How to Prevent a Family Feud

Did you catch Hatfields & McCoys on the History Channel recently? I really enjoyed this great mini-series starring Kevin Costner. (Seeing him shooting and riding a horse again made me think of the movie “Dance With Wolves.”) I liked it so much that I bought a book about it on my Nook. The book is titled, “Blood Feud” by Lisa Alther — good summer reading!

Estate Feuds

After a funeral, some families end up with their own version of a feud over an estate. Sadly, most feuds could be prevented with good planning ahead of time. Here are a few examples of things that can cause problems:

  1. SPECIAL BELONGINGS  Maybe grandma’s old pie plate or the antique rocker? Items with high emotional value can sometimes lead to more fighting than money itself.
  2. PROCRASTINATORS  Sometimes the trustee or executor just can’t seem to get around to taking care of the important legal and financial details. As time goes on, they feel nagged by others but others feel wronged that the estate is being held up by someone else’s laziness.
  3. A BULLY’S POWER TRIP  When someone who enjoys power is named executor, watch out! They may disagree with what the will says or think the estate’s bank account is their personal slush fund. And they’re good at rationalizing all of it. Just ask them, they’ll tell you why it’s okay!
  4. THE ENTITLED  Sometimes a family member feels entitled to live in mom’s house or use her old car or farm the land without paying rent. Of course, they think there are good reasons for it. But, unfortunately, it’s just like stealing from the other family members who are entitled to their share as well.
  5. STEP-KIDS BATTLE  Good relationships based on years of love and trust can go up in smoke with poor planning. I’ve seen situations where the stepmom even refused to give the kids their photo albums!

With the Hatfields and McCoys the body count was high. If your estate ends up in a feud, the casualties may be family harmony, extreme stress and frustration, extra expense or legal fees — even loss of assets altogether (like family land). Call 217-726-9200 to schedule an Initial Meeting today.

Dave’s Vacation Photos

Every year we go on a trip with my parents and brother’s family. We usually make great memories, and this year was no exception with a great trip to Glacier National Park in Montana.

Here are a few pics!

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park










Halfway up going to the Sun Road












Riding up the Whitefish Mountain ski lift












Cousins eating ice cream at Sweet Peaks, Whitefish, Montana










Cole loves silly glasses




















Monkey in the middle?




Who do you call for advice on aging?

When your family hits a situation where mom, dad, grandma or grandpa can’t stay at home anymore, where do you get your advice? What if a loved one is struggling with health issues that you don’t really understand?

Many people turn to friends, neighbors or relatives who’ve dealt with it once before. Support from friends is always needed in difficult situations like this, but you may also greatly benefit from professional advice and guidance from those who understand the ins and outs of what you’re dealing with.

Edwards Group deals with the issues of aging every day, and we help guide people through the difficult process. There are many issues to consider – what type of care, which facility, how to pay for it, which legal documents you need, asset transfers, how to protect the healthy spouse still at home, and dealing with complicated benefit applications. Our elder care advisors are equipped and experienced in helping families through just about any issue they face.

There are two types of benefits in particular that can be helpful in paying for care that may be needed as a loved one ages:



Wartime veterans or their widows may qualify for benefits from the VA to help pay for care as they age. This benefit may be available to pay for in-home care, assisted living, or a nursing home.

In order to qualify for the maximum benefit, legal planning may be needed. We work with families regularly to help prepare them to qualify for the maximum benefit. A married veteran may qualify for over $2,000 per month in benefits. A widow of a veteran may qualify for over $1,100 per month in benefits.

The VA process can be complicated. Let us help your family understand the potential benefits and what planning may be needed before your application is filed.


When a loved one needs nursing home care, that is one of the most stressful things a family faces. We help families every day deal with this difficult issue.

One of the biggest concerns is often “how do we pay for it?” Nursing homes are expensive, often $5,000 per month or more. For many families, that cost will eat up their savings within a short time. Medicaid benefits are one option that can be used to pay for care and protect some of your wealth. (70% of nursing home residents in the U. S. rely on Medicaid to pay their bill each month.)

