I’ve started to become a student of positive psychology.  I talk to scores of people every day as I’m one of the few attorneys who will talk to anyone about any Illinois legal matter.  When you do that it can test your patience because many callers don’t want to hear the truth (e.g. me telling them why they don’t have a good case), but instead want to have someone tell them that they are definitely going to win.  One thing I vowed when I started this service almost 15 years ago was that I’d always tell the truth.  You may not like what I have to say, but you’ll always get a blunt, honest opinion.

Spending my day telling people the truth often leads to them telling me thank you.  Some people on the other hand don’t like it and since we are usually talking over the phone instead of face to face, they use it as an opportunity to tell me that I’m an idiot and have no idea what I’m talking about.  Others tell me that they’ll call around until they find a lawyer who will help them even if I let them know that if we took money from them we’d essentially be robbing them.

I used to be bothered by these people, but for the most part I’m over it.  Yet there were times when I’d be defensive and if someone was yelling at me, I’d give it right back to them.  That’s not who I strive to be and I’ve gotten better at remembering that these people for the most part want their lives to improve.

As I’ve started to study positive psychology, very basically of course, I stumbled upon a great book called The Happiness Advantage.  It’s written by a Harvard professor, Shawn Anchor, who consults with companies to improve morale.  He writes about how we can change negative attitudes and become happier in our own lives.  One of the main principles is that we chase things that we think will make us happy like success and money when the reality is that being happy will lead to those things.

I see this a lot with some of the miserable lawyers that I come across.  It’s stunning how many (usually older) men hate their jobs as lawyers and treat people, including their clients, like jerks.  Can you imagine having someone write you a check for $5,000.00 and then basically tell them what a piece of crap they are?  A lot of attorneys act that way and I’ve always sworn that I would never let myself get that way.  So far, so good.  I like my job and coming to work.  Too many of these guys come off as if they are trapped because they either aren’t qualified to do anything else or just don’t want to give up the great paycheck which of course doesn’t make them happy.

In the book, Anchor notes that lawyers have 3.6 times the depression rate as other employees.  I believe it.  It’s basically a hazard of the job.  And the reason it makes lawyers in to jerks in their professional lives is that we are trained to be combative and questioning.  Many lawyers admit that they end up having trouble talking to their kids without deposing them.  When they argue with their spouses it’s a cross examination.   We are also trained to look for flaws and not be accepting of what someone else has to say.  It’s part of what makes a great lawyer, but it also can turn them in to a terrible, unhappy person in their personal and professional life.

As a result of all of this, attorneys have a higher rate of drug use and alcoholism than the general public. We divorce at a higher rate too.  On the flip side, we make more money than most people, but that doesn’t make lawyers happy.

So what happens is lawyers either retire early or leave the profession because they know it or they act miserable.  If your attorney is acting like a jerk, you know why now, but I wouldn’t expect them to turn things around and start treating you well.

My .02 is that if you can’t take working with someone who doesn’t treat you like you deserve to be treated, look around to see if you can find someone better. In most cases you can switch attorneys without a penalty.  You are the customer and while the reason lawyers end up acting this way is explainable, it doesn’t make it right.

 

 

We represent and help a lot of people who have been injured in car accidents via our state wide network of Illinois attorneys.  One of the crazy truths about these lawsuits is that you can have the worst injury imaginable or even death, but if you weren’t hit by someone with a lot of insurance then you are out of luck.

Take the great comedian/actor Tracy Morgan who suffered massive injuries when the limousine he was riding in was rear-ended by a truck driver who hadn’t slept for 28 hours.  That driver was working for Walmart, so there was essentially an endless amount of insurance coverage.  While the settlement in that case was confidential, you can bet that Morgan and the other victims got millions of dollars to compensate them for their lost wages, pain and suffering and medical bills.  Morgan probably lost out on eight figures worth of work and because he was hit by a defendant that is a huge company, there was no worry about there being enough money to cover all the losses.

