IL Estate Planning Blog

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wealth Counsel Membership

Our law office is a member of the WealthCounsel, LLC, ( The WealthCounsel, LLC, is a cooperative alliance of nationally recognized estate planning attorney members from across the country. Together we provide one another with the support and tools needed to serve our clients better.

Being a member of the WealthCounsel, LLC, means that we are in close contact with other member attorneys nationwide in our mutual attempts to:

  • Better serve our clients in a caring and professional manner
  • Stay absolutely cutting edge in our respective knowledge of estate planning law and innovative estate planning techniques
  • Share practice ideas with one another — as we develop them independently in our practices — that will better accomplish our clients' objectives
  • Bring our clients the finest estate planning advice and documentation possible, and to do so with dignity and professionalism within the ethics of our profession

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Business Exit Strategies

According to John H. Brown, author of "The Completely Revised How To Run Your Business So You Can Leave It In Style":


Steps for choosing an exit strategy:

1) Start Early:  Business exits take time.  Sometimes buyout deals take months or years to orchestrate.  Brown suggests that owners think about their exits long before they are ready to make the move.

2) List Objectives:  Owners should prepare a list of their objectives including how much money they will need after leaving the business.

3) Time Frame: Owners should anticipate the timing of their departures.

4) Get Help:  There are professionals who specialize in business transitions.  Getting objective assistance with business valuation is extremely important.

5) Cash Flow:  Realistic projections of cash flow will determine if an "insider" purchase of stock is feasible.

6) Tax Analysis:  Owners need to know the tax consequences of their plans before committing to any strategy.

7) Mindset Changel: Understandably, a business owner who has worked hard to overcome hurdles and is finally in charge of a business may be reluctant to relinquish control and walk away.  It requires changing one's mind-set to work toward the next goal - exiting on one's own terms.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

2012 Estate Tax Exemptions

The State of Illinois has increased the State Estate Tax Exemption for 2012 to $3,500,000.

The Federal Estate Tax Exemption for 2012 is $5,120,000.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Important Info to Post Near Your Phone

In an emergency, it is sometimes hard to think clearly.  Therefore, it is important to post the following information near your phone:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Home Phone number
  • Emergency contact info (including names, relationship and phone numbers)

This information is also useful for caregivers and others who may be caring for elderly family members.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2011 Chicago Five Star Wealth Managers

The Law Offices of Stephen Sutera are proud to announce we were selected by Chicago Magazine (November 2011 Issue) as a 2011 FIVE STAR Wealth Manager in the Estate Planning Category.

The selection process was a survey, by mail and phone, to approximately 1 in 4 high-net-worth households and all identified financial services professionals within the Chicagoland area. 

On the surveys, recipients were asked to evaluate only wealth managers whom they know through personal experience and to evaluate them based upon nine criteria:  customer service, integrity, knowledge/expertise, communication, value for fee charged, meeting of financial objectives, post-sales service, quality of recommendations and overall satisfaction.

Both positive and negative evaluations were included in the scoring, and only wealth managers with more than five years of experience in the financial services industry were considered.

Next, each wealth manager was reviewed for regulatory actions, civil judicial action and customer complaints.  Then, before finalizing the list, wealth managers were reviewd by a blue ribbon panel comprised of individuals from within the financial services industry.

The resulting list of 2011 FIVE STAR Wealth Managers represents less than 2 percent of the wealth managers in the Chicagoland area

Friday, October 14, 2011

Estate Planning Awareness Week

The Law Offices of Stephen Sutera P.C. Join WealthCounsel Colleagues in Promoting
 National Estate Planning Awareness Week, October 17-23, 2011


Stephen Sutera, Esq. of The Law Offices of Stephen Sutera P.C. announced today that he is joining his colleagues at WealthCounsel in a public relations campaign to showcase National Estate Planning Awareness Week, October 17-23, 2011. 


According to a 2010 industry trends survey of estate planners conducted by WealthCounsel, nearly 70% of the respondents indicated that Americans fail to plan because they lack awareness as to why they should plan.  Stephen Sutera is passionate about building awareness of the importance of thoughtful planning and is committed to educating the public about the negative consequences of what can happen to one’s loved ones when the proper documents are not in place.


