Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother Daughter Break

Sunday was a beautiful day for Mother’s Day.  The three family generations in our house enjoyed our time together. 

Priscilla pushed granddaughter Naomi on a swing and made sure 6-year-old Ben thought of every possible way to roll an uneven ‘ball’ of wood down the slide - to see how far and which way it would go, without undue risk to life and limb.  His scientific conclusions were not important, but doing the experiment, of course, was important. 

Meanwhile Ed and Patricia peeled potatoes and heated up dinner, to be followed with delicious key lime cupcakes (and a few chocolate peanut butter ones for the less adventurous).  Daughter/sister Jeanette and her family stopped by on their way out to pick up their daughter Sarah from her first year of college. 

Back when we were considering adding onto Priscilla’s house for our office and/or living quarters for Patricia, we didn’t even realize how nice it would be to be casual about exactly when each part of a party arrived, because most would be here anyway. 

Sunday was a special occasion, but not complex to set up.  We all saw and appreciated each other without much fuss.

Family occasions are times when many families experiment with new arrangements.  Overnight stays and extended visits can be a bit like ‘dry runs’ for multigenerational living.

If necessity or preference later means your family decides to live multi-generationally like we do, the good and bad of these visits can inform the arrangements.  To discuss your planning options in light of your family’s dynamics and resources, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

No Goldilocks Office

Back in 2004, at nearly the height of the building boom in this area, we were looking to buy an office.  There were many choices that would have Patricia’s commute go right by Priscilla’s home daily.  Then working as a multi-generational team would be easier. 

We may be picky, but we just couldn’t quite find a place that was ‘just right’ for us.  It had to have the right location, size, and price.  Plus, the financing had to allow adequate arrangements between us to shift repayment responsibility and ownership in future years. 

A couple of places seemed perfect, but things just didn’t fall into place…  We realized we were back to the drawing board.

Remember how strongly growth here was booming back then?  We began to notice that Priscilla’s 5-acre home no longer seemed to be in the middle of nowhere like it was when we’d moved here more than 25 years earlier.  Building an addition might be less costly than buying a separate office building. 

Perhaps, we thought, we could live together – but in Priscilla’s expanded home rather than in Patricia’s neighborhood like we’d initially hoped to do.  Now we had to find out what zoning regulations there would be for a home office. 

Flexibility and creativity play a continuing role in our quest to benefit from having our different generations team up to benefit both.  To consider some of your own family’s long-term planning options, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New Office Options

It appeared when we last wrote that Priscilla and Patricia’s families were not going to live together.  Instead, Patricia bought a lot to build on that would make it easy to stop as often as she wanted at Priscilla’s house on the way to and from their planned Plainfield office. 

Not quite as good as we’d wanted, but adequate.  Our mother-daughter business was already multi-generational, of course, but we were then renting our office and were ready to own. 

We still wanted our office to be truly convenient for both of us to get to so we could freely share duties and joys as attorneys and grandmother/mother when Patricia expanded her family with children as hoped and Priscilla and her husband lived long and well into their golden years maintaining their five-acre home. 

We looked at ‘office condos,’ vacant land, houses that could be converted, and existing buildings.  Other than having too many choices and high costs (this was before the recent real estate downturn), that part was easy. 

More difficult was deciding how to finance it.  One factor was our relative borrowing powers – Priscilla’s was far stronger than Patricia’s.  But Patricia had recently finished buying the business from Priscilla and Priscilla did not want to undertake a new major business investment.  It certainly was plenty to think about.

Different generations have different resources to offer, so working together sometimes increases what is available to all.  To consider your own family’s futures, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Making The Best Of It

As we wrote last week, our families’ first simple plan to live multi-generationally did not work out.  We had worked hard on that plan for over a year.  [You should just see two attorneys and husbands try to design a perfect retirement home on a narrow lot - and then add the research to learn that downsizing would not save any money anyway.] 

We still wanted our families to be able to help each other more easily and find a truly convenient office for our shared law business.  But we were tired of thinking about it so long, with ‘nothing’ to show for it at the end. 

And we still wanted it simple, without merging our addresses or figuring out some kind of fair bill-splitting agreement. 

Patricia and her husband decided it wasn’t worth it to stay in their house, now that Ed and Priscilla would not be closer.  Instead, they bought a great lot in Minooka to build their dream home on. 

