A silver pen and notebook on a desk for planning.

When it comes to estate planning, there are so many misconceptions. For one, making an estate plan isn’t only for the wealthy. After all, no matter how many assets you have, nobody really wants the court to decide which family member or “friend” will receive them in the event that you pass.

Another common misconception is that estate planning is only for the elderly. But truth be told, many of us, to some degree, feel invincible. We never plan for our last day, and we never plan for the last day of any of our loved ones, even if we see it coming due to medical circumstances or age.

With that said, if you have ever dealt with the loss of a loved one, you understand the true weight of grief. While working through those heavy feelings and establishing a “new normal”, there often comes many other imminent responsibilities. Planning for a funeral, closing credit cards, and planning a return to the workplace are only the beginning.

The purpose of estate planning is to give your family and friends one less hoop to jump through. Grief alone carries a heavy enough weight, and an estate plan helps ensure that your loved ones can work through those feelings to remember your legacy without dealing with the trouble of working through your state’s court system.

Still curious about the purpose of making an estate? Read on to learn more. Or, if you have immediate questions about where to begin with your estate plan, contact our team at The Law Offices of Glenn & West to schedule a consultation.

The Top 5 Reasons to Make an Estate Plan

1.    Make Your Wishes Known

One of the main reasons for making an estate plan is to make your wishes known. It ensures your wishes are carried out in both the events of disability and death. Not only does an estate allow you to control the fortune of your assets and how they will be divided, but it also honors your choice in the event that you must assign power of attorney. We know very well that you know better to make these decisions than your state’s court.

2.    Save Time and Money for Your Loved Ones

Those who pass away without a will are said to have “died intestate.” As we have touched on, the state’s intestate laws decide what will happen to your assets in this event. Usually, when an individual dies without a will, the probate process ends up being both time-consuming and costly for surviving family members. It’s the last thing you want them to deal with while they are still processing grief and learning a new normal.

3.    Protect Your Children & Grandchildren

As a parent, it isn’t easy to imagine dying and leaving your child behind. However, the truth is that it does happen. It’s a heartbreaking reality that children in the United States deal with the loss of a parent at a very young age. Heart disease and stroke are two of the most common causes of premature death.

In your will, you can name a guardian for your child if you pass before your child reaches the age of 18. You can also make plans for distributing college funds. Truly, no parent wants to leave these decisions to the court. With that said, you have a spouse or partner, it’s equally important that they create a will of their own, too.

4.    Eliminate Family Messes

Greed can bring out the worst in people. In the event of death or disability, it’s a shame that greed sometimes results in families breaking up. For instance, after a parent becomes disabled, one sibling might feel that they should control their parent’s finances. Or, after a parent dies, one sibling might feel they deserve more than the other. Such arguments can quickly escalate with some siblings taking one another to court. Estate planning allows you to set guidelines that few can contest.

5.    Protect Your Loved Ones from Big Taxes

Estate planning provides a chance to protect your loved ones from the Internal Revenue Service. With an estate plan, you can ensure that your heirs do not face a high tax burden. Estate planning provides ways to ensure that your assets pass down to your heirs without the government taking a big slice of your assets first.

Your Estate Planning Checklist

Now that you know the purpose of estate planning, it’s time to start planning! Here is a checklist with the most common planning documents to help you on your journey:

  • Your will. The bare bones of this document determines who will manage your estate when you die and how your assets will be distributed.
  • Power of attorney (POA) grants another person the authority to make decisions on your behalf.
  • A living will communicates your wishes for medical care should a time come when you cannot communicate those wishes.
  • A trust is an estate planning tool that protects your assets.

Note: This list is by no means all-inclusive. Rather, let it serve as a guideline for preparing yourself with answers before a consultation with an attorney and/or financial advisor.

Have Questions? We Have Answers

Now that you know the purpose of an estate plan, you’re probably wondering where to begin. A consultation with an experienced attorney is an excellent place to start. For residents of Central Illinois, our firm offers two office locations in both Nokomis, IL, and Litchfield, IL.

To begin your estate planning journey, contact our team today to schedule a one-on-one consultation.

Person receiving medical attention: stages in a personal injury case

Being hurt in an accident can disrupt your life, and the financial losses and pain you experience can be life-changing. Fortunately, when you suffer an injury in an accident because of another person’s negligence in Illinois, a personal injury claim can get you the compensation you need to move on with your life. Compensation cannot undo the harm already done, but it can help you move onto a better path. Read on to learn more about the stages in a personal injury case.

If you need your questions answered directly, contact our team at the Law Offices of Glenn & West to request a free consultation.