On the other hand, had they been hit by a teenager with $20,000.00 in insurance coverage, that is all they would get unless there is an uninsured motorist coverage policy.  Getting hit by a car at any time is usually bad luck, but in these cases getting paid is really just the luck of the draw.

There are other laws which don’t seem to be fair either.  Lets talk about three of them.

The first one I don’t feel that bad about, but if you drive someone to a bank to rob it and sit in the car the whole time, if they murder a teller or anyone else, you can get charged with first degree murder.  The law is essentially that if you agreed to participate in a felony then you are responsible for anything that happens during that felony even if you had nothing to do with it or no knowledge or desire to participate.  You could have been pressured to be “just the driver” and spend the rest of your life in jail.

When it comes to DUI’s, did you know that in Illinois you could choose not to drive because you know you are drunk and instead sleep in the back of your car, but still get a DUI? You could also get one while standing outside the car if you have the keys on you. The law is that if you have control of the vehicle and are drunk, you can be charged.  It’s an absurd law that does not encourage good behavior or smart decision making.  Can you imagine going to jail for a DUI when you were doing nothing but sleeping off your buzz?

A final law that drives me crazy is that child support has nothing to do with the relative incomes of each parent. I could have a court order to pay child support to you and be making $30,000.00 a year.  If you make millions a year and don’t need the little amount that I’m giving you, it won’t matter.  I’d still have to pay unless you choose not to receive it.  I of course think that each parent should have to support their kids, but when incomes vary that much, common sense should prevail.  It doesn’t happen that much, but Judges should be able to look at cases for what they are.

If you have any questions about any of these laws or any others, please don’t hesitate to contact us.    You can talk to one of our lawyer for free and it’s confidential.

Like you, the plethora of daily fantasy sports commercials are making me long for the good old days when I had to change the channel so my young son wouldn’t be subjected to seventeen commercials in a row that lead to him asking me if I’ve ever had a four hour erection.

Draft Kings and Fan Duel are the two big players and advertisers in daily fantasy sports.  They allow you to wager money that you can pick a roster of players that will be better than the roster of someone else and potentially win a lot of money.

If you read what it is, you might say to your self, “Wait, that sounds like gambling, I thought that’s illegal.”  They counter that daily fantasy is a game of skill and isn’t gambling so that makes it legal.  Unfortunately for them, Nevada just became the 12th state to disagree with them and banned their websites in their state.  The Feds are investigating this issue too and it appears just to be a matter of time before they go from billion dollar companies to illegal.  Nevada is saying that these sites need a license to operate in their state which is a laborous and expensive prospect.

Being able to figure out which players are going to perform well in a given game does require some skill as well as a lot of luck. Poker and blackjack also require skill and luck.  If regulators are going to state that daily fantasy is legal then they would also have to say that betting on individual games should be legal because there really isn’t much difference between picking a group of players to perform well and picking one team to beat another.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for legalizing all forms of sports gambling. It’s been done for years in Europe and Australia and it’s happening even more so in the States except that it’s done illegally which means the Government doesn’t get to regulate it or make tax money off of it.  That is bad for consumers and bad for tax payers.

But until that happens, the laws are the laws. As attorneys, we can’t help you based on what we think the law should be, we can only tell you what it is.  That’s true whether you are fighting a speeding ticket or trying to run a daily fantasy website.

So I expect that within the next few months these sites will all be shut down. I don’t think it’s a good result other than it leading to us not being bombarded with all of the ads for these services.  But I do think it’s the right result based on how the law is currently written.  If they want these laws changed or you want an unfair law switched, you don’t need a lawyer, you need a lobbyist.

 

We talk mostly on our site about Illinois laws and the types of attorneys who recommend.  There are approximately 70,000 active attorneys in Illinois and the ones we recommend are who we think are the best around for your unique situations.  There are plenty of good ones that we don’t recommend as well as we can’t of course know everyone.

