IL Estate Planning Blog

Friday, July 10, 2015

Death, Taxes and Your IRA. Ouch.

Taken from the Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2015


Death, Taxes and Your IRA. Ouch.

Your death could be more taxing than you imagine.

Thanks to 2015’s $5.43 million federal estate-tax exclusion, perhaps just one out of 600 deaths this year will trigger federal estate taxes. Yet many heirs still will face steep tax bills, partly because some states levy their own estate tax—but mostly because of the income taxes due on inherited retirement accounts.

If you bequeath, say, a stock in a regular taxable account that has climbed in value, the cost of the investment for tax purposes automatically rises to its current value as of your death. This “step-up in cost basis” means that the potential capital-gains tax bill can disappear.

But if you die owning traditional retirement accounts, such as 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts, the income taxes owed on withdrawals still have to be paid by your heirs.

Moreover, this tax problem could get a whole lot worse if Congress kills off the “stretch” IRA. Right now, after you die, your IRA’s beneficiaries can draw down the account slowly over their lifetime.

But if the stretch IRA disappears, your heirs may be forced to empty inherited retirement accounts within five years of your death—and the extra income could push them into a much higher tax bracket.

This change almost became law in 2013. The White House proposed eliminating the stretch IRA again this year for all beneficiaries, except for spouses and in certain special situations, and many experts believe it is just a matter of time until the law gets changed.

“I think there’s a better than 50% chance that the death of the stretch IRA will eventually pass,” says Pittsburgh accountant and investment adviser James Lange, author of “Retire Secure.”

All this is bad news for many Americans. For the typical household approaching retirement age, retirement accounts are the second-largest asset they own, after their home, according to calculations by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research. (This ignores any value assigned to Social Security and traditional employer pensions.)

How much do older Americans have in retirement accounts? According to the Federal Reserve’s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, retirement accounts are owned by 48% of families headed by someone 65 to 74 years old, and the median value is $149,000. A 2014 report by the Investment Company Institute, a fund-industry trade group, found that 19.2% of IRA investors age 75 and older have accounts worth $200,000 or more—and the number would be even larger if 401(k), 403(b) and other retirement accounts were included.

What should these investors do? There are three key strategies that many folks ought to consider, and two others that could make sense for some families.

First, you might shelve the standard advice for retirees, which is to tap your taxable accounts first, while leaving retirement accounts to continue growing tax-deferred. Instead, you might hang on to taxable-account investments, with a view to getting the step-up in cost basis upon your death.

“When you think about how much you need to live, you might pull more out of your IRA, rather than spending down your taxable-account assets,” says Alisa Shin, a senior wealth planner at Vanguard Group. “But you want to do it strategically. We don’t want to push you up to the 39.6% tax bracket [with large IRA withdrawals]. But if we can do it and stay within the 25% tax bracket, it could be worthwhile.”

Second, you might convert part of your traditional retirement accounts to a Roth IRA. You will have to pay income taxes on the conversion. But once the money is in a Roth, it will grow tax-free.

To figure out whether converting makes sense, you need to compare the tax you will pay on the conversion to the taxes that will likely be paid by your beneficiaries when they empty the account. For instance, if you can convert and pay taxes at 25%, that would be better than bequeathing a traditional IRA on which your children then pay 33% in taxes.

Third, you might kill the problem with kindness. “Let’s say people are planning to leave some amount to charity,” Mr. Lange says. “If it’s a significant sum, I’d leave IRA money to the charity,” while bequeathing taxable-account money to your heirs.

What are the two other strategies? First, you might consider purchasing life insurance, so your heirs have money to pay your IRA’s income-tax bill. This makes particular sense if your assets also will be subject to estate taxes. Life-insurance proceeds should be income-tax-free, and they also can be estate-tax-free—if you arrange for somebody else to own the policy, such as your children or an irrevocable life-insurance trust.
Second, if the stretch IRA disappears, it may make sense to bequeath your IRA to a charitable remainder trust. As with the stretch IRA, the trust could allow your heirs to enjoy lifetime withdrawals from the IRA, though Mr. Lange notes that the trust isn’t as financially advantageous as the stretch IRA and would involve higher fees.

