It can be confusing to know exactly what to do at tax time if you are contemplating divorce or actually in the process of divorcing. Below are some guidelines to keep in mind as tax time draws near.

Filing Status

IRS rules provide that if you are married on December 31st of the tax year, then you are still married for purposes of that year’s tax returns [Note – there is an exception to this rule where the spouses did not reside together for the last 6 months of the relevant tax year]. Similarly, if your divorce judgment is entered on the 31st of December, then you are considered single for that tax year and must file separate. Simply filing for divorce alone does not result in a change in your tax filing status.

Maintaining Status Quo or Taking an Alternate Course

The first question I ask my clients is “What have you done historically?” If the parties have always filed their taxes “Married Filing Jointly” then that very well may be the best way to continue to file taxes until the divorce is finalized.

However, the analysis doesn’t end there since the status quo may not necessarily result in the most tax savings possible. There may be instances where the parties get a better collective tax benefit by filing “Married Filing Separately.” In cases where it is uncertain which tax filing status nets the best overall benefit, I have my client request pro forma tax returns from his or her tax preparer under both filing statuses. The filing that nets the best benefit is then utilized.

Additionally, there may be circumstances where “Married Filing Jointly” nets the parties the best overall tax benefit, but I may still advise against it. Those scenarios are typically when there is a concern that the other spouse is not accurately and truthfully claiming all income. Because tax liability (tax, interest and any penalty) for an erroneously or fraudulently filed joint tax return can flow to both spouses, it is sometimes best for one spouse to forego any tax benefits from a joint filing to have peace of mind that no liability will be assessed to him or her personally for errors or omissions on the part of the other spouse.

Allocating Tax Liabilities and Refunds

The allocation of tax liabilities and refunds depends on many factors and is a case-by-case analysis. The final determination of what percentage of the refund is allocated to whom and who is liable for the tax bill (as well as the cost of preparation fees) is a result of negotiation or if the parties cannot agree, the order of the court. In short, a tax refund or liability is treated just like any other asset or liability of the marriage.

Filing income taxes incorrectly during a divorce proceeding can result in costly litigation and additional accountant’s fees to amend returns, which could result in any refund being quickly depleted. The best course is to have an initial conversation with both your attorney and accountant before filing so that the optimal path is chosen.

Digital Assets and Your Estate Plan

In the absence of the ability to make the designation directly with the online account provider, Illinois now has a law that allows an individual to make the designation in his or her estate plan.

In today’s digital age, many of us have more online accounts than we can keep track of. The internet has undeniably made everything we do easier, quicker, and (mostly) cheaper. It’s no wonder our society has moved more towards managing our personal, business, and financial lives through a myriad of online accounts. These online accounts as well as any other electronic record in which a person has a right or interest comprise a person’s digital assets. And just like any other asset, these assets need to be accessed by an agent or personal representative in the event of the account owner’s disability or death.

How Access is Granted

Some online accounts will allow the owner to grant permission to another individual to access the account at the owner’s death for purposes of maintaining, updating, and/or closing the account. For example, Facebook has recently added a “Legacy Contact” for this precise purpose. Any designation directly made through the account administrator will trump any other designations made in an account owner’s estate plan.

In the absence of the ability to make the designation directly with the online account provider, Illinois now has a law that allows an individual to make the designation in his or her estate plan. The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective August 2016, covers the procedures and requirements for guardians, executors, agents, and trustees to access digital assets of disabled or deceased individuals.

An individual who is living but incapacitated can be assured that their online accounts will continue to be managed by having a power of attorney in place that appoints an agent to do so. If a guardian is appointed for a disabled person, that guardian is also granted access under the Act. Once a person dies, their Will or Trust will control who can access their online accounts.

Limiting Access

There may be reasons why a person may not want to grant full access to their accounts. For instance, if there are confidential communications due to a statutory or other privilege (such as attorney-client emails) or other sensitive information or photographs, a person can limit access by providing those limitations in the power of attorney, will or trust document. It’s also possible to name a separate trustee or executor just to deal with the digital assets if the initial fiduciary is not someone that you want accessing all of your digital assets.

Effectuating Digital Asset Access

Speaking with an estate planning attorney about the best way to plan for your digital assets is a great way to ensure that your wishes are carried out in the event of disability or death. Another key step is to make sure there is a list of digital assets kept with or near your estate plan. The information should include account names, logins and passwords, and answers to security questions. The list should also identify all computers, laptops, tablets, telephones, and other electronic devices and the requisite passwords to access same. Without this roadmap, there will inevitably be missed accounts or an inordinate amount of time spent tracking down accounts.