However, there are some Illinois lawyers that, even though they may be financially successful, do not conduct themselves in a manner that reflects well upon Illinois lawyers and the legal field in general. Some examples include:

  • Lawyers who prey upon the fears of their clients.
    Seeking legal advice can sometimes be a stressful and intimidating experience. It doesn’t have to be. A good lawyer is a good listener and a good counselor. A good lawyer will not seek out a client to convince them to file a lawsuit that will ultimately only benefit the lawyer. A lawyer who exploits a client’s fears in order to gain money, notoriety, revenge is not a good lawyer.
  • Lawyers who talk down to their clients and fail to answer their clients’ questions.
    If you have a question, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask it and the response should always be respectful and in plain English.
  • Lawyers who don’t return phone calls (either to their clients or opponents).
    Your lawyer should never be too busy to return your phone call. After all, you are the customer. Furthermore, if your lawyer fails to respond to opponents in your case, he puts you and your case in jeopardy. What if the opponent wants to settle? What if the opponent has another offer? What if the opponent has an alternative resolution? A good lawyer returns all phone calls.
  • Lawyers who proclaim to be an expert in all areas of Illinois law.
    If someone claims to be an expert in all areas of Illinois law, walk away. You want a lawyer who specializes in one or two areas of the law and is an expert in those areas. We often say you wouldn’t go to a foot doctor for heart surgery. Similarly, you don’t want a real estate lawyer or, worse, a jack of all trades, representing you in your personal injury case.
  • Lawyers who have their support staff contact the client on important issues rather than call the client themselves.
    It is okay to hear from a lawyer’s paralegals or secretaries from time to time on scheduling matters or organizational logistics. However, on crucial issues, you should be speaking directly with your attorney. You hired the attorney, not his support staff.
  • Lawyers who don’t make it clear to their clients what options are available to them.
    Your lawyer should not be telling you what to do. Rather, your lawyer should explain the options available in your case and make recommendations. Ultimately, you decide on the course of action. If your attorney does not clearly present all of the options available to you, not only is he not doing his job, he is putting you at a major disadvantage.
  • Lawyers who don’t communicate all important developments.
    Your lawyer should keep you abreast of all major developments in your case. You should never be left in the dark. It bears repeating that you are the customer.

Again, these are not the kind of lawyers we will recommend to you. Our goal is to find you an attorney who is the right fit for you and your needs. The only way we can do that is by recommending attorneys who we would also recommend to our own friends and family. No matter your location or questions, if you need any additional guidance call us at (312) 346-5320 or (800) 517-1614 or fill out our contact us form and we will contact you.

Illinois has very specific rules for how wills must be prepared. In Illinois, a will must be: (1) in writing; (2) signed by the person making out their will to distribute their estate after their death, called the “testator”; and (3) signed by two witnesses while in the presence (generally the same room) of the testator. Illinois law is also very specific on who can sign as a witness to a will.

A witness must be “competent,” meaning they must be of sound mind at the time they are signing the will as a witness. Each witness must also be who they say they are, to prevent fraud. Finally, neither of the two witnesses signing the will should be financially interested in the will. They should be not be a “beneficiary” or “executor”.

A “beneficiary” is someone who will receive property or money under the will. If a beneficiary signs the will as one of the two required witnesses, he or she will lose either all or part of their gift under the will. However, the beneficiary may still receive his or her gift if they are what is called a “supernumerary” witness. A supernumerary witness is an extra witness–so if three people sign the will as witnesses, and one of them is a beneficiary but the other two are not, the beneficiary can still receive his or her gift under the will. Nevertheless, there is no benefit whatsoever to having a beneficiary sign the will as a witness, and it could cause problems down the road, so it is best to simply never have a beneficiary sign the will as a witness.

