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WHEN CAPITALISM AND ALTRUISM COLLIDE

I recently watched the movie “All the Money in the World.” It was great. It is true story of the
grandson of John Paul Getty, Sr. being kidnapped for ransom, and the events that occurred to
set his grandson free. In 1957, Fortune Magazine named John Paul Getty, Sr. as the richest man
in the world, worth approximately $1.2B (approximately $25.8B in today’s dollars). He founded
the Getty Oil Company. Mr. Getty was an avid collector of all things rare, paintings, historical
artifacts, and antiques. His collection formed the basis of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los
Angeles, and over $661M of his estate was left to the museum after his death. He established
the J. Paul Getty Trust in 1952. The trust is the world’s wealthiest art institution, and operates
the many museums in his name. He died in 1976, leaving an amazing legacy of art for people to
admire for generations to come.

When a movie involves people who amassed fortunes, and then upon death, leaving a long
lasting legacy, my interest is always immediately piqued. I am a big fan of the amazing benefits
of capitalism in the United States being turned into long lasting altruistic impact upon a
person’s death. I think about Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s. He and his wife Joan were
very charitable. Ray died in 1984 and his entire estate went to Joan. Joan died in 2003, and
prior to her death, she spent a lot of time meeting with various large charitable organizations.
She was deciding the legacy she and Ray were going to leave behind. Joan chose the Salvation
Army to be the recipient of the majority of her fortune. It was the largest donation the
organization ever received, $1.5 billion dollars. Joan specifically wanted to have 26 Kroc Centers
to be built in underserved communities to provide opportunity, education, recreation and
inspiration for such communities. The programs must include education, fitness, arts and
worship, according to Joan’s instructions. In 2016, the Ray and Joan Kroc Center was opened in
the South Side of Chicago. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to volunteer there in
its opening year, and was amazed by how much it offers. The Kroc Centers are all around the
country and they provide millions of children and families a place to learn and grow, and stay
safe. In my opinion, that is the best way you leave a legacy.

About the author
Maritess T. Bott, of Bott & Associates, Ltd. is an estate planning attorney in Rolling Meadows,
Illinois, a Northwest suburb of Chicago. She has been an attorney since 1997, and has helped
hundreds of families have peace of mind by protecting their wealth, and preserving their
relationships. She has been a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
since 2003, a nationally recognized organization of attorneys who specialize in estate planning
and probate. If you are interested in more information, you may check out
www.bottestateplanning.com.

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Shining the Light on Mental Illness

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 adults in the United States experiences mental illness.  That’s about 43.8 million people, or around 18.5% of our country.  May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  It is a time to demystify some of the common misconceptions about various health issues.  In an article written by Quinten Plummer for Tech Times, he states that The Mental Health America organization has used the national attention to spark a conversation about how people whose mental illness is addressed before Stage 4 can recover quickly.

This illness is certainly not age-based, nor culture-based.  Years ago, I had represented a mother whose 18 year old son, “John”, for the most part, grew up “normal”.  Then one day he was experimenting with his friends with various substances to get “high”.  For some reason, his body and mind reacted in such an extraordinary way.  John started seeing things, hearing things and just acting so unusual.  His mom could not understand what was happening.  She took him to a psychiatrist, and John was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, manic with psychosis and paranoid episodes.  Mom was so distraught.  He would refuse medication, wander in the streets in the middle of the night, and be violent to the rest of the family.  Since he reached the age of majority, his mom could not talk to his doctors, and make decision on his behalf.  We opened up a Guardianship proceeding, and after several months, was able to get Mom appointed as John’s guardian.  When I met John in court, he appeared to be a typical 18 year old boy.  It wasn’t until the Judge started asking him some questions that you notice he was suffering from a mental illness.

On the other side of the spectrum, I represented a 72 year old business owner, “Nick”, in the later stages of dementia.  His son noticed that he was starting to do odd things, like leaving the stove on for a long period of time, or drive to the store, but wind up in a completely different neighborhood.  It was then that the son moved him into a Senior living facility.  Within a month of moving in, Nick met his next door neighbor, “Jane”, who befriended him.  They ate meals together, hung out together, and Nick seemed to enjoy the attention.  Then a few months later, Jane asked the facility to check into a 2 bedroom apartment for the two of them, because she said they were soon to be married.  It wasn’t long before Nick’s son saw the red flags, and started a Guardianship proceeding to protect his father.  I represented Nick and enjoyed learning about how he started his business years ago and what it has become today.  Although his short term memory was not very sharp, he remembers clearly details from his life long ago.  Needless to say it was a long court process and eventually Nick’s son became his guardian.  Interestingly enough, Jane moved out a month later.