To hear more about Digital Asset planning and other estate planning topics relevant to today’s modern family, join Jennifer Guimond-Quigley on October 13, 2016 at Bennett Day School (Chicago Flagship campus) for an informative presentation in conjunction with Jessica Merino with Merino Wealth Management. Click here for event details.

More predictability for Maintenance Awards in Illinois starting January 1, 2015

Despite the new guidelines, a Judge may deviate from the payment amount and/or duration of the payments if he or she finds that there are compelling reasons to do so and makes specific findings regarding that deviation.
Despite the new guidelines, a Judge may deviate from the payment amount and/or duration of the payments if he or she finds that there are compelling reasons to do so and makes specific findings regarding that deviation.

There is a significant change to maintenance awards (formerly known as alimony) effective January 1, 2015 under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA”).   Under the old statute, Judges were given very broad discretion to decide a maintenance award after weighing several factors.  The problem with the old statute was that a maintenance recipient with the same set of factors could be given a vastly different maintenance award among different Judges within the same courthouse and on a broader scale, between state counties.  The changes to the maintenance statute include new objective calculations to determine a maintenance amount and duration, thus giving both parties more predictability and hopefully ensuring more consistency among Judges and Counties.

The new law involves a two-step process. First, the court determines whether maintenance is appropriate, based on factors including but not limited to the length of the marriage, the employment and employability of the parties, and the financial needs of the parties.   Next, once the court determines that maintenance is appropriate, so long as the combined gross income of the parties is below $250,000 and no multiple family situation exists, it applies the guidelines to calculate a monthly payment amount, with a fixed term of years for the payments which is dependent on the length of the marriage.

In guideline maintenance cases under the new law, the math starts with taking the difference of 30% of the payor’s gross income and 20% of the payee’s gross income.  This is the maintenance award (with a built-in cap that allows the payee spouse to receive in total no more than 40% of the parties’ combined gross incomes).   To determine the length of the award, a multiplier is used taking into account the length of the marriage.  For marriages 20 years and more, the length of the maintenance could be the length of the marriage or it could be permanent.

Despite the new guidelines, a Judge may deviate from the payment amount and/or duration of the payments if he or she finds that there are compelling reasons to do so and makes specific findings regarding that deviation. 

Another unique change to the maintenance statute is that for marriages of less than 10 years, the court may now designate the termination date as a “permanent termination,” rather than allow the payee spouse to ask for additional maintenance at the end of the term, which appears to be implied for marriages which are greater than 10 years in length.[i]

The new maintenance rules should make it easier for divorcing parties to calculate maintenance awards in advance, and with that anticipated certainty, it may be easier to settle more divorce cases with less litigation, saving clients time and money.   In Illinois, maintenance can be awarded on a temporary basis at the beginning of a family law matter as well as at the conclusion of the case and may be reviewable at a set date or upon a substantial change of circumstances among the parties involved.

As a family law practitioner, one of the biggest issues with divorce cases involving a potential maintenance award is being able to predict what the outcome may be for the client.  The new statute and guidelines do offer more objective criteria so that is appealing.   However, the rigidity in the duration of the award can be concerning as I do not believe it provides incentive for the payee spouse to seek and obtain employment and become self-sufficient, which in many cases are the main goals of a maintenance award.   If the spouse knows that he or she is getting a fixed amount regardless of whether he or she goes back to work, then I can see situations where there will instead be a disincentive to make those efforts at becoming self-supporting.  Only time will tell whether the positive aspects of these changes outweigh the negative ones.

To learn more about Law Office of Jennifer Guimond-Quigley and the family law services Jennifer provides, please visit the firm’s website, Facebook and LinkedIn sites. Jennifer frequently shares resources and tips for Chicago area families experiencing a variety of family-related concerns.

[i] 750 ILCS 5/504 (b-4.5) effective Jan 1, 2015.


When parents residing in Illinois disagree on one parenting moving out of state with the child(ren), the parent wishing to move must seek approval from an Illinois court.
When parents residing in Illinois disagree on one parenting moving out of state with the child(ren), the parent wishing to move must seek approval from an Illinois court.

Few people dispute that it is in the best interest of children to have both fit parents actively involved in their lives.  In an ideal world, that would involve co-parenting and parents sharing time and opportunities to be a consistent and supportive presence in their children’s lives.  Sometimes, however, situations arise for one of the parents that can lead to a change in the parenting arrangement.   A parent can be offered an opportunity to move out of state for employment or to accompany a new spouse for a new job or job reassignment.