The “executor” is the person or company, such as a Bank or law firm, who carries out the collection and distribution of the deceased’s estate, and pays out any of the deceased’s outstanding debts. Under Illinois law, the executor receives a fee for these services to the estate. Unfortunately, if the executor is a person, he or she may not receive a fee for their services to the estate if they signed the will as a witness, unless they are a “supernumerary” witness. As with a beneficiary, however, there is no benefit to having the executor who is a person sign the will as a witness, so it is best if they do not do so. If the executor is a company though, employees of the company may sign as witnesses with no penalties provided that they are not also beneficiaries under the will. For example, if the Bank is named as your executor, and your daughter works at the Bank, she should not sign the will as a witness, but her co-workers can.

These rules regarding beneficiaries and executors do not apply to either your lawyer or your creditors. Your lawyer will still receive legal fees for his or her services to your estate, and your creditors will still get paid any debts that you still owe them upon your death.

The best persons to sign as witnesses to your will are usually your lawyer’s employees. Such persons are likely to be present when you sign your will, so you do not need to make any extra trips. If your lawyer, accountant, or bank or trust company is going to be named as your executor, having their employees sign your will at witnesses does not break any of the witness rules. Just be sure that neither of the two people you have sign your will as witnesses are also named as beneficiaries or individual executors under your will.

These seemingly simple rules for witnessing a will can become very complicated, particularly when friends or relatives offer to help you prepare your will. Therefore, it is best to retain an independent lawyer who can guide you through the process. A simple will can be as cheap as $500.00. If you are looking for a lawyer to assist you with preparing your will or other estate planning documents, please complete our contact us form or call us at (800) 517-1614 and one of our attorneys will point you in the direction.

 

I’m always amazed or maybe not at how greedy some people can act.  You see it all of the time with lawyers in Illinois who take on cases that they don’t really have a lot of experience with, but want to make what they think will be a quick buck.  They forget what’s best for their client and instead learn how to handle a case on the back of someone who has come to them for help.  It’s pretty shady.

One area of work where this greed can come through is with real estate agents.  They only get paid if the deal goes through so not all of them are quick to point out flaws in houses that might make a buyer think twice before making a purchase.  And a guilty pleasure of mine is watching the real estate agent shows on Bravo and I find it stunning how often the seller’s agents encourage clients to take an offer only to see the client say no and get much more money through a tough negotiation strategy.

In Illinois, there are a handful of lawyers who are also licensed real estate agents.  I used to be one although I never had an active real estate practice. One issue that came up is these lawyers were getting a commission for a sale going through, but then also getting a fee for reviewing the contract that they helped create and negotiating any issues.

It’s an inherent conflict of interest because it sets up the possibility that a lawyer might not suggest bailing on a deal that could otherwise earn him/her a good commission.

There is a law in Illinois that prevents this dual relationship and the Illinois Appellate Court agreed that it shouldn’t be allowed stating, “The lawyer’s financial interest in receiving the brokerage commission could cloud her independent judgment as a lawyer.”

It’s a basic regulatory safeguard designed to protect people from potential bad actors.  I’m sure that most professionals wouldn’t do the wrong thing, but it’s smart not to set up the possibility that they could do something which could harm you.

My advice to anyone buying a home is to ask their agent to tell you everything wrong with the home that you like.  If they can’t say anything then in my opinion they aren’t doing a good job for you.  You can already look up most listings online without an agent.  They should add some value to you.  If they can’t give blunt opinions then you probably should hire someone else.  And if they want to be your agent and your lawyer, you should run for the hills.

We often get e-mailed or called by people who don’t think they can afford a lawyer and wonder if they can represent themselves. The quick answer to that is you could also remove your own appendix, but we don’t recommend that either. In reality though, in some cases it’s fine to represent yourself and in others even if you don’t think you can afford a lawyer you probably can.

If you have a very minor matter like a speeding ticket, you can probably get a good result on your own if it’s a first offense. If you want to file for social security benefits for the first time, you don’t need a lawyer, you just need to file. Preparing your own will or filing your own divorce papers is a little bit trickier. It’s certainly possible to do that on your own, but the more that is at stake, the more you should consider if that’s a good idea. In other words, if you have no kids, no money and no property and have been married for a year, there isn’t much for you to mess up by filing for divorce on your own as long as you are comfortable with your ability to properly fill out the paperwork and appear in court. On the other hand, if you are fighting over custody of a child, a retirement account, property, etc., you could really screw up your case, especially if the other side had an attorney.