I share these stories hopefully to encourage people to start noticing family and friends around them.  Anyone may seem “normal” at first, and yet, he or she may be suffering from a mental illness.  They are very susceptible to financial abuse, and perhaps physical abuse.  If we can keep an eye on our loved ones and our neighbors, have them seek help, perhaps they can recover with the right medical attention.

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More Adult Children Living With Their Parents

53.6% of 25 year olds in Illinois currently live with their parents.  To give you some perspective, in 1999, only 25% of all 25 year olds lived with their parents.  How did we go from 25% to 53.6% so quickly?

In my practice, I often counsel my clients about how to leave their assets to their children.  Many of my clients have adult children living in their homes, some of the “children” being in their 30s and 40s.  This often poses a problem as to what would happen if both parents die…would the children living there automatically receive their residence?  How would the other children receive an equal share?  Can the children afford the real estate taxes, utilities and upkeep?  Often we find that the children who are not living in the residence have some resentment towards the siblings because they essentially are getting “free rent” for many years just because they are not required to pay anything to the parents.  I can understand that parents want to keep the peace, provide for their children at all cost, and hope that the kids will all get along when they are gone. But unfortunately if there are no instructions for the children to follow under a Will and/or Trust, the likelihood is that the family will squabble over the division of the residence and assets.

So why the increase in adult children living at home? In the article by Tyler Durden found here: http://tinyurl.com/qh7698x he explains some of the reasons,

  1. Labor Market – It appears to be a tough job market for young adults.  Perhaps it’s because older adults are working longer, there just aren’t enough jobs.  I recently learned from one of my clients (who is a Canadian citizen) that in Canada, companies aren’t allowed to hire individuals who are 65 and older.  That is the mandatory retirement age.  This helps to provide jobs for the younger adults. To me, this doesn’t seem to be a bad idea.
  2. Housing Market – The recovery of the housing market seems to be driving up the rental rates.  It appears to be more difficult for a young adult with a starting salary to even rent an apartment, let along purchase a first home.
  3. Student Debt – This is definitely a huge factor in young adults living at home.  Many parents tell their children to go to college, get a degree, and then you’ll get a job.  But if the children are saddled with hundreds of thousands of student loans, it becomes more practical to stay home before buying a home or renting.

Mr. Durden ends his article with “for all of the above you can thank, who else, the Fed for blowing the biggest debt-funded asset bubble in history”.  Hopefully in the near future, our economy will continue to get stronger, our young adults will get good paying jobs, and move out of their parents’ basements.  In the meantime, get your estate plan in place with the right provisions to address any adult child living in your home.

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Things Your Boss Doesn’t Tell You

Yesterday, April 12, 2016, was EQUAL PAY DAY.  Woohoo!  For those who may not know what this means, it’s the day that a woman would have to work up to beginning on January 1st of the previous year, to make the same amount as a man working only for that same previous year.  In other words, if my husband and I were working in the same position, in the same field, with similar experience levels, I’d have to work an additional 3 months and 12 days just to get paid the same as him.  Does that seem fair?  Absolutely not.

As Patricia Arquette mentioned in her article, in the Washington Post, “Yes, it’s about the paycheck.  But it’s also about the principle of fairness.  Women earn only 79 percent of what men make in comparable jobs.”  One of my favorite movies last year was “Boyhood.”  Ms. Arquette earned an Academy Award for her performance.  More importantly, it was her ability to shed light on this very issue.  She was a single mom in the movie with two children.  Her struggles were very real. Her effort was relatable to so many mothers and women in our country.  I’ve talked to countless women who choose to stay in their marriage for financial reasons, even though they would have filed for a divorce years before.

In my practice, this issue is very apparent when I am counseling single women who have already retired.  So many women are not receiving much from social security, partly because of the wage gap or perhaps a break from the workforce to raise their children. They worry about how they can take care of themselves in the event of long term care needs.  It’s one thing to not make as much during the working years, but the compound effect of that gap exponentially affects women as they get older.

In Patricia’s article, it stated that “Salesforce chairman and CEO Marc Benioff reviewed his 17,000 employees’ salaries and made $3 million in adjustments to equalize gender pay disparities.”  Wow.  Yes, it’s great that he chose to do this, but $3M?!  That is how much women in his company were not making compared to men in just one year?  I applaud Marc’s decision, and hope he sparks a domino effect for other companies to follow his actions.