–Jonathan Clements is the author of the “Jonathan Clements Money Guide 2015.” 


Friday, June 12, 2015

Keeping Your Memory Sharp

People with some forgetfulness can use a variety of techniques that may help them stay healthy and maintain their memory and mental skills.  Here are some tips that can help:

  • Plan tasks, make "to do" lists, and use memory aids like notes and calendars.  Some people find they remember things better if they mentally connect them to other meaningful things, such as a familiar name, song, book, or TV show.
  • Develop interests or hobbies and stay involved in activities that can help both the mind and body.
  • Engage in physical activity and exercise.  Several studies have associated exercise (such as walking) with better brain function, although more research is needed to say for sure whether exercise can help to maintain brain function or prevent or delay symptoms of Alzheimer's.
  • Limit alcohol use.  Although some studies suggest that moderate alcohol use has health benefits, heavy or binge drinking over time can cause memory loss and permanent brain damage.
  • Find activities, such as exercise or a hobby, to relieve feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression.  If these feelings last for a long time, talk with your doctor.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

How are Mom and Dad Really Doing?


Guest Post by Martha Kern:



How are Mom and Dad Really Doing?

Shay Jacobson, RN, MA, NMG, LNCC, CNLCP
Martha Kern

Our parents, perhaps owing to pride or fear or a hope that the situation will pass, may be prone to withholding information about their health and welfare, keeping small lapses and new deficiencies under wraps. Despite our best efforts to keep up with all the events in their lives and the stories they share with us on the phone, we won’t always recognize the very subtle indicators that something has changed.

There are signs, however, that care is needed. In cases where care is already provided, there are signs that the care may not be of the right variety or size.  The possible scenarios in which these signs are offered are endless, but here are examples of the ways your loved ones might be showing you that they need more – or different – help:

  • Bills and taxes are unpaid, or paid incorrectly;
  • A change of subject in the conversation cannot be managed – your Mom routinely changes the subject back to something familiar or tells a joke when more complex topics are raised;
  • Your Dad repetitively asks the same questions or wants to review the same material;
  • A sudden uptick in charitable giving is seen, or checks are being written to unknown parties for unknown services;
  • Uncharacteristically risky behavior appears, such as gambling, excessive spending, inviting strangers into the house, etc.
  • Grooming and hygiene show a decline – odors are present, clothes are stained, your loved one seems to be wearing the same clothes every time you see them;
  • Weight loss is registered for no apparent reason;
  • There are bruises, abrasions and other minor injuries, the origins of which your Mom cannot recall or is reluctant to share;
  • Medical issues present that may stem from inaccurate dosing of medication;
  • Pills linger in various compartments of the pill box, or prescriptions that should last 30 days are gone too soon;
  • The credit card bill shows charges for unnecessary goods and services being purchased from telephone solicitors;
  • Neighbors are paid cash or given elaborate gifts for routine assistance, rides or small household chores;
  • The house appears unkempt – flyers are piled up on the sidewalk, the landscaping is overgrown, grass is uncut, mail is not retrieved from the box;
  • New “friends” have appeared and seem to take an influential role in decision-making;
  • The caregiver is there, but so are members of the caregiver’s family (who might also be living there);
  • The caregiver is NOT there, or your Mom reports the caregiver is often out of the house for repeated, unexplained periods of time (i.e. the caregiver has other revenue streams and is taking your Mom out to attend to business transactions, hair appointments or other self-serving interests unrelated to your Mom for whom they are paid to care);
  • Your Dad’s gradual loss of strength has made it impossible for him to participate in his own transfers. The caregiver is moving “dead weight” and has dropped your Dad more than once;
  • Grandpa has begun to wander and has escaped the home several times when the caregiver was napping or watching television. Vigilant neighbors or the police have found him and brought him back home each time;
  • Bed sores are beginning to form and the caregiver is not strong enough to reposition Grandma;
  • Dad can no longer accurately discern when it is time to take medication and the caregiver, who has difficulty reading English, has been guessing which pill to administer and when to do it;
  • The assisted-living community in which your Mom lives has asked that she leave or will not take her back after a hospitalization;
  • Meals are offered in the independent-living dining room, but your Dad forgets or refuses to go.

