Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tougher Than Needed

Jack’s mother’s death hit him hard, but now he is ready to figure out what he must do to tie up her financial affairs.  First, he visited her safe deposit box with a certified copy of her death certificate, a document prepared for him by his attorney, and the safe deposit box key he found in her files. 

Together with a bank officer, he found her last Will in the box and also noticed there were other papers he was not allowed to look at.

And he tried to figure out where her bank accounts and other assets were.  It was not easy.  She didn’t believe in putting all her eggs in one basket, so she had many accounts at different banks and held many stocks.

As he worked through the details of taking care of her estate, he learned some things that she could have done ahead of time to make the process easier, more private and less expensive.  Some of them were small things and other big, but they added up to a promise to himself that he would put his hard lessons to use and plan ahead to spare his wife and children the same trouble.

In the next weeks, we will follow Jack through some of the things he had to do and troubles he learned he could prevent with good estate planning.  For expert advice about your estate planning options, call our office at 436-1996 for an appointment.  ã2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Three Generations, One House

Months ago, we thought we would write a ‘couple’ of columns about our own family’s winding road to living multi-generationally.  As those who have been reading this column since spring know, it’s been many more than two columns.  It was an even longer and more winding road than we had remembered.

We hope that seeing the twists and turns of our situation helps illustrate what we first set out to show in these columns - why planning helps.  Deciding on multi-generational living has both practical and legal issues that need careful consideration. 

At best, living multi-generationally can save money, open up better options, enrich family relationships, improve understanding between generations, be more fun, and generally be “win/win” for everyone. 

But living multi-generationally can also break frayed relationships, increase generational friction, be depressing, cause resentment, and allow abusive relationships to grow, or generally be "lose/lose" for everyone involved. 

We are delighted that our multi-generational living arrangement has resulted in more and better benefits than our expectations, even if we did change our plans far more times than expected. 

We’d be pleased if our experience would allow us to help you explore multigenerational living or other kinds of cooperation across the generations for your own family.  To consider multi-generational planning opportunities, call our office at (815) 436-1996 to set an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Planning Shouldn't Stop

Last week, we looked back at some of the many changes required in our plans while we worked to set up this rewarding situation where Priscilla and Patricia and their families live helpfully together.  We feel we have ‘made it’ at last. 

We have maximized the resources of all the generations by throwing our lots in together.  Right now, we know that we can live here together happily without anyone going broke while our several generations share expenses. 

But that is not enough.  The future asks whether Patricia’s family will be able to handle the expenses of this large home and office after the older generation has passed away.  And, if not, will they be able to handle it long enough to sell the property and downsize without it being like a fire sale?

We think our plan makes that possible, but we cannot afford to just assume the answer will remain the same as time goes by.  The economy, our education needs, health issues, and the status of our jobs and businesses could potentially make living here together impossible or unaffordable in the future. 

We come back to one of our most concrete pieces of information:  Life is uncertain. 

Fortunately, looking back at our trip so far into this multi-generational adventure, we see that we can adapt and face unexpected things.  It won’t mean that things are over or will fail.  It just means planning again … and again. 

Planning for the future – both for living and inheritance - matters to all generations.  To consider your own family’s plans, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why Estate Planning Matters Now

We can look back at our journey to multigenerational living and working, as we have been written about the last few months.  It’s easier with hindsight… 

First, we thought Priscilla and her husband should move to a small lot near Patricia’s subdivision house, so future grandchildren could walk to Grammy and Grandpa’s easily, and Patricia’s family could help with home maintenance and other pesky chores the retired are too busy to do easily.  That didn’t work out due to high costs and our preference for open space and Priscilla’s home. 

Then we thought Patricia could move to Minooka and easily stop by at Priscilla’s on the way to and from a new office in Plainfield every day.  We bought the Minooka lot, but we could not find a suitable Plainfield office for an affordable price. 

Last, we decided to build an addition onto Priscilla’s house for both office and Patricia’s family.  And we did do that.  But it was not the end of planning.  Things had to work ‘on the ground’ daily and also so that after the death of the first generation, the next generation will have a way forward without losing our home and possibly our family’s peace at the same time we lose the first generation. 

Our situation illustrates the reason why future planning for families multi-generationally (what is often called estate planning) is so important.  Life goes on, and we care about how it goes, whether we are the ones who leave or those who remain. 