If your family is faced with nursing home care and are paying out of pocket, we may be able to help. We have many legal planning tools available to maximize benefits and protect the family’s wealth, while still getting good care for the loved one. Some families are surprised that we may be able to get a loved one to qualify for Medicaid benefits sooner than expected while protecting assets in the process. (While you can apply for Medicaid benefits on your own, we don’t recommend it. Here’s why.)



  1. We want to get families all the benefits they are entitled to. More benefits leads to more resources, and that means better care for your parent or loved one.
  2. Most parents want to leave something to their kids and grandkids. Our planning helps make sure that those who matter most to you will be taken care of when you’re gone.
  3. No parent ever dreams of using up all their savings on a nursing home stay, but it happens fast. We have legal tools and resources to help preserve assets and find other ways to fund long-term care.
  4. Parents never want to be a burden to their children. Good planning relieves your children of the stress that comes from scrambling to figure out how to pay for care you might need and the huge amount of paperwork that comes with that crisis.
  5. Planning like this isn’t greedy. It’s wise — kind of like minimizing income taxes every year through the use of an accountant. You’ve worked hard all your life. Why not protect as much as the law allows?

Chances for good planning disappear with time. The sooner you contact us, the more we can do to help. As elder law attorneys, our main goals are to:

  • Help carry out the wishes of the client.
  • Help clients access all available resources.

If you have a loved one facing changes in their living arrangements, please contact us to discuss your options. Our staff is specially trained in Medicaid and VA Benefits, both of which are important when it comes to long-term care planning.

Lost and Found: Not What You Want in an Estate Plan

Lost: 1 Guitar

It was the  park police calling, “Someone found your guitar at Washington Park.”

A few Sundays ago Michelle and I took the kids to the park. While we were there I played the guitar and we sang together. When we were done, I carried my guitar and books to the car. But I had to drop them suddenly when Cole took off in the opposite direction towards the road. I ran after Cole, caught up with him and strapped him in the carseat. Then we all took off — leaving the guitar behind! What things have you forgotten in the midst of the chaos of life?

Lost: 1 Certificate of Deposit

It’s just very easy to forget things sometimes. One planning tool that sounds simple and straightforward is “Payable on Death” (or POD). This is where you can leave your bank accounts to someone at your death. By filling out a form now, the bank will cut a check later to the person you named. Easy, right? But, it’s also risky.

Suppose Grandma has 4 grandkids. She has 4 CD’s at the bank and decides to leave one for each grandchild using a POD. Well, as time passes, she develops dementia and another grandkid is born. In her last months, one of the CD’s is cashed in and used for medical expenses. When she dies she has 3 CD’s left but 5 grandchildren.

Someone is then faced with the difficult task of telling the left out grandchildren, “Sorry, your grandmother didn’t leave anything for you in her plan. If she had a CD for you previously, it must have been spent.” Unlike with my guitar, the grandkids’ CD could not be recovered.

To make matters worse, multiple POD’s can easily get out of whack later. Are there better options than using a POD? One alternative is a Living Trust. Grandma could have stated in her Living Trust (had she had one) that “each grandchild shall receive $10,000” and then the CD’s could be placed in a trust. Regardless of what happened to any specific CD, none of the grandkids would have been left out.

Our FREE New Client Orientation Workshop is a great first step toward making sure you have a plan that works for your loved ones. At this 1-hour workshop you’ll learn about how we work, whether Edwards Group is right for you and the key steps in our unique process. We’ll even talk about how fees are calculated. Call us at 217-726-9200 to RSVP or get more information. There is no cost or obligation for attending!

Click here for our upcoming workshop dates.


The Unique Planning Needs of Women

Women today have many unique situations that require special treatment when it comes to estate planning. Well, maybe not special treatment, but women need to take extra care that they are protected through good planning. Here are some examples:

Young mom stays home with the kids

Maybe she gave up a wonderful career to be a full-time mom; maybe she’s even a homeschooling mom. If something happens to her husband without good planning, she may be forced to go back to work and send the kids to full-time school/preschool. A will, a trust and plenty of life insurance will provide the protection she needs.