There are hundreds more such scenarios, each of which shares a common denominator: A change is noted, whether in behavior, ability, physical status, environmental status, social interactions or in any other sphere of life.  The change may or may not signal a larger problem, but only a thorough assessment by a skilled professional will properly tell the tale.  We have seen many cases wherein one change is noticed and at least five additional changes, all of them indicative of decline, are undiscovered until some investigation takes place.

Crossroads are inevitable for all of us, and are most acutely felt by our most vulnerable loved ones: the elderly, the psychiatrically impaired, individuals with disabilities and those who have suffered brain injury.  If we see signs of decline, there is every possibility that others have seen them, too, and these others may not have honorable intentions.

Exploitation always begins with the detection of weakness or vulnerability.  An assessment or audit of existing care limits risk, identifies areas of concern and develops a plan to strengthen safety and circumvent harm.

Shay Jacobson, President, and Martha Kern, Chief Marketing Officer, can be found at Lifecare Innovations in Burr Ridge and Lake Forest.  Visit the website at for more information about how the company helps those who cannot manage day-to-day life on their own.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Update to March 16th Blog

A few weeks ago I introduced you to Heather McCarthy and Kate Ryan of Someone Special Uniquely Personalized Books.  They started a publishing company to write personalized children’s books for kids with special needs and also for kids whose parents would like to educate their children on special needs.  While other books are personalized with just a child’s name, their books will be personalized on almost every page.  Their mission is to write books to teach kindness, acceptance, and respect differences. Through their uniquely personalized books, parents are given the opportunity to tell their child’s story using their own words. Children are given the chance to see their name and learn about their condition in a way that shows they are no different than other kids, but just as special.

Their Kickstarter Campaign has started on April 6, 2015.  For more information about their project (and/or to donate) please visit:

Monday, April 6, 2015

Illinois Nursing Homes Watch List provides information on nearly 16,000 U.S. nursing homes, including easy-to-understand Nursing Home Reports based on recent government surveys. 

This website provides easy-to-read reports to help families choose the right nursing home for their loved ones. State survey results for health, fire-safety, and other violations and complaints will help you choose a qualified home for your loved one.

Visit for a complete listing.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Navigating Medicaid and long-term care by Terry Savage

 Navigating Medicaid and long-term care - Chicago Tribune March 8, 2015

Copyright Terry Savage Productions, Ltd.; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency

The oldest baby boomers are now turning 70. Suddenly, the possibility of needing long-term care looms, despite the medical advances in joint replacement, heart surgery and pharmaceuticals. Boomers now must face the increasing possibility of needing care with activities of daily living - things like dressing, bathing and toileting.
Medicare does not cover these basic services, beyond a limited number of days of "skilled" nursing care required, for example, after a surgery. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does cover some care, primarily restricted to VA nursing homes. Long-term care insurance is the obvious solution - yet less than 10 percent of seniors have such a policy.
Consequently, many seniors who need daily custodial care are forced to turn to state Medicaid programs.  Here's what you should know if you're counting on Medicaid as a last resort for custodial care:
1. Medicaid care takes away choice.
The majority of custodial care provided by Medicaid is given in an institutional setting. That structural bias takes away the chance to remain at home and have limited care for several hours a day. It also takes away your choice of nursing homes. Given increasing demand and low Medicaid reimbursement rates, most facilities have a limited number of Medicaid beds, instead opting to serve those who pay through private savings or long-term care insurance.
2. Medical and financial qualification is necessary.
Each state sets its own criteria to qualify for Medicaid custodial care. For example, Illinois provides long term care services for 55,000 eligible residents in 738 nursing facilities. Those facilities take all but $30 a month from your Social Security or other income to pay for your nursing home care.
3. There are exemptions for spouses remaining "in community" outside the nursing home.
Each state sets its own limitations for how much of your income will be retained by your spouse. For example, in Illinois in 2015, the non-Medicaid spouse could keep up to $2,980.50 of income per month from the Medicaid spouse. The federal maximum for property retained by the community spouse is $119,220, in addition to the family home (up to a value of $552,000, or higher in some states), car and household furnishings. But your state exemptions might be lower than the federal limits, which are adjusted yearly.
4. Avoid Medicaid planning and transfers.
It obviously is tempting to transfer assets to children in order to qualify for your state's Medicaid long-term care program. In fact, an entire industry has sprung up to plan for this eventuality. But states are getting tougher - creating a "look back" period, typically five years, to examine such asset transfers. 
5. Consider long-term care insurance.
Although it's estimated that 70 percent of seniors will need at least some assistance with basic activities of daily living during their lifetimes, the average stay in a long-term care facility - the dreaded nursing home - is only 2.43 years.
So you may be better off purchasing a short-term long-term care insurance policy - one that allows the flexibility of choosing benefits for home health care, assisted living or a nursing home, as needed. 
Growing older is better than the alternative. And realistically planning for the possibilities of needing care in your later years gives peace of mind for you - and your family. That's the Savage Truth.


