Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Family Roles

Liz and Ray continue to consider who should be named to serve as guardian of their children in their Wills.  So far, they’ve thought about Liz’s sister Joy, Ray’s brother Don, or their friend Ted. 

One factor is the guardian’s own family situation.  For example, since Ted is engaged, whether his fiancée would be willing to take on parenting Rose and Sam is important.

If the guardian has children, how old are they in comparison?  Are they healthy or need intense care and attention?  Would the guardian likely be able to merge the children into a new family if Rose and Sam were added as orphans in the future? 

Don has no children and is single.  Liz and Ray wonder if his ‘cool’ lifestyle could accommodate children.  And would Don be willing to make the adjustments that would be needed? 

Many parents say that having a child changes their lives completely.  Adding an orphan to a family, whether there are already children or not, is a similarly huge transition.

Considering the answers to these kinds of questions is useful.  For Ray and Liz, determining the answers can help them write letters for their named guardians to be read only if Ray and Liz were to pass away too soon.  It can be important to give permission to a named guardian to decline if it does not fit their situation as hoped – and a letter allows that, even after death.

For assistance considering your estate planning choices, including naming a guardian, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment. 

© 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Family Contact Extended

Time flies; for his first Thanksgiving, Sam is already 4 months, and Rose is having her 4th Thanksgiving.  Liz and Ray are trying to decide who they should name to serve as guardian for Sam and Rose in their Wills. 

While planning their Turkey Day, Ray and Liz think about how a guardian’s location would matter for Rose and Sam to see their extended families.  But they also wonder whether attitude and familiarity outweigh distance and location. 

Joy would be great with her own (Liz’s) family, but how would things go with Ray’s family, who she barely knows?  Ray’s friend, Ted, loves family gatherings above most other things, so he has been to gatherings with both Ray and Liz’s families.  But who would think to invite him if Ray were not around?

One way Liz and Ray could help would be to put letters with their Wills.  Those letters would be for their guardians and/or their families to read in the event they died unexpectedly. 

The letters could encourage the guardians – or family members – to work hard to be sure the kids and friends are included in various family gatherings.  They can include anything, like how Rose loves to go fishing with her grandpa and would be heartbroken if that got lost in the shuffle. 

The more the guardian, family, and friends know about Liz and Ray’s hopes for their kids, the more likely the important relationships will be nurtured later. 

Thanksgiving is for appreciation, and we at the Gruber Law Office hope that you and yours appreciate each other, as we all gather to give thanks.   

©2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


This column is not about real estate, so “location, location, location” is not an accurate statement.  This is about Liz and Ray’s Will – and who they would name to serve as guardians of baby Sam and 4-year-old Rose - in case their parents both were to pass away before their children are adults.

Like having a close family relationship, location matters, but it is not the end of the inquiry.  In fact, neither person with Rose and Sam as niece and nephew reside in the same school district.  In fact, one lives about an hour away, and the other lives in Idaho.  So Rose and Sam would have to change houses, school, neighborhood, town, and possibly even their home state and region of the country if uncle or aunt ended up as guardian. 

Their closest neighbors have only older kids, but have been friendly since Ray and Liz moved in about 5 years ago.  On the other hand, even Rose doesn’t know them more than as nice next door neighbors, and they have so far only met (and of course, admired) 3-month-old Sam while he is out on walks with his family. 

Of course, their aunt and uncle both have known his parents longer and have endured far more stories about both Sam and Rose and ‘had’ to adore them much longer. 

So their aunt or uncle would likely be better choices than the neighbors in spite of location.  On the other hand, if a close friend or cousin lived nearby and saw them often, that person might be an even better choice.

For assistance considering your estate planning choices, including whom to name as guardian, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.

© 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Picking someone to be guardian of their young children is a difficult decision for Ray and Liz, like it is for most parents.  One of the less definable considerations could be called “style,” meaning parenting style.  And it isn’t as much of a surface issue as it might sound and can outweigh other things, like how closely related a person is.

First, of course, Ray and Liz should figure out what their own style is.  As parents of 4-year-old Rose and her baby brother, Sam, they are learning that some things work and others don’t.  All together, their approach does add up to a parenting style.

But it is not so easy to step back to define their own style and compare it with that of possible guardians.  After all, they are trying to adjust to the double trouble of managing sibling rivalry and figuring out how to get Sam to sleep through the night, so they won’t be so very exhausted.  When they have a moment to stop and think, they seem to mostly just fall asleep!   