Newlywed helps put husband through medical school

She put her own education on hold to work full-time knowing that once he’s got the MD she can go back to school and do whatever she wants. But if her husband dies without a plan, she may be left without a breadwinner and without the education she planned to get. Add a baby to the mix, and you really have a stressful situation. The husband’s student loans die with him, but so does the income they had counted on for the future.

Homemaker left out in the cold

She never worked outside the home, but she took care of (pampered, really) her husband, 3 children and now 7 grandkids. If her husband dies without a plan, she may be left with a mortgage, a car loan, horrible job prospects and a tiny social security or monthly pension. Even if they did have plenty of money, she is left with the stress of trying to sort out all the financial details, which, for their 45 years of marriage, he had always taken care of with their accountant, financial advisor, etc. Now it’s dropped in her lap, and she doesn’t know the first place to start. It’s overwhelming.

Single, career woman

In her mid-50’s, she’s doing well for herself — saving for retirement and enjoying life. Suddenly she has a stroke. Without a plan, she has nothing in place to govern who will manage her money or care for her if she becomes disabled. The hospital social worker tries to contact her nephew in Texas, but she’s not seen him for 10 years, and he knows nothing of her situation or goals. She has friends who might be willing to help, but she’s never discussed it with them. And she never took legal steps to give them the power to help. Now a difficult situation goes from bad to worse.

2nd marriage

After getting divorced, she was single for 20 years while she raised 3 kids on her own. Now, at age 70, she’s met someone and married him. She sold her house and her furniture to move into his house. After a few very happy years, she’s shocked to find him dead of a heart attack. She’s even more shocked when his kids demand that she move out of the house and threaten legal action is she doesn’t. Now she is left with finding a new place to live, buying new furniture and trying to restart her life. He had promised to take care of her, but he never took the legal steps necessary to do that.

These stories are based on the real life stories of clients we help every day! And we would much rather help people on the front end of planning and avoid all the heartache that happens if planning isn’t done properly ahead of time. If you’re a woman concerned about your future, please call us at 217-726-9200 today or plan to attend an upcoming workshop. We’re here to help, and planning is ALL we do!

Baseball, family legacies and estate planning

Cutest little Cards fan ever!

Baseball — it’s a family legacy. I just finished Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Wait Till Next Year, and while it might seem like a good title for Cubs’ fans, in this memoir Goodwin recounts growing up in Brooklyn during the 50’s and rooting for the Dodgers. For me, my baseball legacy is as a Cardinal fan, coming down from my grandfathers on both sides of the family. Much like Goodwin, my father taught me how to keep score when I was a kid, and I still like to keep score when I go to a game. Now, I have the pleasure of passing this legacy down to my kids. Bailey will already tell you she’s a Cardinal fan! And even though Cole can’t talk, he does have a Cardinal hat and t-shirt.

Estate Planning and Baseball

Here are a couple of interesting things I recently saw about baseball and estate planning:

Estate Fight Over Autographed Baseballs: One brother takes autographed baseballs from his parents’ house after his dad’s death. The other brother calls the cops and has him arrested. Read the full article HERE.

Catch a Ball, Get a Tax Bill: Did you hear about the guy who caught Derek Jeter’s home run ball for his 3000th hit? He gave the ball back, got lots of free stuff and now may face a tax! Why is that? Well, prizes generally considered income. Just like the Oprah audience who won a free car then got a tax bill for them. Good news on the Jeter baseball though, Miller Beer has offered to pay the fan’s tax bill!

What sports or family traditions are you passing on to your kids and grandkids? And what planning have you done for your autographed baseballs and the rest of your wealth?

$14 Million Gone In Just 12 Years! What will your kids do with their inheritance?

Check out this stunning article about blown inheritances:

Family’s Fall from Affluence is Swift and Hard

You might expect a story about blown inheritances to exclusively belong to the twenty-something crowd, but in a recent article from The New York Times we see that it can happen to anyone, no matter their age. Quick money can disappear just as quickly as it appears!

Are your loved ones ready to inherit from you? What would they do with the money? Would they have any left after just a few years? What if there was a way to help them handle your hard-earned money after you’re gone?