(Terry Savage is a Registered Investment Advisor, blogger and the author of four best-selling books, including "The Savage Truth on Money." Terry responds to question on her blog at

Monday, March 16, 2015

Guest Post

Guest Post by Heather McCarthy and Kate Ryan


A special thank you to Mr. Stephen Sutera, Attorney at Law, for allowing us to be guest bloggers this month.  Please allow us to introduce ourselves.  We are Heather McCarthy and Kate Ryan, both middle school English teachers at Oak Lawn Hometown Middle School.  We are also both mothers and writers.  Kate grew up in Mt. Greenwood, attended Mother McAuley High School, and Eastern Illinois University for her undergraduate degree.  She is the mother of Mae who is currently three years old.  Heather grew up in Justice, attended Argo Community High School and Elmhurst College for her undergraduate degree.  She is the mother of Maya (5 years old) and Christian (almost 2 years old).


We recently met with Mr. Sutera to talk about our new business adventure of writing personalized picture books for children with special needs.  We are a startup company that will create personalized picture books for children with disabilities, conditions, and syndromes ranging from Cerebral Palsy to Epilepsy, Autism to Downs Syndrome, and even food allergies.  Our company Someone Special Uniquely Personalized Books, LLC will run a Kickstarter Campaign in April and hopefully be fully functional to take orders by May this year.  If you would like more information about our company please visit our Facebook page or send us an email at


While we write books for small children ages birth to eight years old, we would like to share a recent article we read for parents of children with special needs.  The January 29, 2015 post from Brain Child Magazine, written by Hilary Levey Friedman, discussed the top ten books for parenting children with disabilities.  Please enjoy our summary below or visit Top Ten Books for Parenting Children with Disabilities to read the full article.


All the books mentioned in the post make two similar points: 1) Your child is more than a syndrome or symptoms or disability, and 2) Navigating the bureaucracy associated with having a child with a disability is challenging. In their own ways, these memoirs and advice books provide advice and comfort not just to parents whose children share a similar issue, but to all. Lessons about self-reliance and acceptance are important for all kids.


These books were published in this century, which makes sense given that we know so much more about how young brains and bodies develop than we ever have before. All of them also talk about similar acronyms like IDEA, IEE, and 504. While some of the books focus on just one special need (like autism or learning disabilities or genetic conditions or Down’s syndrome), together they look to the future in some way, helping children to develop into adulthood—when they will become adults with disabilities, a specific population two books on the list focus upon.


Parenting Children with Health Issues and Special Needs by Foster Cline and Lisa Greene

This condensed version of 2007’s Parenting Children with Health Issues is a useful volume that focuses on the emotional development of ill children. The 2009 version includes advice for those with autism, learning disabilities, and other similar conditions. It has advice for all parents—like nurturing self-concept and being a consultant parent rather than a drill sergeant or helicopter. The main take-away is that children need to learn to take responsibility for their own bodies and adhere to medical advice.