For more technically complex cases like a medical malpractice lawsuit, we would be beyond shocked if a non-lawyer could successfully pursue a case without an Illinois malpractice law firm in their corner. In fact, we regrettably saw one case where there was malpractice, but for some reason the plaintiff tried to file his case on his own before seeking a lawyer. He made a mistake with the initial paperwork that barred his case forever.

In malpractice cases along with many others (workers’ compensation, social security appeals, personal injury, some collection cases, some commercial litigation cases) it is possible to have an attorney represent you that will work on a contingency basis which means that they only get paid if they make a recovery for you. In some of these cases, like a car accident, it’s not un-common to see an individual try to negotiate something with the insurance company without a lawyer’s help. The problem with this is not only do many people do things that hurt their case (such as providing a recorded statement), many insurance companies will make a low ball offer that doesn’t come close to fully compensating you, but discourages a lawyer from wanting to come and help out. In plain English, you get the choice of filing a lawsuit yourself or accepting well below what you likely would have received with an attorney.

The other big fear with trying to handle things on your own is that often by doing so you prevent an attorney from being able to help you or you can create a mess that is too big to clean up.

We understand that there are many cases where not having the money to hire a lawyer forces your hand. If you aren’t getting child support and the state won’t help you, it makes sense that you would file a case on your own if you can’t afford what can be expensive attorney’s fees. Just rest assured, if you have doubts as to whether or not you need an attorney or can represent yourself, we are happy to answer those questions. In general know that for most family law cases (divorce, child support, custody, etc.) you do need to pay a lawyer by the hour and it’s usually at least $1,500-$2,500 up front depending on where you live. For most injury cases you can find a law firm that will only get paid if they are successful.

If you are confused or have questions about whether or not an Illinois law firm is needed for your situation, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time.

 

The purpose of probate law is to administer a decedent’s estate, with the objective of resolving claims and properly distributing assets. Probate law is complex and retaining an experienced Illinois probate attorney to assist you with conflicts increases your chance of successful resolution. Probate lawyers handle a variety of issues related to inheritance and property of deceased individuals. They deal with the legal process of validation of wills, the organization of the assets of the deceased, and ensure all the debts and taxes of the deceased are paid.

There is no one firm that is best for every situation. Instead we think you need to consider the unique facts of your case. We have several guidelines and characteristics we look for in Illinois probate attorneys before we recommend them to you.

We think any lawyer you hire should have at least 7 to 10 years of probate experience. Most of the attorneys we suggest have been licensed to practice law for over 20 years. That doesn’t mean that a younger attorney couldn’t successfully do the job. Rather we believe that a more seasoned lawyer will have seen every possible issue that could come up in your case. The last thing you want to do is hire a lawyer who gets surprised because some issue comes up that they have never handled before.

In addition to regularly handling probate matters, the attorneys we recommend also know enough about other related legal fields. Probate cases often overlap other areas, such as real estate, taxes, finance, and estate planning. An attorney with experience and knowledge of real estate transactions, tax liabilities and laws, and estate planning has the additional skills needed to craft effective case strategies. For example, if the decedent had extensive real estate holdings, the lawyer should also know something about real property law.

A good attorney, no matter what area of law he or she focuses in, treats their client with the utmost respect and courtesy. Your probate attorney should consider the best needs of the client when making any decision or recommendation. That is why we recommend attorneys that communicate well with their clients.

With probate, especially if you are dealing with a contested will, we highly recommend that the attorney you hire regularly appears in the court where the case will be heard. This is harder to provide downstate, but for Cook County probate cases the attorneys will typically be in Chicago because that is the only location for hearings in the area. If the attorney you are thinking about hiring is in the suburbs on a Cook County case, it’s a sign that they might not do a ton of this work. If they did they’d be commuting every day which would disrupt their practice.