When parents residing in Illinois disagree on one parenting moving out of state with the child(ren), the parent wishing to move must seek approval from an Illinois court.

In some cases, a mediator may help the parents find a solution that works for everyone.   However, the reality is that the parent remaining in Illinois will usually be left with much less parenting time or exercising parenting time will become much more costly and for these reasons, parents usually come to an impasse on the subject of removal.  If litigated, a judge will consider the totality of the situation, including but not limited to the age of children involved, their preference (if of sufficient age), the opportunities for the parent in the new state, the opportunities for the child(ren) in the new state, the effect on the current parenting schedule, the financial impact travel will have on the noncustodial parent, the presence of extended family in the new state, and any other factor that the Court determines is relevant to the best interest of the child.   The burden of proof that the move is in the best interest on the child(ren) is on the party wishing to move.

Illinois provides statutory guidelines for removal cases and case law has provided additional clarification in interpreting the statute.

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) states in pertinent part as follows:

“The court may grant leave, before or after judgment, to any party having custody of any minor child or children to remove such child or children from Illinois whenever such approval is in the best interests of such child or children. The burden of proving that such removal is in the best interests of such child or children is on the party seeking the removal. When such removal is permitted, the court may require the party removing such child or children from Illinois to give reasonable security guaranteeing the return of such children.” 750 ILCS 5/609(a)

The factors the court will consider in deciding permanent removal cases are as follows[i]:

  • The likelihood for enhancing the general quality of life for both the custodial parent and the children;
  • The motives of the custodial parent in seeking the move to determine whether the removal is merely a ruse intended to defeat or frustrate visitation;
  • The motives of the noncustodial parent in resisting the removal;
  • The best interests of a child to have a healthy and close relationship with both parents, as well as other family members; and
  • Whether a realistic and reasonable visitation schedule can be reached if the move is allowed.

For more information about temporary or permanent requests to modify a parenting agreement to allow for the removal of a child from Illinois, please contact Jennifer Guimond-Quigley.

To learn more, please visit the firm’s website, Facebook and LinkedIn sites.

[i] In re Marriage of Eckert, 518 NE 2d 1041, 119 Ill. 2d 316 (1988)

Illinois women are protected by a new law: The Pregnancy Accommodation Act

The Illinois Human Rights Act will cover pregnant women and those who recently gave birth.
The Illinois Human Rights Act will cover pregnant women and those who recently gave birth.

Many challenges face women who are pregnant or recently gave birth.  I know from firsthand experience that the stress and anticipation of a pregnancy and new baby are compelling.  The last thing an expecting or new mother needs is a workplace or state that fails to recognize and accommodate their unique needs.  Illinois became a state that requires employers to observe the needs and requests of mothers when Governor Quinn signed into law, the Pregnancy Accommodation Act, (HB0008) also known as “The Pregnancy Fairness Bill” this August 25, 2014.

The Illinois Human Rights Act covers pregnant women and those who recently gave birth.

The new law amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to include pregnancy as a protected class for purposes of safeguarding current and recently pregnant women from unlawful discrimination by employers. Under the new law, pregnancy is added to the list of protected class designations including race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, order of protection status, marital status, physical or mental disability, military status, sexual orientation and unfavorable discharge from military service.

The Pregnancy Fairness Bill established a process through which expecting or recently delivering mothers may request special accommodations. This is different from the federal law that prevents employers from treating pregnant employees differently, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978; “Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color , religion, sex, or national origin…amended  to include ‘because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions’.[i]

Women who make a request for accommodations have new protections under the new law.

The federal law, while protecting women from being hired, fired, or discriminated against, does not address any special accommodations for the health and wellness of a pregnant mother. The Pregnancy Accommodation Act, a state law, protects Illinois women who make a request for pregnancy accommodations in accordance with Illinois law. The new law protects women who are pregnant or recently gave birth as follows[ii]:

  1. Failing to make requested reasonable accommodations that pose no undue hardship to the employer;
  2. Denying employment to pregnant applicants;
  3. Taking adverse action based on the need to create reasonable accommodations;
  4. Forcing pregnant women to accept unrequested accommodations;
  5. Forcing leave if reasonable accommodations can be provided for; and
  6. Failing to reinstate the employee to an original or equivalent position, pay, seniority, and benefits.

Many childbearing aged women in Illinois and their families should benefit from the new law.