Thinking about it, though, is part of loving Rose and Sam.  If they are unexpectedly orphaned in the future, the people they live with will be incredibly important.  And while much change would obviously be inevitable, some similarity in everyday attitudes about living, respect, and expectations at their new home will provide needed constancy for their future.

 For assistance considering your estate planning choices, including whom to name as guardian, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment. 

© 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Why Consider Friends?

Ray and Liz are trying to work out who to name as guardian for their baby, Sam, and 4-year-old, Rose, in their Wills in case Liz and Ray die too soon. Liz was surprised when Ray wanted to talk about his good friend since childhood, Ted.
She thought they should only consider family members as possibilities, for all the reasons she explained to him in our last column. But Ray has persisted, and he feels he has good reasons too.

Ray feels that he and Ted are closer than most brothers. Ted has come to many family gatherings over the years and was best man at their wedding. He and his fiancé see (and adore) Sam and Rose all the time, and they live close.

He agrees that Liz’s sister Joy would be best, but he thinks that Liz‘s brother Don is not a good second choice.

Don is a nice guy for sure, but he says he never wants to get married, makes a few too many jokes about having ‘rug rats’ around, rides motorcycles without a helmet, and thinks adventure is his calling in life. Worse, he is awful with money.

Don may change in the future, but Ray and Liz are making their decision now about who to name in their Wills – someone to make sure their children still feel treasured in the event Ray and Liz do not live to see them grow into adults.

For assistance considering your estate planning choices, including whom to name as guardian, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.

©2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Picking people to be guardian of minor children is a difficult decision for all parents. Liz tells Ray that they can only consider relatives to serve. Although legally there is no such restriction, most parents do choose to list family members to be guardian in their Wills as a practical matter.

Serving as guardian after a child has been unexpectedly orphaned is a heavy responsibility, and Liz says she would not feel comfortable expecting a non-relative to do that.

Plus, Liz says her family know her (and Ray’s) expectations about how to deal with their children, having grown up with or seen Liz and Ray themselves grow up, watching them with their children and understanding much about how family relationships work in the immediate and/or extended family.

It might also be easier for family to help the children continue with their extended family relationships. For example, their own family gatherings will probably be the same ones Liz and Ray would bring Sam and Rose to themselves.
Relationship does matter, partly because it usually comes with familiarity. Many times, family really does “know us best” and so can be the right choice for guardian. On the other hand, there can be good reasons to choose friends rather than family like Ray wants to consider, which we will write about next week.

For assistance considering your estate planning choices, including whom to name as guardian, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.

©2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


It seems like yesterday that Patricia first became a parent, but we know it was more than 8 years ago due to the insistence of children to grow up. Third grade seemed impossibly far away when sleep deprivation was one of our toughest challenges adjusting to tiny baby.

The physical demands of the job were far more than was reasonable. And we know the demands of parenthood are always far more than is reasonable – which brings us to our point.

When parents consider who to name to be guardian of their kids in the unthinkable event that both parents pass away unexpectedly early in their kids’ lives, they may not initially think about the most ‘obvious’ requirement.
Specifically, the person needs to be able to parent the kids. Loving care is physically and emotionally exhausting from infancy through adulthood – and also is absolutely essential. The parents need to consider how the person they name would be able to provide care and assure care is provided when or if they cannot do it themselves.
When we wrote about Tom and Tina last week, we made a huge assumption. They knew and agreed that their friend, Connie, was perfect for the job if it were ever to be necessary.

That is rare. It is most often a very difficult decision. Our next few columns will follow how parents Liz and Ray, who have a baby, Sam, and Rose, a 4-year-old, decide about naming a guardian.

Designating a guardian for your children is an important part of being a parent. For advice, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an estate planning appointment.

© 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Crucial Kind of Planning

Tom and Tina think they don’t need to do any planning for death; they’re too busy taking their children to band practice, music lessons, sports and too many other activities to list. And Tina and Tom know that their friend Connie would do that and more to care for their kids if something happened to them.

The problem is that the court does not know that. If Tom and Tina did pass away unexpectedly, the court would be the one who needs to know.

If Tom and Tina have not designated Connie to be guardian, the court will simply not know that Connie would be better than Tina’s brother Ron to take care of the children.