Last year, I watched a TED talk by Former President, Jimmy Carter. As we all know, he has made such an amazing impact after his presidency for his humanitarian efforts.  His talk was entitled “Why I believe the mistreatment of women is the number one human rights abuse.” EVERYONE should watch this: http://tinyurl.com/o2vc2l5

Although it does not necessarily discuss gender pay equality, this talk really opened my eyes to know that it’s not just about the paycheck.  We would all be better off if we can justify the right and the wrong of the mistreatment of women and girls. In so many parts of the world, both developed and developing.

#blogger #genderequality

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AMERICAN SENIORS ARE BEING VICTIMIZED BY FINANCIAL FRAUD

One of the growing types of “crimes” that often goes unnoticed is elder abuse/fraud.  If you have a family member, a family friend, or anyone you know that is older, perhaps lives alone, single and especially if he/she does not have any children, please take the time to check in on them every so often.  They are often the more vulnerable to being victims of this crime.  I recently was at a meeting with a client and her financial advisor.  The advisor told us the story of another client who is elderly and whose caregiver was taking financial advantage of her.  The caregiver was continuing to request more and more additional “funds” from the client. The advisor asked to see her estate planning documents that were 20 years old, and the client named two similarly aged people to act on her behalf, and who were not in the position to take care of her financial and medical decisions.  The advisor is now working to make sure her client is protected from further financial influence and abuse.

I have also encountered some of these types of stories with my own clients.  For example:

 (1)   73 year old business man (“Tom”) was diagnosed with dementia for two years.  He lived on his own during the two years, but his son was starting to get phone calls about Tom wandering the neighborhood.  His son put Tom in independent living at a large residential home for seniors with various types of care.  Within a month of moving in, his next door neighbor, a single woman (“Jane”), was befriending him.  Jane continued to spend a lot of time with him.  After three months, Tom called his son and said that he wants to marry Jane and get a two bedroom place for them to live in together.  Jane went to the effort of writing a letter to the senior living facility stating that she and Tom were getting married and want to look at other 2 bedroom units.  The facility administrator called the son and the red flags were up.  Son eventually started a court process called a guardianship to take over Tom’s affairs.  I represented Tom, who is a very lovely man.  He is an immigrant who came to America and started a company that still exists today.  He has a decent amount of assets.  Jane on the other hand, did not have much money.  At the end of the long guardianship process, son became the guardian, and three months later, Tom and Jane “broke up” and she moved out.  I wonder why.

 (2)   Another client of mine is “Jake”.  He and his wife, “Carol,” updated their estate plan with me in 2005.  Unfortunately, Carol died in 2007.  In 2011, one of their sons (“Joe”), contacted me to let me know that Jake met a woman in the grocery store.   Joe said that this woman just started talking to Jake and all of a sudden within a week, she is over at his house with a bag of groceries wanting to make dinner for him.  This would have not been a big deal, however, Jake at the time was age 87, and this woman was age 52.  So I called Jake to just check in, see how he was doing.  He told me about the woman and said she was very nice.  He seemed to really enjoy the attention.  Once again the facts were similar to the first story in that Jake has a sizeable estate, and the woman was a single mom with a minimal size estate.  I recently met with Joe and he told me that the relationship went “sour” after a few months, and she is no longer in the picture.  Luckily, Jake was of sound mind and was able to see through her intentions.

As much as I am a romantic at heart and would love to see my clients meet nice people and enjoy the companionship, I am also very protective over my clients so that the intentions of any new relationship is truly for love, and not for finances.

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TO WHOM WILL YOUR SUSPENDERS GO?

I recently read an article about Robin Williams’ estate and how the personal property like his suspenders from the “Mork and Mindy” TV show or the Oscar from the movie “Good Will Hunting” will be distributed.  Many times it is the assets with little to no value in the marketplace, but with a tremendous emotional value to the family members that end up being fought about.  I remember one family fought over the gravy bowl because all of the children had such fond memories of mom’s cooking and that bowl being passed around at every big family dinner.  It is not uncommon for me to hear about one family member going to the decedent’s house even before the funeral occurs, and grabbing items way before everyone else.

Although we can never predict what your family will really fight about, we can at least do some preventative measures.  Here are some examples of what some of my clients have done:

( 1) Ask! Some clients ask their children what are the things in the house that have sentimental value to them.  Then you can see if there are any items that more than one child wants, and you can designate who you want it to go to.

( 2) Sticker System – Some clients ask their children to take colored sticker and put it under any item that they would like.  Yes, it’s possible to for the kids to peel off stickers of their siblings but hopefully everyone will play by the rules.

( 3) Card System – Some clients put together a strategy in their estate planning documents of how the personal property will be distributed.  They may have a deck of cards, and each person would choose one.  They would then just go in order and pick things out one by one until they have narrowed it down to things to put up for sale or to donate.