An effective estate plan does more than just transfer the money. A good estate plan also sets your family up for success and helps them be prepared for whatever may come their way.

Take a quiz here on our website to see if your family is ready. And even if you think they’re ready, you may want to reconsider after reading this article again!

Your Bucket List for Estate Planning: Why a Trust Might Be Right for You

A recent movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson inspired a lot of people to think about their bucket list – the things they would like to do before they die. While a trip around the world in a sailboat may seem a lot more exciting and glamorous than estate planning, thinking about what you want at the end of your life financially, and for those you love, can be even more important than achieving your bucket list. Join me as we explore a different kind of bucket list – one that will insure your loved ones, and the things that you’ve worked so hard for, are protected.

What is a trust?
When most people hear the word “trust,” they probably think of families like the Vanderbilts or Hiltons, but trusts are not just for the ultra wealthy. Established during the Crusades in the 12th and 13th centuries to protect the rights of landowners while away on their journey to the Middle East, trusts are still relevant and vitally important to the work I do everyday in helping my clients achieve their goals. You needn’t be a Rockefeller or a wealthy Englishman to benefit from the level of protection that trusts can offer in our modern life.

Why are trusts important?
I want you to think of a trust as a bucket. And what are buckets good for? They are helpful to put stuff in. When you create a trust, you are in essence creating a legal “bucket.” By placing assets like houses, vehicles, timeshares and farmland into that trust “bucket,” you are insuring that those assets will be managed according to your wishes, which will be written in the trust agreement by you and your legal advisor. Unlike a will, trusts can help protect and manage assets while you are still alive, but disabled in some regard.

How are trusts used?
So, how do you put stuff into the trust bucket? By directing assets into it, such as retitling bank or investment accounts, doing a deed to your house or farm, or changing beneficiary designations on life insurance. For everything that is in the trust bucket, you leave a set of instructions written in the trust agreement. You also name someone to carry out those instructions. That person (or bank or trust company) is called the trustee. The person you choose as trustee to manage your trust “bucket” has a fiduciary duty, which is one of the highest duties in the law, to carry out your wishes and do what is best for you – not what is best for them. They have to act in your best interest. If they don’t act properly, they can be taken to court.

The most important thing for your plan is to think about what you want to accomplish. What are your goals – for yourself and your family? Once we choose the goals (and I help clients do this nearly everyday), then we can see what tools will best accomplish those goals. A trust can often be the best tool to carry out goals such as:

  • Avoiding the delay and expense of probate court.
  • Transferring assets privately after death. (As opposed to a will, which is a public document.)
  • Protecting assets from a divorce or lawsuit.
  • Giving clear instructions for managing your money during your disability.
  • Organizing assets so someone else can help manage them.
  • Protecting assets from being used for nursing home costs.
  • Leaving money to someone who is too young or too unwise to handle it by himself or herself.
  • Avoiding estate taxes.
  • Preventing family fights regarding a family farm or business.
  • Balancing the wife and kids in a second marriage.

A trust is just one of the legal tools we at the Edwards Group use to carry out your goals and dreams. Our other tools include wills, powers of attorney, living wills, contracts, and deeds. A trust is one of the best tools we have to carry out your wishes and plan for a time when you might become incapacitated or pass away suddenly.

Remember, a trust is nothing more than a tool. It’s not a magic document. All it can do is carry out the instructions written in it. And the only assets it governs are those you actually put in the “bucket.” Call us today at 217-726-9200 to schedule an appointment and get started on your bucket list!

Halloween at Edwards Group

In working with our clients, we get to know their families, and we love sharing our families as well. Here are a few of the pics from this year’s Halloween with the Edwards Group children:

Bailey Edwards and an unnamed pumpkin friend.

Asset Coordinator, Laura Peffley's newest grandchild Josie, with her parents, Karie and Tim.

Joshua's youngest son, SuperMax!

That's no skeleton! That's Cole Otis Edwards, the latest addition to Dave's family.

Stefanie Siwak's girls, Lily and Kelsey.