It was not much farther away from Patricia’s parents, and it would mean that driving by Priscilla’s house would literally ‘be on the way’ to almost any Plainfield office and had other advantages they really liked.

Patricia’s family could move in with her parents just while building their new home.  Any babies that might finally show up during that time would have four loving adults to dote on it at home. 

Multi-generational family plans are as varied as the families who want to make multi-generational teamwork easier.  To consider your own family’s possibilities, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hindsight Fast Forward

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and, fortunately for our reading audience, it’s also a lot faster than real life.  Our first plan to live multi-generationally was simple. 

Priscilla and Ed would downsize from their 5-acre, 5-bedroom home to a new smaller place on a vacant lot nearly adjoining Patricia’s home.  The two households would be separate yet close enough to walk.  Nothing would merge financially.  Simple.

Oops.  Simple didn’t turn out so simple.  The perfect retirement home was hard to design on the new lot.  Worse, it turned out that the new place might well have cost more than the big five-acre place they already had, and they would lose their truly rural lifestyle in the new subdivision. 

Plus, Patricia’s hoped-for children were reluctant to get started, meaning no baby would be there to ease the initial transition from big to small. 

We still wanted our families to be able to help each other more easily and obtain a truly convenient office for our shared business.  But doing that by first having Priscilla and Ed move closer to Patricia was clearly not going to work.

Good thing our plan was still only on paper.  As the architect told us, it is much easier to make changes to the design before breaking ground.  After over a year, we were back to the drawing board.

For help considering your own multi-generational plans, whether they are for living together or making multi-generational teamwork easier some other way , please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment to discuss.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Keeping It Simple

It really did take years to plan our current family living situation.  In 2003, Patricia was hoping to have children, and both mother and daughter wanted frequent, convenient visits between grandparents and (planned) grandchildren. 

Business-wise, both of us wanted to own a building for our shared law practice with a short commute, partly for flexibility in caring for the hoped-for little ones, and partly for flexibility in assisting the grandparents as they would live long and happy into their golden years. 

Our houses were only about 8 miles apart, and some thought that was close enough.  But we preferred being able to walk between houses and didn’t think the little ones would be safe walking the roads.  Plus, we thought that using just one lawn mower (whether human or machine) for both places would work only if closer. 

So, our first plan was for Priscilla and Ed to down-size from their dream five acres on Ridge Road, and build a new, one-level home on a vacant lot behind Patricia’s house right next to a multi-acre park. 

No formal arrangement between our families would be needed; we’d simply be neighbors with our home finances entirely separate.  It was a plan that even we lawyers agreed did not need any written agreement between the generations. 

Simple can work, and multi-generational living can be simple.  To discuss whether your own multi-generational plans are simple enough to work without a written agreement, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Finding A Place Called Home

Priscilla and Ed Gruber spent more than a decade looking for a place they dreamed of calling home.  They wanted to be in the country, which they hoped would be three to 10 acres.  Using stubborn persistence, in the late 1970’s they found five acres on Ridge Road in Plainfield, where they still live today. 

However, things have changed greatly.  The original four-bedroom home has expanded into a five-bedroom residence including in-law quarters and a law office.  Three of the four original occupants live here (Ed, Priscilla and Patricia), but there are three other later-arriving interlopers – specifically, Patricia’s husband and two children. 

We didn’t envision this as recently as ten years ago.  Now, it seems like the most natural thing to have joined forces to give both families more together than either could have had alone.  It simply works. 

How did we get here?  Well, we are attorneys, so you can be sure it was a complicated path, no matter how simple it seems now.  And we have much of our plans down on paper. 

We repeatedly had to make adjustments to those plans to adapt them to how things actually worked out rather than how we thought they might. 

An architect once told us that it is much easier to change plans on paper than it is to change them during construction.  We have confirmed that to be true, which we will go into more in the next weeks. 

In the meantime, the architect and we attorneys are in agreement that written plans are crucial to good results.  For help considering and documenting your own plans for multi-generational living, call our office at (815) 436-1996 to set an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

For Better or Worse

Over the past few months, we have been writing about Ann’s recovery after her stroke and how she decided to move in with her daughter, Letty, afterwards.  Ann thinks that Letty is in part burdened by having Ann live there.  Ann’s son, Manny, thinks that Letty is getting a sweet deal with Ann contributing to household expenses and even planning a nice addition to the house. 