( 4) Estate Planning Letter – We always encourage clients to prepare a letter that may have some instructions on how best to distribute or sell personal property.  This includes a list that is separate from the Will or Living Trust, but is incorporated in such documents to be honored upon your death.  This list of who to give what items to can be changed as often as you want, especially since we accumulate and get rid of assets throughout our lifetime. The instructions should also include the details of the assets and how best to sell them. For instance if you have a rare set of books, coins, china, stamps or any other collection, your family may just sell them in a garage sale, or on craigslist for far less than their true value.

In any event, estate planning is not just about the big stuff – your house, your retirement accounts, your savings and your cars.  It’s also about the “little” stuff that has far greater sentimental value to your family.  The more you plan, hopefully, the less conflict for your family members, and the higher likelihood that they can remain on good terms and continue to see each other during the holidays.

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READY OR NOT … SUMMER IS HERE!

HEALTH is a multi-faceted word that lends its meaning to finances, relationships, physical fitness and the list can truly go on.  As we come out of a very long and arduous winter, many people may not have had the motivation to really get on track with the physical fitness aspect.  Dreary cold and cloudy days did not lend inspiration to get out there and get moving.  With that said, summer is upon us.  What does that mean?  Warmer days, less layers required and dare I say it, swim suits!  As a certified personal trainer with the Natural Fitness Trainers Association, health and fitness are a passion of mine outside of the office and I want to share with you some easy and quick ways to charge out of the winter blues and get you ready for SUMMER FUN! (And you don’t even have to join a gym!)  I get a lot of questions and/or excuses as to why working out and eating healthy cannot be incorporated into a daily routine, but rest assured, with my easy tips and hacks, it will be harder to fight them than to actually do them!

Problem #1: I don’t belong to/have time for a gym.

YOU DON’T NEED ONE!  Circuit training is PERFECT for the home!  You can utilize the items you have in your home to get in a quick and effective workout.  If you are new to a training program, as usual consult your doctor, and then try to incorporate this into your schedule 2 to 3 times a week.  Once you start to build up your endurance, make it 3 to 4 times a week and add another round or two of the circuit.  I rarely get on the scale, I go more so by how my clothes fit, so don’t let a number fool you or intimidate you.  The goal is the get healthy and feel better about yourself, not be defined by some arbitrary number that does not measure HEALTH!

Try this FULL BODY Circuit – Beginners do 3-4 rounds 2 to 3 times a week and work up to 5-6 rounds 3 to 4 times a week:

– 50 No Weight Body Squats

– 20 Mountain Climbers (10 each leg)

– 50 Jumping Jacks

– 15 Chair Dips

– 25 Sumo Squats (feet wide, toes turned out)

– 20 Crunches (if you do not want to lay on the floor, you can stand with your hands behind your head and bring your opposite knee to opposite elbow for 10 on each side)

– 50 High Knees

There is no rest between each exercise, but once an entire round is complete, you may rest for 2 minutes and then repeat!

 Problem #2: Eating healthy is expensive or my kids won’t eat that!

WRONG!  I use my local grocery store sale ad and shop what is on sale that week.  It may take a little planning, but most of you are already doing that anyway.  With summer here, fresh fruits and vegetables will be in abundance and if you are lucky enough to have a farmer’s market in your area – TAKE ADVANTAGE!!  What better way to support local farmers and know that you are getting the freshest produce available.  Here are a few food hacks that I absolutely love and I know you and your family will too!

  1. Love mashed potatoes? Try steaming cauliflower until soft.  Mash with a fork or whip on low speed with a hand mixer with light butter or cheese and season with garlic powder and pepper.  Your family will never know the difference!
  2. Love pasta? Try spinning zucchini in a spiral cutter ($14 from Wal-mart and it will change your life) or using spaghetti squash as your noodles!  Add your favorite pasta sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and ENJOY!
  3. Love dessert? Try layering chocolate graham crackers with fat free cool whip and stick in the freezer for a delicious “ice cream” sandwich!

These are simple and easy tips that will get your creative healthy juices flowing so you can not only enjoy your summer, but feel GREAT doing it!

 Bott & Associates, Ltd wants to make sure that you are taken care of mind, body and soul!  We look forward to all the ways that we can help your family create a lasting legacy.

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What Makes ME Different?