Stephen Sutera noted that estate planning is one of the most overlooked areas of personal financial management.  More than 120 million Americans do not have proper estate plans to protect themselves or their families in the event of sickness, accidents, or untimely death.  This costs many families wasted dollars and unnecessary hardship that can be minimized with proper planning.


In 2008, the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils (NAEPC) worked with Congress to pass a resolution proclaiming the third week in October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week.  The resolution noted that “Many Americans are unaware that lack of estate planning and financial illiteracy may cause their assets to be disposed of to unintended parties by default through the complex process of probate.”


“Estate planning is a thoughtful process and not merely a single legal transaction,” said Stephen Sutera.  “As a member of WealthCounsel, my firm has access to a state-of-the-art document drafting system, a network of experienced colleagues throughout the country with whom I can collaborate, and superior educational resources to help me stay on the leading edge of knowledge,” Stephen Sutera stated. 


In addition to WealthCounsel, Stephen Sutera is also a member of Elder Counsel, National Association of Elder Law Attorneys, and the Illinois Bar Association.

About The Law Offices of Stephen Sutera P.C.

Established in 1990, The Law Offices of Stephen Sutera P.C. focuses in all areas of estate planning, including asset protection, charitable planning, business succession planning, and elder planning for families.  For more information, please visit our website at, or call 708-857-7255.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Digital Asset Information

Since so many people today are using ID's and passwords to access their accounts, the following is recommended by many individuals in banking and finance.  Draft a separate document that would list all of your online accounts, passwords, security questions and answers, and whether the account has monetary value.  You can draft the document in the form of a letter to your executor or agent, listing detailed instructions for locating specific assets or information.  You also need to designate which assets that you want deleted and which ones that you want passed on to family members, and whom you want to take care of such business.  This document can be printed or stored on a computer, USB flash drive, or in a cloud with remote access.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Choosing an Agent under a Power of Attorney for Health Care

Taken from ElderCare Solutions Inc.:




The selection of an agent under the Power of Attorney for Health Care should be made with thought and care.

The person you choose has a grave responsibility to act on behalf of an ill or elderly individual often under very

difficult circumstances.

Some important guidelines in choosing and communicating with an agent include:

1) Name someone you can trust with your life – in fact that is what you are doing.

2) Don’t be afraid of hurt feelings. Choose the individual(s) you believe will serve your interests the best.

Consider emotions, but don’t let them dictate the decision.

3) Your agent should be someone you can comfortably talk with about your wishes for care during illness. These

conversations are best made “around the kitchen table” and should include conversations about your values. If a

prospective agent isn’t comfortable with such conversations, he/she might not be the best choice.

4) Ideally, the agent is someone who can be readily available, and emotionally and intellectually capable of

asking questions and of articulating and advocating the individual’s wishes in sometimes unfamiliar or

overwhelming situations.

To insure that the POA is used as intended, the agent and all successor agents should have copies of the POA as

should the primary physician and a family member or members. To be most effective and meaningful, it calls for

an ongoing process of communication between the individual, the agent, family members and caregivers.

During illness and hospitalization, the agent should ask the physician in charge, the “attending physician,” to write

an order to “contact the agent for consents for all tests and procedures” in order to ensure coordinated

communication among other specialists who may be called in as consultants.

In considering interventions, the agent should consider the ultimate goals of the care. In consenting to tests, it

should be clear how the information derived from the test would be used to promote the identified goals of care.

It’s very easy, in this age of specialization, to treat the symptom or body “system” and lose sight of the person.

The purpose of the agent is to ensure that all decisions regarding tests and procedures are made in the context of

the individual and his or her values and wishes.