A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectation, and a Little Girl Named Penny by Amy Julia Becker

A Good and Perfect Gift chronicles how Amy Julia and her husband, along with their families, friends, and students, come to understand Penny (born with Down’s Syndrome) and what she adds to their communities. Published by a Christian Press there is quite a lot of religiously-motivated discussion, but for those unfamiliar with this point of view it won’t distract from the larger messages of the book. Becker finds that Penny having Down’s Syndrome was hardest to deal with in the abstract, but once they were in a room together she became nothing more than their wonderful daughter who happens to have an extra chromosome. The lessons about pity versus compassion will help all of us who know someone with a special needs child.


The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son by Ian Brown

The Boy in the Moon is Canadian journalist Ian Brown’s lyrical memoir about his son, Walker. Walker suffers from a rare orphan genetic syndrome (meaning it comes out of nowhere), labelled Cardiofaciocutaneous (CFC). Given the small numbers who have it not much research is devoted to studying CFC, and as Brown soon learns he often knows more about it than the pediatricians he sees (as do the other parents with CFC children he meets and stays connected with via the Internet). Brown’s story reminds us that we all need to be advocates for our children to help them develop the best inner and outer lives possible.


Will My Kid Grow Out Of It? A Child Psychologist’s Guide to Understanding Worrisome Behavior by Bonny J. Forrest

Dr. Forrest’s practical guide will appeal to parents who are worried their children may be depressed, autistic, ADHD, schizophrenic, or have an eating or learning disorder. While she is clear that Will My Kid Grow Out Of It? is not meant to be a substitute for professional advice, her advice is plentiful. She believes there is no downside to screening a child because a parent will either get reassurance or get early access to the resources a child needs. This book offers a useful bibliography divided into sections like scientific journal articles, books, and websites.


Thinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities by David Flink

Like Dr. Forrest, Flink pushes testing and assessment for children because it helps families and schools build profiles that can lead to useful interventions. Flink focuses on “learning disabilities,” which are, “Generally understood to be an umbrella term for neurological difficulties in the brain’s ability to receive, process, store, express, and respond to information.” Flink himself has been diagnosed with a learning disability, dyslexia, and ADHD, and he is an expert in navigating how to use the educational system to get help. His Chapter 3, “Take Action,” is especially helpful in explaining to parents the laws and evaluations that can help children access help (his discussion about whether to hire an independent evaluator or use the one the school provides is important).


Essential First Steps for Parents of Children with Autism: Helping the Littlest Learners by Lara Delmoline and Sandra L. Harris

This short book by two professors who run the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center at Rutgers University is packed full of useful information. Each chapter starts with the story of a specific family who has a child with an autism spectrum disorder and ends with a list of further reading and resources related to that chapter whether it be on self-help skills or play. A focus on your individual child and data on him or her is vital to seeing changes in child’s performance and behavior—so parents, start taking notes!


The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder by Carol Stock Kranowitz

Sensory processing disorder is seen as a new definition of an old problem. Until recently it was often overlooked, except by occupational therapists who are most effective in helping children with a range of sensory processing issues. Like other authors on this list, Kranowitz is a strong advocate for early intervention—even recognizing that insurance doesn’t always cover the cost of therapy, mainly because the disorder still isn’t included in the latest DSM. Kranowitz presents many checklists and questionnaires throughout the comprehensive book, but her images are also useful, like saying we should think of sensory processing disorder like indigestion of the brain and just like an antacid soothes, kids need occupational therapy to smooth their neural pathways.


The Complete Guide to Creating a Special Needs Life Plan: A Comprehensive Approach Integrating Life, Resource, Financial, and Legal Planning to Ensure a Brighter Future for a Person with a Disability by Hal Wright

Eventually many children with special needs develop into adults with special needs. Hal Wright is a Certified Financial Planner who has a daughter with Down’s syndrome. This book deals with various forms of planning, but the sections on financial and legal planning are especially useful. Wright talks about siblings and how parents need to be fair to help all children financially, while also knowing siblings often take on other burdens related to special needs siblings. It is up to parents to plan ahead and deal with the practical intricacies as children become adults and this book acts as a useful guide.