I went to my son’s IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) Meeting at school to discuss his progress in 4th grade.  The team includes his teacher, a Special Education Teacher, a Speech/Language Pathologist, an Occupational Therapist, an Assistive Technology Facilitator and an Inclusion Specialist.  Aside from his teacher, my son has been with each of the other people since Kindergarten.  They have been extremely helpful in his educational and social development in the last five years.  I am very grateful to have them in my son’s life.  But what really sets them apart in my eyes is not their education, not their expertise, but their “bedside manner.”  They care about my son and his progress. They have many heartfelt stories of his “glows” and improvements.  They send me emails about things that my son has done or said that made them feel good, which of course makes me feel good. 
  

Today I told them I was just thinking back recently to my initial experience with the “special needs” world.  It started with his Early Intervention assessment meeting.  My son was 18 months old, and it was my mom who said to me, “I think there is something wrong, have him checked out.”  As a tired mom of two, I was actually very defensive and said, “Mom, you’re just overreacting. He is fine.”  But she insisted.  So I called the number and set up the meeting.  In my living room I had five professionals, rattling off questions, and observing my son.  After the hour, they each gave me a “verbal report” in technical language of how far behind he was in every area, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, verbal and non-verbal communications, social skills, etc.  Each of them treated my son like he was just this “specimen” or “lab rat” they were observing.  From my point of view, none of them felt like they were even talking about a human being, much less an 18 month old child.  When they left, I just burst into tears.

Thereafter, he participated in many therapy sessions, and by age 3, he attended a preschool for learning disabled children.  Once again, I was in front of an entire team of professionals discussing his progress during his two years of preschool.  Once again, I was incredibly disappointed in the team’s demeanor of treating my son like a “lab rat.” They rattled off their reports and recommendations in highly technical language, and not one of them mentioned anything remotely human.  Like, “he’s a joy to have in class…he’s great at this task.”  Every meeting was structured and robotic.

So today after my meeting with the wonderful team at my son’s elementary school, I realized something.  I am often asked, “What makes me different?” or “What is your competitive advantage?”  I realized that what makes me different is not quantifiable, is not analytical and is not logical.  What makes me different is that I care.  A lot.  I want to help my clients and their families and make them feel heard and understood.  I want to be there in times of sadness, of conflict, of frustration, of confusion and of course in times of happiness as well.  So instead of treating my clients in a clinical way by spouting off legal terms in a robotic way, I treat my clients like human beings, and listen to their life stories. I know you may think there are so many attorneys who say the same thing.  Well, yes, I’m certainly not the only attorney who has good “bedside” manner.  But in my general experience with all professionals, there really is only a small percentage who actually do have good “bedside” manner.

I share my story about my son because I have been on the receiving end of a team of good professionals and a team of not so good professionals.  I know for certain that I will always strive to be one of the “good professionals” in my clients’ lives, and their families’ lives in the future.

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THE “DEFAULT WILL” – IS THAT WHAT YOU HAVE?

There was a gentleman named “John” who walked into my office letting me know that his cousin’s condo needed to be sold.  His cousin, “Jane”, died the previous year and her condo was just sitting there empty.  Jane had no surviving spouse, children, parents or siblings.  John was a cousin on the maternal side of Jane’s family, and he only knew the names of eight family members on the maternal side.  So we opened a probate estate which was based on the laws of intestacy since Jane did not have any estate planning documents such as a Will or Living Trust.

The intestacy laws are basically everybody’s “default will” if they do not write down their own wishes.  In Illinois, it states that if you die with a surviving spouse and children, then half goes to spouse, half goes to children.  If you die with only a spouse or only children, then all of your estate will go to such party or parties.  If you die with neither, then it goes to your siblings and parents, in equal shares, and possibly to nieces and nephews if a sibling has predeceased you.  If you do not have any of those surviving family members, then we have to reach up to the maternal and paternal grandparents’ sides, and create a large family tree to figure out who is below, and to figure out the correct labels of these individuals such as “cousins twice removed.”

In Jane’s situation, we had to do the latter.  Within a week of filing the Petition in court, we received letters from two different attorneys, one representing the relatives under the paternal grandparents’ side which was about 30 additional beneficiaries, and the other attorney representing other relatives (who John did not know) from the maternal grandparents’ side which was an additional 25 beneficiaries.  So the grand total of potential beneficiaries “sticking out their hand” for the inheritance from Jane was about 63 people.

The condo was the only asset in the estate.  It sold for about $230,000.  In the end, everyone received a piece of the pie (or more like a sliver) and it took over five years to complete.

Needless to say, this all could have been avoided.  Had Jane signed a will stating her wishes, the probate estate would have been far less complicated and certainly less expensive.  Further, had Jane chosen to prepare a Living Trust and retitled her condo under the name of such trust, then the estate would not have had to go through the public forum of probate court, and the family members would have received the inheritance quickly and efficiently.  Do you have the “Default Will”?

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