The number of women making up the Illinois workforce is significant. Many of the jobs requiring standing, lifting and movement generally (such as sales, food service and delivery) will hopefully now be safer for women who are expecting and raising newborn children.   Additionally, women who take leave to care for their newborns will hopefully worry less about their jobs being gone when they are ready to come back to work.   Lastly, women who choose to breastfeed should expect that reasonable accommodations will be made for them to pump or otherwise express breastmilk while at work.  These changes are not difficult and the vast majority of employers see the utility in making these accommodations and do so voluntarily.    Too often, however, I hear stories from mothers of the small percentage of them that don’t and now there will be some identifiable recourse for those individuals.

Jennifer Guimond-Quigley is an attorney and most importantly, a mom.  Jennifer is passionate about empowering the community by communicating about legislation that affects and benefits families.  To learn more, please visit the firm’s website, Facebook and LinkedIn sites.

[i] Pregnancy Discrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e)(K).

[ii] Illinois HB0008, Illinois Pregnancy Accommodation Act – proposed in 98th General Assembly

Discussion Points For Parents On The Topic Of Estate Planning For College Kids


This fall, as college kids prepare to head back to school, they should consider adding estate planning to the to-do list.   It is important to realize that one does not need to be a senior citizen or in bad health to properly prepare for life’s unexpected events.  Additionally, estate planning is not just for the wealthy – there are many benefits to a young adult having a plan in place even when they are just starting out.

There are very real risks that students can face when they are away from home.  Whether it is a spring break mishap or an accident in a campus parking lot, the unexpected can happen to college students while they are away.   Nothing is more fearful for a parent than the thought of their son or daughter being away at school and an accident renders them unconscious and unable to make their own medical decisions.  Parents or other trusted adults could be hundreds or thousands of miles away and unable to assist the child from afar without a properly executed healthcare power of attorney to fax in to the medical treater.

While it’s true that the child may appoint any adult who is at least 18 years of age as his or her agent, for many college students, the most appropriate person to appoint will be one of his parents.  For many college students, their parents know them better than anyone and are best able to advocate on the child’s behalf for what that child wants.  However, whether the agent chosen is a parent or another trusted adult, making sure these documents are in place assures the child that the person who has the clearest idea of what is in his or her best interest is the only person with authority over those decisions.

College-aged kids are busy and focused on school and the excitement of being away from home for the first time; understandably, they are not necessarily thinking of death and disability.  Parents should help their kids see the need for planning and remind them that once a child reaches the age of 18, a parent no longer has legal authority over that child’s financial or healthcare decisionmaking.  When having a conversation about estate planning with their children, parents do not need to be grim; instead, they should explain that being proactive is key to being a responsible adult.  The following is a list of estate planning considerations that can be your roadmap in helping a son or daughter think seriously about what could happen in the event of death or disability.

  1. Healthcare Power of Attorney and Mental Health Declaration.

An Ilinois Healthcare Power of Attorney allows the principal to appoint an agent to make health care decisions when that individual is unable to do so.   An Illinois Mental Health Declaration allows the principal to appoint an agent to make decisions related to mental health treatment.  A son or daughter may have specific wishes for healthcare and mental health treatment that could be surprising to the parent or other designated adult agent, so having the discussion and being prepared is important for the entire family.

  1. Property Power of Attorney.

The Illinois Property Power of Attorney works like its healthcare counterpart in granting an agent financial powers in the event of the principal’s disability.   The property power of attorney can also be effective without a disability if the child wishes the parent conduct business on his/her behalf for convenience.  For example, I had a small savings account at a bank in my hometown that I wanted to close after I had moved away from home.  Because I was so far away, I had my mom, as my agent, liquidate the account and close it and she was able to do so on my behalf through a Power of Attorney.

Being able to access the child’s school grades and records, pay bills from his or her checking account, collect his or her mail, pay his or her taxes, and the like are important if your child becomes incapacitated.  Depending on the length of disability, an apartment lease may need to be terminated early and the contents and furnishings will need to go somewhere, so again, it is important that the child designates a parent or another trusted adult in this role so that their matters are handled appropriately.

  1. Last Will and Testament.

A college-aged child should also think about their last wishes.  Their assets and property must be marshalled and distributed, creditors must be paid, and funeral and burial arrangements must be made. Approaching your son or daughter to ask them about getting a will written may be uncomfortable, but you might also be surprised by their willingness to discuss this difficult subject and to express their desires and wishes.

Take the time and discuss estate planning with your son or daughter before they head off to school later this August.  They may want to put it off, but there is peace of mind in knowing that a simple preventative estate planning measure can and will make life much easier in matter of illness and death.