Whether multi-generational living is a benefit or burden is a matter of perception, and each family’s situation is different.  We think there are lots of pieces to each puzzle. 

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

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

After some hard planning work over several years, our own family is delighted that our multi-generational living arrangement has resulted in more and better benefits than our expectations.  In the next couple of weeks, we plan to share a bit of our own story when we decided to join our two families in one residence (and office).  We hope it helps show why planning helps.

Deciding on multi-generational living has both practical and legal issues.  For help considering possible multi-generational living arrangements, call our office at (815) 436-1996 to set an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Written Words and 'Relative Peace'

Over the past few months, we have written about Ann after her serious stroke and partly-successful therapy.  Ann now has a plan to live with her daughter permanently by adding a couple of rooms to Ann’s specifications to daughter Letty’s house. 

Much still needs to happen to carry out her plan, including selling Ann’s house.  Ann needs help from both her children, Manny and Letty.  So peace between those relatives would be helpful at the least and could be a necessity in fact. 

One crucial step is getting Ann’s plan in writing.  Clarity is a large part of peace between relatives, or any group of people.  Writing it out can make things clearer – and make sure that the concepts/ideas can be revisited in the future by whoever has new (or old) questions.

Explanations, commitments, and expectations need to be spelled out enough to answer most questions.  For the family, Ann’s sense of fairness should show in the Agreement.  Ann’s right to reside with Letty and the financial arrangements related to the deal should show in the Agreement for possible future Medicaid scrutiny in the event Ann later requires nursing home care. 

Both personal and ‘public’ issues are involved in multi-generational living arrangements.  For help deciding about possible multi-generational living in your own family, call our office at (815) 436-1996 to set an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Different in the Neighborhood

Ann plans to obtain the lifetime right to live rent-free in her daughter Letty’s home in exchange for building an addition onto the home. 

After Ann’s death, Letty will not have to ‘pay back’ any of the money Ann paid to build the addition.  Ann is doing this for her own benefit after her recent stroke, not for Letty. 

Plus, Ann knows that whenever Letty decides to sell her home, the addition will likely not be worth as much as it costs to build.  Why?  Because lenders require appraisals to support the purchase price to be paid by their borrower, and the addition will make Letty’s house ‘too big’ for the neighborhood. 

When Letty’s house is too much bigger than all others in the nearby areas, it will be difficult to find comparables that are similar enough to fully take into account the addition.

Similarly, Ann is planning to have the addition area made handicapped accessible, plus retrofit other parts of Letty’s home too, which can be pricey.  No other neighborhood homes have that feature. 

Although accessibility may make the home more attractive to certain buyers, in the current market it will likely not increase appraisal value as much adding the feature will cost in light of the limitations of standard comparative appraisal analysis.

Moving forward into multi-generational living concerns both practical and legal issues.  For help deciding whether or how to plan your own multi-generational living arrangement, call our office at (815) 436-1996 to set an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Free Rent, But Not a Free Ride

Ann wants to ‘properly document’ her arrangement for her living situation now that she has moved in with her daughter, Letty, permanently after her recent debilitating stroke. 

Ann has decided (with Letty’s agreement) to put an addition onto Letty’s house and live there so long as she is able.  She thinks that will best preserve her money and maximize her comfort in the years she hopes she will be living there. 

One reason to put it in writing is to clarify and assure that the house addition will not be considered a gift to Letty.  As a gift, it could prevent Ann from later receiving Medicaid if she ever needs help for nursing home costs. 

After talking with her attorney, Ann has decided what she wants.  Ann will pay all the expenses of adding the two rooms to Letty’s home from selling her own house.  In exchange, Letty will give Ann a lifetime right to reside in Letty’s home rent-free.  However, Ann will contribute to the costs of food and household utilities. 

Importantly, Ann will pay at least monthly for her care, driving, or other needs -- whether done by her children or by others, based on their written logs of help provided. 

Ann is protecting her eligibility for Medicaid as a precaution.  She is trying to prevent misunderstandings between relatives as a mother who both needs and loves her children. 

To discuss your options for formalizing how your family is handling changes, call our office at (815) 436-1996 to set an appointment.  ©2012 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

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