The Power of Attorney for Health Care is much more than a legal document. It establishes a sacred trust and

demands the courage to consider the most critical life and death decisions we all ultimately face, for ourselves

and for others.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Facebook is a new tool for "grandparent scam"

  Facebook is a new tool for "grandparent scam"
Officials with the Better Business Bureau of Northeast California are warning older adults about a new twist in a telephone scam that preys on grandparents who think they are helping their grandchildren in an emergency.  The fraud, first seen in 2008, involves a grandparent getting a call from a young person claiming to be a grandson or granddaughter who got into legal trouble in a foreign country and needs emergency cash.  To stress the urgency, calls are usually made in the middle of the night, and the scammer insists that funds be sent by wire or overnight delivery.  In the past, wary would-be victims could easily rattle the scammer by asking personal questions only certain people could answer, such as the name of a childhood pet, their nickname, or the college they attended.  Today, however, with the popularity of social networking sites, the bureau said the scammer may already have that information, and a lot more.  The bureau said a Sacramento grandmother was contacted this week by young woman who claimed to be her granddaughter. The girl said she was in trouble in Canada and needed the victim to wire her $4,500 to get out of jail.  Even after asking several questions, the grandmother said she was absolutely convinced the girl was her granddaughter.  The BBB said the scammer was looking at a Facebook page the real granddaughter had posted, and simply reading off dozens of facts about the family, addresses, and where she went to college.  The information was easily accessible because the granddaughter's Facebook privacy settings weren't high enough, allowing her account to be viewed by just about anyone.

Source:  Chico (CA) Enterprise-Record (January 15, 2011)
Full story:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cook County Senior Citizen Exemption

Pass this along to any Cook County senior citizen residents you know:

Taken from Southtown Star, Tuesday, February 8, 2011:

Starting this year, Cook County senior citizens again will have to renew their property tax exemption every year, and that's likely to cause confusion, county Assessor Joe Berrios said Monday.

Berrios said he's sending out exemption applications this week to about 300,000 seniors and is trying to get the word out to homeowners 65 and older that the applications must be filled out and returned by March 3.  Berrios said he's worried the mailers might be overlooked or tossed out, mistaken for junk mail.

"They're going to receive these things in the mail, and they're going to throw them in the garbage," Berrios said.  "And then they're going to get a tax bill in November and say: 'What happened?'"

Berrios said he plans to press Springfield lawmakers to eliminate the annual application requirement, calling it "just an additional cost government doesn't need," which he pegged at $250,000.

The annual filing is a provision of a new property tax relief law that kicked in this year.  It affects more than 284,000 homeowners 65 and older and applies exclusively to Cook County.

The amount of savings the tax provides varies.  For a senior homeowner in Chicago, the exemption is worth a median savings of about $200 year, Berrios said.

Before 2008, seniors had to reapply every year.  The "senior freeze" exemption, which gives senior homeowners a break if their income is below $55,000 also requires an annual application.


To qualify for the "senior citizen exemption," you have to have been born before 1945, own your home or have a lease or contract making you responsible for the real estate taxes and the home must be your principal residence.  Cook County residents needing help with the application can call the county assessor's office at (312) 603-2961.  Chicago residents also can reach the city's tax assistance center by calling 311.  Those who just turned 65 and would like to start taking advantage of the senior exemption can download the form online at

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With two offices in Oak Lawn and Oak Brook, Stephen M. Sutera assists clients throughout Cook County, DuPage County and Will County IL including Chicago, Hometown, Barrington, Burbank, Burr Ridge, Chicago Ridge, Darien, Downers Grove, Evergreen Park, Geneva, Worth, Bridgeview, Palos Park, Palos Hills, Palos Heights, Hickory Hills, Midlothian, Willow Springs, Oak Forest, Orland Park, La Grange, Brookfield, Berwyn, Tinley Park, Hinsdale, Villa Park, Clarendon Hills, Westchester, Westmont, Lombard, Elmhurst, Western Springs, Berkeley, Downers Grove, Fox Valley, Glen Ellyn, Willowbrook, Aurora, Addison, Lisle, Forest Park, Bensenville, Wheaton, River Forest, Itasca, Shorewood, Frankfort, Mokena, Naperville, Crest Hill, Homer Glen, New Lenox, Bollingbrook, Schaumburg, Channahon and Woodridge.

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| Phone: 708-857-7255
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