Parenting an Adult with Disabilities or Special Needs: Everything You Need to Know to Plan for and Protect Your Child’s Future by Peggy Lou Morgan

If Wright’s book focuses on the practicalities of having an adult child with special needs, Morgan’s book focuses on the actual caring issues. She writes, “All parents deal with the sometimes-paralyzing question of what happens to adult children when we can no longer be there for them. While legal documents are very important, they may not prepare caregivers, nominated representatives, or others to understand someone who may not be able to communicate his needs directly. The sample caregiver’s manual in the appendices is important for anyone working on this daunting task.


Touchpoints Birth to Three: You Child’s Emotional and Behavioral Development by T. Berry Brazelton and Joshua Sparrow

You might be surprised to find a book on this list that focuses on “typical” developmental milestones. But many parents of special needs kids express, as Becker does in A Good and Perfect Gift, that it can be helpful in a way to see in what ways a child is attaining milestones at around the right time (could be verbal if physical is a problem, or vice versa). Touchpoints recognizes not only development forward, but also regression at certain times. So some special needs parents may learn a bit, but they will also benefit from discussion of other issues like divorce, television, etc. In the end, a book like this reminds us that each child is an individual and not just a symptom, disorder, or disease.


Hilary Levey Friedman is the Book Review Editor at Brain,Child and the author of Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Community Care Program -- Helping Older Adults Stay Home

Taken from PLOWS Council on Aging Newsletter January-February 2015

 The Community Care Program (CCP) is designed to help persons, age 60 and over, live independently, in their own homes for as long as possible. Services available under this program include In-Home services, Adult Day Care and Emergency Home Response.  The Community Care Program is a State of Illinois program and there is no cost to eligible participants.


In order to begin the process for services, PLOWS sends a Care Coordinator to your home to determine your eligibility for the program.


If you qualify for CCP services, your Care Coordinator will work with you to determine your needs, set up services that are appropriate for you, and keep in touch with you to make sure the services continue to meet your needs.


Qualifications established by the Illinois Department on Aging for the Community Care Program open the program to individuals who:

  • are 60 or older
  • are U.S. citizens or legal aliens
  • have assets of $17,500* or less for a single person, not including home, car, or personal furnishings
  • are determined physically in need of service, meaning you are at least moderately impaired

Help is a phone call away.  If you would like to know more about this service, please call 708-361-0219.

*determining asset guidelines for couples is more complex and will vary depending on certain factors.  This can be explained during the care coordinator's home visit.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Alzheimer's Association: Know the 10 Signs (Early Detection Matters)

Taken from the Alzheimer's Association Publication:

 Know the 10 Signs of Alzheimer's Disease:

1.  Memory loss that disrupts daily life.  One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information.  Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.  What's typical?  Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.


2.  Challenges in planning or solving problems.  Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers.  They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.  They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.  What's typical?  Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.


3.  Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.  People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks.  Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.  What's typical?  Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.


4.  Confusion with time or place.  People with Alzheimer's can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time.  They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately.  Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.  What's typical?  Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.


5.  Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.  For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer's.  They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast.  In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room.  They may not recognize their own reflection.  What's typical?  Vision changes related to cataracts.


6.  New problems with words in speaking or writing.  People with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation.  They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves.  They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a watch a "hand clock").  What's typical?  Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.


7.  Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.  A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places.  They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again.  Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing.  This may occur more frequently over time.  What's typical?  Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.


8.  Decreased or poor judgment.  People with Alzheimer's may experience changes in judgment or decision making.  For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers.  They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.  What's typical?  Making a bad decision once in a while.


9.  Withdrawal from work or social activities.  A person with Alzheimer's may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports.  They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby.  They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.  What's typical?  Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.


10.  Changes in mood and personality.  The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer's can change.  They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious.  They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.  What's typical?  Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.


If you have questions about any of these warning signs, the Alzheimer's Association recommends consulting a physician.  Early diagnosis provides the best opportunities for treatment, support and future planning.