Stage #1: Initial Consultation With a Personal Injury Attorney

If you’ve never had to file a personal claim, you might be feeling anxious about pursuing such a claim. However, you should know that not all personal injury cases go to court, and the process does not have to be stressful, especially if you work with a qualified attorney.

After receiving treatment for your injury, the first step is contacting an attorney. When you contact an attorney, you set up a free initial consultation to discuss your case. During your first meeting, an attorney will help you determine if you have a valid claim.

To make the most of this meeting, ensure you bring supporting documentation such as medical records. If a personal injury attorney believes you have a valid personal injury claim, they will explain to you your legal options.

Stage #2: Evaluating a Personal Injury Attorney

The attorney you hire to help you can make or break your case. Therefore, a crucial step in your injury case is ensuring you hire the right attorney. When you meet a personal injury attorney for the first time, ask them about their experience level. You should also ask for your attorney’s track record of success during your initial consultation. Additionally, Google can be an excellent resource for reading customer reviews.

Stage #3: Hiring an Attorney

After meeting with several personal injury attorneys and evaluating the attorneys, the next stage is hiring an attorney. It’s always best to hire an attorney with experience handling personal injury cases similar to yours—and with a proven track record that shows success. Once you decide on the attorney you want to help you with your case, you’ll be asked to sign an agreement. Before signing anything, make sure you read carefully and never be afraid to ask questions.

Stage #4: Investigation

After hiring an attorney, they will gather evidence that helps them to understand how you suffered your injuries as well as the extent of your injuries. They will also gather evidence that helps them understand the extent of any other losses you suffered. Your attorney will also begin contacting expert witnessesm, if necessary.

When you choose the right personal injury attorney, they will focus on investigating your case so you can focus on getting the medical attention you need.

Stage #5: Filing the Claim and Beginning Negotiations

Next, your attorney takes steps to file your personal injury claim. At this stage, your attorney may contact the other party and their insurance company to give notice of your claim as well explain the other party’s liability and your injuries.

Generally, your attorney takes care of dealing with the insurance company and keeps you updated. Again, this allows you to focus on recovery and receiving medical treatment.

Stage #6: Settling Your Claim

If your attorney negotiates with the insurance company and the insurance company gives you a fair offer, your attorney may decide that it is best to settle your case at this stage. However, while your attorney can prove quite helpful when it comes to determining if an offer from an at-fault party’s insurance company is fair, the final decision about whether to accept a settlement offer is your decision.

If negotiations between you and the at-fault party’s insurance company are successful, your injury case will end at this stage. You sign a release form stating that you release the liable party from any liability and obligation to compensate you for the damages associated with the same accident in the future. Because of this, you must wait until you reach maximum medical improvement before accepting a settlement offer from an insurance company.

Stage #7: Filing a Lawsuit

If negotiations are unsuccessful, your attorney will move to file a lawsuit in court. Once your case is filed in court, it will go through several phases, all of which have a deadline.

Stage #8: Discovery and Mediation

The discovery phase is usually the first step after a personal injury lawsuit is filed in court. However, if a defendant files a motion asking the court to dismiss some of your claims or the entire case, the first step might be filing a response in opposition to the motion. In the discovery phase, each party collects information regarding the case from the other party and third parties.

Stage #9: Mediation

After the discovery phase and before trial, you may need to try mediation, which is an alternative dispute resolution method. If you come to an agreement at this stage, your case ends here. It is estimated that about 95% of pending personal injury lawsuits end in a pre-trial settlement.

Stage #10: Trial and Verdict

If you and the other party can’t come to an agreement during mediation, your case proceeds to trial. Here, your attorney presents your side of the case and the other party defends themselves, usually through their insurance company. Once that’s done, the judge or jury decides if the defendant is liable and, if so, how much they should pay.

Get the Help You Need Today

We hope you found this article on the stages in a personal injury case helpful.

If you’ve sustained injuries in an accident in Illinois because of another party’s negligence, you need a qualified attorney on your side. Contact our skilled and dedicated personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Glenn & West, LLC, to discuss your legal options during a free legal consultation.

Car driving on the highway: the most common causes of car accidents in Illinois.

Statistics regarding motor vehicle accidents in the United States of America are shocking. According to the NHTSA, 36,096 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2019, and many others were left with injuries. In the same year, an estimated 1,010 people died, and 89,133 people suffered injuries in motor vehicle accidents in Illinois.

While some car accidents are unavoidable, many car accidents are avoidable. Most car accidents in America are caused by driver negligence. Unfortunately, too many motorists engage in negligent behaviors while on the road, resulting in accidents that cause injuries and death.