Wills and trusts set up planning that matters to all generations.  To consider your own family’s plans, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Those of you who have been reading these columns for the past few months will probably appreciate the irony here.  I (Patricia) am here alone at the office writing under time pressure due to an early deadline. 

Priscilla is vacationing visiting relatives out on the East Coast where she grew up.  I am holding down the office and home fronts on my own while my son starts first grade.  If I didn’t know before how lucky I am to have my parents so close to share responsibilities with, I certainly do now. 

These past few weeks, the smallest changes to my schedule can send my entire work and personal day veering out of control.  So here I am with no one to ask to write this column while I meet with clients. 

Mom always understands immediately the urgency and importance of these kinds of things.  If she were here at home, I could have asked for her help when I realized the time crunch this morning.  When multi-generational living (and working, in our case) is good, it is very good!

After all my trepidation about too much exposure to the parents before moving back home, now I don’t like having them not here even only for a few weeks. 

It was a major, costly, and complex thing to figure out how to make this multi-generational living and working arrangement work.  But it was worth it.  To consider your own future multi-generationally, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Suddenly Simple Again

When we finished the cute new baby room after discovering Patricia’s new baby would be a girl, we knew we had to adjust our ownership and inheritance plans.  Why?

As we wrote last week, some proceeds from selling Patricia’s old house were required to make the change to our shared space.  The extra room surely increased the house’s value somewhat, and it certainly increased Patricia’s upfront cash investment. 

Before this change, we agreed to share maintenance and most improvement expenses while living together.  Patricia would also help pay on the new mortgage that financed the addition.  Priscilla and Ed would remain sole owners.  After her parents’ deaths, Patricia would inherit an extra percentage of the house, primarily based on the reduced mortgage loan. 

Since Patricia paid for this improvement solely, we decided that the extra percentage now should be based on the reduced mortgage loan in addition to an amount for Patricia’s additional cash investment in the extra room. 

Surprisingly, after some thought and calculation, this turned out to be a relatively simple adjustment to make to our plan.  Even though having our little girl has caused much change in our lives in so many ways, our estate plan only needed tweaking. 

Some updates to estate plans are major and complex.  Other times, they turn out simple.  To consider updating your multigenerational planning when life actually happens differently than expected, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Testing Our Plans With A Girl

When good fortune smiled on us by delivering a second pregnancy to Patricia, both generations scrambled to avoid major moving upheaval and found some amazing bunk beds that would allow Ben’s small bedroom to be shared by our two boys. 

Of course, we were only assuming the second child would also be a boy.  Being high risk, Patricia had testing done.  The result was clear – a double X!  Wonderful news, except that just a bunk bed wasn’t going to cut it for the long term. 

An engineer friend came to the rescue and helped us figure out a way to carve a small extra room out of a semi-finished attic area both families had all been using for storage space, and then helped do the work.  And we worked very hard to maximize sound insulation, as the room was close to the sleeping grandparents. 

Needless to say, it was more expensive than the bunk bed solution.  But it was better, too.  Because it actually expanded Patricia’s area of the house, it makes trading spaces between Priscilla and Patricia’s families in the future less likely.

There still needed to be some change to our shared ownership and inheritance plans, as all of the proceeds from selling Patricia’s old house were put into setting up a cute new baby room, increasing the house’s value and Patricia’s upfront investment.  Next week, we will explain what we decided on.

Yet another adjustment to make in our plans, and it seemed like we just finished adjusting it.  Then again, that was before a baby girl changed the picture.  To explore the legal parts of your own family’s future plans, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Avoiding Trading Spaces

Our family was growing.  A thrilling second pregnancy for Patricia was here, but our shared multi-generational home/office combination assumed Ben would be an only child.  There was only one small child’s bedroom for Patricia’s family where any noise wouldn’t wake the grandparents before the parents!

But trading sides would mean lots of upheaval, and expense, just when we were all starting to feel settled in.  After 30 years in their part of the house, Ed and Priscilla would have to downsize and completely re-organize.  And we both liked our own space better.

None of us was ready for that much disruption.  And the budgeting and legal parts would need a major overhaul too – dividing expenses and inheritance plans changes would needed … again

Looking for alternatives, we found some truly amazing bunk beds.  The kids might even get their own separate play/study nooks.  A small, carefully-planned room would surely make sharing second nature for them. 