The problem is that Tom and Tina don’t like the way Ron teases their children in a way that feels aggressive to them. So the question is, who is going to tell the court that?

Tom and Tina are the best people to decide whoever is best suited to take care of their children. And they can leave clear directions to the probate court through proper legal documents. The most common way is through a Will.

If they do that, the court would know to look to Connie first and to consider Ron only if Connie was not able to or should not serve as guardian.

Designating a guardian for your children is an important part of being a parent. For help doing so properly, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an estate planning appointment.

© 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Country Rocking At Peace

Billy and Bonnie are feeling good. As we’ve written over the past few weeks, they now have living trusts to avoid probate, know that their son would save capital gains taxes if he sells the Happy-Cola stock he will receive after their deaths, and do not have to do mess around with other complicated planning to keep from giving Uncle Sam inheritance taxes after their deaths.

Billy knows he’s given Bonnie a gift that will keep on giving even long after he is gone. Bonnie treasures how Billy ‘went over the line’ again when he bought her this present of planning ahead.

Just like all the other gifts he’s found for her over the years, Bonnie says she doesn’t ‘deserve’ it. But she is happy to have it, because it is for her whole family.

This time, Billy just went right ahead and gave her something that she knows protects their two grown-up babies, their grandbabies, and even Billy himself. Now they can go back to sit on their front porch rocking together, with Billy just watching Bonnie’s hair turn gray - at peace together for as long as they have.

Wynonna Judd would surely be proud of her Billy figuring out what Bonnie needed before Bonnie even realized she wanted it. Bonnie came first with Billy; Billy and their family came with Bonnie. So Billy had every reason he could possibly need to keep going over the line to care for them all.

For advice about taking care of your own family’s future, please call us for an estate planning appointment at (815) 436-1996. ©2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why Not Give Now?

Billy and Bonnie are working on minimizing future taxes for their family.  Last week, we wrote about how stepped-up basis for their son, Junior, on the Happy-Cola stock they plan to leave for him after Billy’s death would save capital gains tax.

In short, because Billy originally bought those shares in the 1950s when they were much cheaper, Billy would have to pay about $20,000 in capital gains taxes if he sold at today’s prices.  But Junior would receive ‘stepped up basis’ by being given credit for ‘buying’ the stock for its value of the date Billy died.  That would eliminate the entire $20,000 tax. 

Billy asks, “Why not give it to Junior now?”  He and Bonnie would like to enjoy Junior’s surprise at receiving it as a birthday present and hear about his fun investing it going forward. 

The problem is that if Billy gave it to Junior now, before Billy’s death, Junior will receive what is called “carry-over basis” instead.  That would mean that Junior’s basis in the stock would be Billy’s old basis (the original purchase price) and so have to pay capital gains tax just the same as Billy. 

Junior would also have to show the IRS what Billy paid for the stock in order to avoid paying an extra $200 of tax.  Billy is a wonderful dad, but his record keeping a bit less so…

For advice about taking advantage of planning opportunities for your family’s future, please call us for an estate planning appointment at (815) 436-1996. 

©2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Happy-Cola Savings

Billy and Bonnie are working on keeping taxes to a minimum for their family when they inherit Billy and Bonnie’s leftover money and property after their deaths. 

‘Stepped up basis’ means that if Billy and Bonnie’s son, Junior, sells his inherited shares of Happy-Cola stock Billy purchased around the 1950s after Billy’s death, Junior will save capital gains tax. 

In last week’s column, we calculated what Billy would have to pay at least $20,000 in federal and Illinois capital gains taxes if he sold his Happy-Cola holding, because he invested only $1,000 buying his shares in 1952.  They have been an amazing investment.  They are now worth $101,000. 

The $100,000 difference between Billy’s purchase price (his investment or ‘basis’ in the stock) and his sale price is Billy’s profit or ‘capital gain.’ 

But let’s suppose that Billy died today and had left the stock to his son, Junior.  Junior’s investment in the stock would be considered to be whatever the fair market value of the stock was at the date of Billy’s death.  So $101,000 would be Junior’s so-called “stepped up” basis. 

Thus, when Junior sells the stock, he should save at least $20,000 in capital gains tax – and potentially piles of paperwork. 

For advice about “using death” to possibly reduce taxes for your family, call us for an estate planning appointment at (815) 436-1996.

©2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

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