Above all, any attorney you hire should treat you with respect, answer your questions, provide monthly billing statements and work to meet your goals in a timely fashion. Some law firms are great on handling the case, but if they don’t provide customer service the client won’t be happy. Your choices are usually not limited so you can and should demand good service.

We often get calls from people who want the “best probate lawyer” in Illinois. In reality, there is no such thing as the “best” lawyer in Illinois, however there is such thing as the best lawyer in Illinois for your situation. The probate process in Illinois can be complex and confusing. If you have any questions or would like a referral to a qualified and experienced Illinois probate attorney, please contact us.  It’s always free and confidential.

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Not all referral services are the same. Actually, scratch that. Most of them are the same, but ours is very different. With us, you will get an attorney recommendation based on the particular facts of your case, not just the general area of law you’re dealing with. Our recommendation is also based on the experience, reputation and success of the attorney we are recommending. Our goal is to find you the right attorney, not just any attorney.

If you call a bar association or other referral source, you are most likely going to get a name off a list from someone who may not even know the attorney or their qualifications. It’s a list that attorneys pay to be on, and when you call, you simply get the next name on the list. That’s it. The fact that they are on the list is in no way a statement of their experience or past success. It doesn’t mean they are respected in the legal community or that they have handled a case similar to yours in the past. In our opinion, you might as well pick a name from the phone book.

The attorneys we recommend do not pay us to recommend them. We choose them, and we do so based on the qualities described above. And we will talk to you about your legal issue first. A lot of people wonder if they even need an attorney. Some don’t know what type of attorney they should hire. We are attorneys, and we will answer your questions. We try to be straightforward and upfront about what you need and what you can expect.

No two cases are alike. And some are very unique. If you don’t take that into consideration when looking for an attorney, you’re not giving yourself the best chance at success. If you need a criminal defense attorney, it matters what type of charges you are facing. Sometimes your attorney’s location matters. Sometimes you need an attorney who has a good rapport with the judge or a firm that has extensive resources. And sometimes you just need someone with a particular type of personality that you can work with. All of the details matter.

We don’t charge people to use our service. It’s completely free to call and talk to us, and if you need a referral, that’s free too. You can contact us online or by calling us at 312-346-5320 or 800-517-1614.

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When you co-sign for a friend or family member, you’re doing them a big favor. You are letting them use your good credit and reliable income, and it’s usually because theirs isn’t good enough. The creditor, whether it’s a mortgage lender, car dealer or landlord, thinks it’s too risky to lend to your friend or family member. But, they’ll do it if you sign on. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to help someone you care about. Just make sure you know what you’re agreeing to.

In addition to signing paperwork for the loan, you should be given a document that explains the obligations of a co-signer or “guarantor.” It’s meant to alert you to the responsibility you’re taking on. It might include the following warnings:

• You are responsible for payments the other party fails to make

• You are responsible for the entire amount of the debt

• You may have to pay late fees and collection costs

• You can be the subject of debt collection procedures

• You can be the subject of a lawsuit to collect the debt

• Your wages can be garnished

• Your credit score can be affected

When you co-sign, you are the safety net. You should be prepared to pay if the other person doesn’t. No matter how much the other person promises that they will pay, you can’t guarantee that they will. Make sure you’re prepared for that eventuality.

On a related note, never lie in order to get a loan or financing. We’ve heard from people who were asked, by the lender, to lie about their employment in order to get approved. They were actually told to sign paperwork that listed a completely fake job. Don’t let a lender coerce you in this way. Even though you didn’t make up the lie yourself, if you sign it, you may as well have.

If you have co-signed and the creditor is coming after you for payment or you’ve received a notice in the mail that you have to pay, talk to an Illinois attorney about your rights and obligations. Don’t wait too long – your credit history could be affected. The creditor may not be able to come after you in certain situations. An experienced attorney can talk to you about any available defenses.