So a new plan emerged.  The baby would sleep in a bassinet with his parents 6-10 months.  By then he would mostly sleep all night, right?  Ben’s room could fit both a crib and a toddler bed, so why borrow trouble by assuming the baby would wake Ben?

Some compromises, like buying a state-of-the-art bunk bed, seem affordable compared with the alternatives.  Like ours, your plans for your future should be reviewed regularly to keep up with family changes, big and small.  To review your own multigenerational plans, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Settled In, Then Shaken Up

At baby Ben’s first birthday, Patricia and her family were sharing Priscilla’s expanded home with office, having just sold their prior home.  Now having shared living expenses and responsibilities was proving to be as helpful as we’d hoped. 

Patricia’s family had enough semi-separate space in the new space above the office addition, a living room, play area, bathroom, and two bedrooms.  There were outside playsets and a baby pool.  Things had settled into place.  This was good.

After their medical struggles having Ben, Patricia and her husband were told that their chances of getting pregnant were “slim to none” without more treatment.  They always had hoped for two children, but more treatment now would be difficult and distracting.  They decided against it.  

Their family was complete with Ben.  No difficult, unnecessary distractions were invited, and they hoped to be able to show their only child the whole world with travel.  When Ben was 1½, they were offered a special Hawaiian trip by a friend – and shockingly discovered there that Patricia was pregnant. 

That was unexpected, fantastic news that shook up the picture a bit.  Should we trade living spaces?  How else would we have a bedroom for the baby where Grammy and Grandpa (and Ben) would not be awakened too much?  But it would be more than a move – it should probably mean changing our plans for sharing ownership and expenses at least, even our inheritance plans.

Even the best kinds of changes cause good plans to be reconsidered.  Your plans should be reviewed regularly, as changes in the family never stop.  To review your plans in light of family changes, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dodging Landlording

In the spring of 2007, we were beginning to seriously consider renting out Patricia’s unsold home.  It had been listed for sale over eight months with no serious offers made. 

Since Patricia and family had been living at Priscilla’s house above our new office for more than five months, we needed to reduce costs so Patricia’s family could contribute more to the expenses at our shared place soon.

Suddenly, without warning in early March, Patricia received a call that an offer was in on the house.  The next day, before coming to final agreement on the first offer, a second higher offer came in.  The price was higher, but it was contingent on the sale of that buyer’s home.

We stuck with the cheaper, surer deal.  Now we simply needed to get it closed, and we would not become ‘accidental landlords’ of our unsold (and well-loved) home. 

The inspection was done, and we did most of the repairs.  The buyers got financing approval, and closing was even set ‘early’ by a week.  We moved up Ben’s birthday party by that week, and celebrated there with family and friends during the last weekend we owned our house, a few days before his April 25 first birthday. 

We had listed the house about a month after Ben was born, and sold it before his first birthday.  With hindsight, it doesn’t seem so tough.  At the time, we were sweating bullets!

When the things don’t go exactly as you have planned for your family’s future, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment to consider alternatives.  © 2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Downsize, or Double-Down On Real Estate?

Priscilla and Patricia started both living and practicing together in Priscilla’s expanded home in October.  By spring of 2007, we knew we liked it, so Patricia and her husband wanted more than ever to sell their other properties. 

They still owned their house in Plainfield and a vacant ‘dream lot.’  The house had been listed since June without any serious offers made.  The vacant land market looked worse. 

We had to pare down expenses so Patricia’s family could contribute more to the expenses at the shared house/office, because owning all this real estate would not work long.

Downsizing by selling seemed best, but from necessity, we looked into becoming ‘accidental landlords’ by renting out Patricia’s previous house.  Checking out market rents showed we could probably more than cover the house’s mortgage, taxes and insurance.

But the risks and responsibilities of having rental property are not trivial, which Patricia knew well from personal experience.  Plus, we didn’t know how quickly the market would rebound so we could try to sell again. 

Downsizing was the long term solution to making the multigenerational living arrangement work, and rental was only short term with some risk.  We decided to drop our price and continue to try to sell (at least until next month). 

We hadn’t expected this problem.  After all, when we started planning, the real estate market was so hot that we couldn’t risk listing Patricia’s house too soon.  When the unexpected affects your family’s plans, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment to consider alternatives.  © 2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

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