Attorney Jennifer Guimond-Quigley is experienced with the Illinois law and practice of drafting, and when necessary, litigating to enforce or challenge estate plans.   To learn more, please visit the firm’s website, Facebook and LinkedIn sites. Jennifer frequently shares resources and tips for Chicago area families who work hard to preserve that which they have worked a lifetime to achieve.

Penny-wise and pound-foolish: The dangers of do-it-yourself estate planning

Now that many legal sources are available online or in “kits” at your local office supply store, people try to do their own legal work, often to their detriment.
Now that many legal sources are available online or in “kits” at your local office supply store, people try to do their own legal work, often to their detriment.

There is a popular book by Andrew Keen, titled “Cult of the Amateur,” that talks about the recent increase in do-it-yourself activity by consumers who are trying to save money. From bloggers who think they are journalists to DIY lawyers (non-lawyers doing their own legal work), people may fall short and miss the mark when they act without experience and wisdom.

Now that many legal sources are available online or in “kits” at your local office supply store, people try to do their own legal work, often to their detriment.

Some legal procedures are very easy and straightforward, while others are more complex. The problem many people face, unknowingly, is the possibility of “unknown unknowns,” meaning they are not aware of the unknown conditions or events that could seriously affect the plan they have laid out. Experienced attorneys, however, are trained and skilled in knowing a general list of contingent events and outcomes and that experience value is significant.

Do-it-yourself estate planning can go wrong and significantly harm families.

Courts will invalidate improperly executed estate planning documents, leaving named beneficiaries in the dust. If a court invalidates a will, the heirs at law of the decedent will become the beneficiaries of the estate instead of the named beneficiaries, and those two lists of individuals may be vastly different and not at all what the testator had in mind.

The Florida Supreme Court highlights an example of a bad outcome for a DIY estate planner[i]. Ms. Ann Aldrich (“Ann”), prepared her own will using an “E-Z Legal Form.” Ann filled out the blanks on the standard form, with the intention that certain property and assets go to her sister, Mary Jane.  She further provided that in the event of Mary Jane’s death, she wished that the property would instead pass to her brother, James Aldrich.   Ann then created a hand-written amendment years later after Mary Jane’s death that reiterated Ann wanted her entire estate to pass to James.   Upon Ann’s passing, the amendment was found to be invalid due to improper execution.

The court will not assume what the testator meant to do when writing their own will.

Ann’s will was very specific regarding the assets she gave to Mary Jane, and then to James. What Ann’s will did not address or include, however, was a “residuary clause” to deal with any later-acquired assets.  As a result, James only received those specifically named assets in Ann’s will and the rest of her estate, which was not mentioned specifically or through a residuary clause, passed to her heirs at law.  This does not appear what Ann wanted given that she specifically provided for only two named individuals when she originally drafted her Will and given her amendment, which unequivocally contained her intentions.

Had Ann spent the time and money to hire an experienced estate-planning lawyer, her will could have easily included the proper legal language to include any assets and property received from other sources after the date the will was drafted, and her intended beneficiaries would have received those funds. This is an excellent example of what can happen with the DIY estate planner relies on a form out of a box, a form that does not give legal advice, a form that doesn’t ask Ann about all the potential outcomes.

Justice Pariente thought it necessary to include the following language in the opinion that was issued in the case arising out of Ann Aldrich’s estate:

I therefore take this opportunity to highlight a cautionary tale of the potential dangers of utilizing pre-printed forms and drafting a will without legal assistance.  As this case illustrates, that decision can ultimately result in the frustration of the testator’s intent, in addition to the payment of extensive attorney’s fees – the precise results the testator sought to avoid in the first place.”

Take the proper steps to protect yourself and your family and employ an experienced attorney when you care about the disposition of your assets and property when you pass.

In estate planning, the testator who writes their own will is no longer available to clarify their intentions. All the courts can do is rely on the law and what is written when DIY estate planning forms are used. To ensure your will follows the law and is properly written, it is highly recommended you employ the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.

Attorney Jennifer Guimond-Quigley is experienced with drafting Illinois-based Wills and Trusts, and (when necessary) litigating to enforce or challenge estate planning documents. To learn more, please visit the firm’s website, Facebook and LinkedIn sites. Jennifer frequently shares resources and tips for Chicago area families who work hard to preserve that which they have worked a lifetime to achieve and ensure their wishes are carried through effectively.

[i] Supreme Court of Florida, Aldrich v. Basile, No. SC11-2147, Mar. 27, 2014.