated costs, and estimate the likelihood of success based on presently known facts.
Our administrative assistants, Alex Roque and Jeanne Fetter, can contribute to matters at reduced rates. Steve always provides free consultations for any new matter.
Estate Planning (Drafting of Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney)
Almost any attorney can draft a Will for you. However, Steve has extensive experience with Decedent and Guardianship matters that have gone wrong due to deficiencies in the estate planning process, and he can make sure that your wishes are not jeopardized by such mistakes. Also, Steve's experiences allow him to determine if your estate plan is particularly vulnerable in certain ways and provide additional resources as necessary.
Typically, estate planning services are provided for a flat fee and your estate plan can be completed within 30-45 days. To learn more, please read Steve's article about his approach to estate planning.
Contested Guardianship and Decedent Matters (including Representation of Beneficiaries)
Steve has litigated from almost every possible perspective in a contested Guardianship matter, e.g., as Guardian ad Litem, as counsel for a Petitioner, as the Court-appointed attorney for an alleged disabled person. Steve has also brought challenges in Decedent matters and against Trustees, and has defended his clients against allegations of wrongdoing. His insight will allow you to effectively strategize under difficult, emotionally-charged circumstances.
Steve's litigative experience is further grounded by his personal background. Steve was raised in a middle-class family, and he fully understands how the costs of legal services can be frustratingly explosive. He is particularly knowledgeable about disputes among siblings, as he was estranged from his brother for many years. He is also very sensitive to how parties can feel personally victimized during litigation, as he had received injuries from a wealthy drunk driver during his first year in law school.
Steve has acted in critical roles in multi-million dollar Estates as well as in matters where all parties are destitute. He will ensure that all efforts stay focused on your most important goals, and ask you if you wish to reprioritize those goals as the matter develops. In some circumstances, Steve's fees are paid from the Guardianship or Decedent Estate.
Guardianship Administration for Disabled Persons
If your loved one did not sign certain estate planning documents before becoming disabled, or if all persons nominated by your loved one are unable or unwilling to be involved, then the Guardianship Court must appoint an appropriate person (or persons) to act as Guardian(s).
As time goes by, the Guardianship Court reviews each Guardian's actions to determine whether the Guardian is acting appropriately. Problems usually arise when (a) the Guardian fails to consult with his attorney before taking certain actions, or (b) when the Guardian's attorney is so inexperienced in Guardianships that he fails to adequately guide the Guardian. The unusually technical nature of Guardianship proceedings often confuses attorneys who do not practice regularly in this area.
Steve usually appears before a Guardianship Court about two to three days each week. He is well prepared to guide you through all stages of the Guardianship process so that you can comfortably and confidently address your loved one's affairs, and sleep soundly at night. The fees of a Guardian's attorney are usually paid from the assets of the Guardianship Estate.
Guardianship Administration for Minors
When a minor is entitled to receive substantial funds, a parent or loved one must usually open a "Guardianship of the Estate" to accept the child's money and apply it wisely until the minor turns 18. When a minor's parents are unable or unwilling to care for the child and an appropriate person desires to raise the minor, that person must usually open a "Guardianship of the Person" for that child. Both types of Guardianship provide considerable power to the Guardian. However, the Guardian must be cautious of the limits of their power or else they could face serious consequences from the Court.
Whenever possible, Steve will suggest actions that will reduce administrative costs so that as much as possible will remain when the minor ultimately turns 18. However, if the child is disabled, Steve will also advise you as to how you should approach Guardianship now, and how you can plan for the future. The fees of a Guardian's attorney are usually paid from the assets of the Guardianship Estate.
Corporate Formation and Governance
Our firm can guide you regarding how you can meet certain requirements under Illinois law so that you may protect your personal assets from the risks that your business will take. Also, by laying certain groundwork for a corporation or LLC, you can enjoy tax benefits and a Certificate of Good Standing which may further encourage your professional contacts to work with you.
Usually, corporate services are provided for a flat fee. However, if you fail to run your business as the State of Illinois expects, that flat fee may be inconsequential when weighed against the liability that you might personally suffer due to flaws in your unguided approach to your corporation or LLC.
Decedent Estate and Trust Administration
After your loved one passes away, his or her assets must be used to pay debts and then be distributed to the persons indicated under Illinois' intestacy laws or by a Will or Trust. Usually, this administration requires very little (or no) involvement with a Court. However, this also means that the designated Representative of your loved one's Estate or Trust must cautiously observe various requirements under Illinois law, or else that Representative might end up with problems in Court.
Steve provides Executors, Administrators and Trustees with clear and concise guidance as to how they can handle administrative matters quickly and easily. Usually, Steve can minimize the fees that are often generated by attorneys in these matters by relying on the Representative to handle issues that do not require an attorney, by assigning an assistant to such tasks, or by simplifying certain procedures. The fees of a Representative's attorney are usually paid from the assets of the Trust or Estate.
Administration During Life Pursuant to Powers of Attorney or Trusts
If your loved one signed Powers of Attorney or a Trust before becoming disabled, then the persons named under those documents can usually attend to that person's needs without any Court proceedings. However, it is not uncommon for family members or social service agencies to question the decisions of an Agent or a Trustee, and then file a Petition which asks a Court to compel the Agent or Trustee to explain everything they've ever done.
Usually, Agents and Trustees have the power to hire people to help (including attorneys), but often refrain from doing so because they believe that they are treating their loved one fairly, because they believe that the whole family trusts them, or because they do not understand how they can be ultimately held accountable. However, since most Agents and Trustees have no prior experience as to the various requirements of Illinois law, their perception of fairness sometimes differs from what a Court believes is appropriate. Also, while the whole family might presently trust an Agent or Trustee, one or more of them may pass away and leave a spouse or a child who may be much more skeptical.
Steve frequently addresses disputes regarding the actions of Agents and Trustees within the context of contested Guardianship or Decedent matters. He also guides Agents and Trustees in a manner which minimizes the chance that they will be brought to Court, or left in an uncomfortable (and perhaps indefensible) position if they ever have to appear before a Court. In many circumstances, when Steve represents an Agent or a Trustee, Steve's fees are paid not by the Agent or Trustee, personally, but from the assets of the loved one who is being assisted.