For more information, go to:







Monday, December 15, 2014

Permission to Grieve

Taken from "A Bereavement Publication from Heartland Hospice", Winter 2014 

As we begin to celebrate this Holiday Season, there are many among us who have lost someone during this past year.  For them, I would like to share this "Holiday Bill of Rights":

  • You have the right to take care of yourself:  to eat right, exercise regularly, and get enough rest.
  • You have the right to have mixed emotions: happy, sad, frustrated, angry, guilty, afraid, and thankful.
  • You have the right to cry when you are sad, smile when you are happy and not feel guilty about it.
  • You have the right to say no to any holiday activities - to pace yourself differently.  You have the right to change your mind about a previously agreed to commitment.
  • You have the right to share your feelings or not.
  • You have the right to have solitude:  for planning, thinking, reflection, introspection, prayer, and relaxation.
  • You have the right to remember your loved one in a meaningful way.
  • You have the right to ask for help and support from friends; family; your church, synagogue, or mosque; and/or community service agencies.
  • You have the right to give gifts that are within your holiday budget.
  • You have the right to follow old traditions or make up new ways of celebrating holidays.

The Law Offices of Stephen Sutera wish everyone a season filled with peace!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Estate Plans For Collectibles.....Without proper planning your treasured possessions could wind up being dumped in a yard sale.

Excerpts taken from November 1-2, 2014 Wall Street Journal

Estate Plans for Collectibles

Alex Cilento has assembled a 3,700-piece casino-chip collection - but can't find any family member who wants to take it.

The New York resident, who is 65 years old and childless, has been collecting the Las Vegas chips - which he estimates are worth as much as $500,000 - for more than two decades.  No one in his family has expressed any interest in his passion for Las Vegas history or chip collecting, he says.  He also is afraid they would unwittingly sell them for far less than they are worth.

Collectors can spend a lifetime amassing things like baseball cards, comic books or even casino chips, as well as art.  But they often pay too little attention to what will happen to their prized possessions after they die.

Collectors may hope their children will suddenly find a passion for all the stuff that cluttered their house when they were growing up.  They may figure another collector will pay their heirs big bucks for it, or dream of donating it to a museum that will display it for posterity.

Without proper planning, though, their treasured possessions could wind up being dumped in a yard sale.

They also could miss out on tax savings, says managing director of wealth planning at Wells Fargo Private Bank in San Francisco.

Here are some steps collectors can take whether they decide to pass along, sell or donate their collections:

  • Passing it on.  Collectors should make sure there is someone in their family who might be interested in their collections - and they also need to make sure that person can afford the upkeep, including insurance and storage, says Carol Kroch, managing director of wealth and philanthropic planning at Wilmington Trust in Wilmington, Del..  There are other considerations as well.  If some family members, but not others, are interested, how does the collector compensate those who aren't receiving the collection?  If everyone is interested in the collection, do you split it up?  If so, does that affect its value?  Finally, if no one can afford the costs of keeping the collection, can the collector afford to leave an endowment to maintain the collection?  To answer these questions, the collector would first need to have the collection appraised both as a single collection and as several smaller collections, to see what the impact on its value would be, Ms. Koch says.  The collector also would need to look into long-term storage and insurance costs, to decide how much of an endowment would be needed to cover those costs.   Often, trusts are used to hold the collection, either during the collector's lifetime or transferred to a trust at death.  
  • Selling it.  Some people simply choose to sell their collections.  They first need to determine the collection's fair value, using an independent appraiser.  Note that collectibles are taxed at the higher capital-gains rate of 28%, and the sale also may be subject to other costs, such as commissions and shipping.
  • Donating it.  It isn't always so easy for donors to find charities willing to take their collections.  Even if you find one, it might require an endowment fund to maintain the collection.  If collectors want to make gifts during their lifetimes that would be deductible for income-tax purposes, they need to consider the value of the collection in light of their adjusted gross income, or AGI.  In addition, the charity must use the donated property for a related purpose or the donor won't be permitted a full fair-market-value deduction.  



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