Below are some of the most common causes of car accidents in Illinois and throughout the U.S.

1. Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is the leading cause of car accidents in Illinois and throughout the U.S.

According to the NHTSA, more than 2,800 people in America died in 2019 in crashes that involved a distracted motorist. Distracted driving occurs when a driver engages in another activity that takes their attention away from driving. Many people know that texting and driving is distracted driving. However, not many people know that behaviors such as using a navigation system while driving, eating while driving, applying makeup while driving, and talking with other passengers are forms of distracted driving.

The CDC states that anything that takes a driver’s attention away from driving can be a distraction. There are three main types of distractions. They are visual, manual, and cognitive distractions. A visual distraction occurs when a driver takes their eyes off the road. A manual distraction occurs when a driver takes their hand(s) off the steering wheel. And finally, a cognitive distraction occurs when a driver takes their mind off driving.

2. Drunk Driving

A driver who gets behind the wheel while drunk is a danger to themselves and other road users. According to the NHTSA, approximately 32 people in America die every day in drunk driving accidents. That means that every 45 minutes, one person loses their life in a drunk driving accident. Here in Illinois, of the 938 fatal traffic crashes that occurred in 2019, it is estimated that 27.1% of them involved alcohol.

Alcohol impairs thinking and reduces the brain’s functions. It also impairs muscle coordination and reasoning. For a driver to operate a vehicle safely, they need to be thinking clearly, and their brain needs to be functioning well. To drive a car safely, a driver needs to be reasoning well, and they need to be able to coordinate muscle movements. For example, a driver must be able to execute and coordinate muscular movements to control the vehicle.

3. Drowsy Driving

Drowsy or fatigued driving is another common cause of car accidents in Illinois and throughout America. The human body needs enough sleep. When a driver misses many hours of sleep, it becomes hard for them to perform well when behind the wheel. Drowsy driving is especially a problem with trucks. Because trucks transporting cargo usually get paid by the load, truck drivers may choose to stay behind the wheel when they should be resting. Unfortunately, this can result in catastrophic accidents. For example, when a tired truck driver hits a passenger vehicle, the results can be disastrous because trucks are much bigger and heavier than passenger vehicles.

According to studies, missing many hours of sleep can impact a driver’s ability to drive the same way as drinking too much alcohol. Studies suggest that staying up for at least eighteen hours is the same as having a BAC of 0.05%. And staying up for at least twenty-four hours is the same as having a BAC of 0.10%.

4. Following Too Closely

Rear-end accidents are quite common in Illinois. Often, rear-end collisions happen because of an unsafe driving practice known as “tailgating.” When the car behind follows the car in front too closely, the driver behind is said to be tailgating. This behavior is considered negligent. According to Illinois law, it is an offense for a vehicle to follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent.

5. Speeding

Excessive speed is to blame for a lot of car accidents. Unfortunately, many drivers do not see the problem with driving faster than the posted speed limit. Drivers need to remember that the faster a person drives, the slower their reaction time. In other words, speeding increases the chances of an accident happening.

6. Unsafe Lane Changes

Before passing another vehicle, a driver must ensure they have enough room to get in front of the other car. If there is not enough room to pass a vehicle and get in front of them, it is best to avoid passing. Also, drivers should always use their blinkers when changing lanes to let other road users know they are about to change lanes. For example, if you change lanes without indicating, the other drivers cannot adjust their driving accordingly, and that can result in an accident.

7. Failure To Yield

In Illinois, “failure to yield” car accidents happen quite a lot. Unfortunately, such accidents can result in severe injuries and even death. According to the law, drivers are required to yield the right-of-way to avoid causing an accident. For example, in Illinois, when two cars approach an intersection from different roads at the same time, the driver on the left is required to yield the right-of-way to the driver on the right.

8. Aggressive Driving

Speeding, unsafe lane changes, failure to yield the right of way, and tailgating can be forms of aggressive driving. Other forms of aggressive driving that can cause accidents include;

  • Running red lights
  • Failing to obey stop signs
  • Ignoring signals from other motorists
  • Driving illegally on the shoulder

Contact the Law Offices of Glenn & West, LLC for Legal Help

We hope you’ve found this information on the most common causes of car accidents in Illinois helpful. Injured car accident victims and surviving family members deserve compensation. It is your right as an injured car accident victim or surviving family member of someone who died in a car crash to recover compensation from an at-fault party.

If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in an Illinois car accident because of another driver’s negligence, contact our qualified auto accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Glenn & West, LLC.. We can help you recover the compensation you deserve.