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MARCH 2014

The Attorneys at Dutton & Casey

Helen Mesoloras, Janna Dutton,

Kathryn Casey, Hanny Pei-Rodriguez


Appointments Are Available In:

Arlington Heights, Chicago, Skokie, and Westchester


People are living longer than they did in years past, including those with disabilities. According to one study, 730,000 people with developmental disabilities are living with family members who are 60 or older. This figure does not include adult children with other forms of disability nor those who live separately, but still depend on their families for vital support.


When these family members can no longer care for their loved ones due to their own disability or death, the responsibility can  fall on siblings, other family members, and the community. In many cases, expenses increase dramatically when care and guidance provided by parents must instead be provided by a professional for a fee.


Planning by parents can make all the difference in the life of their loved one, as well as that of his or her siblings who may be left with the responsibility for caretaking (on top of their own careers and caring for their own families and, possibly, ailing parents). Almost any plan should include the following components:

  • A plan of care that carefully establishes where the person with special needs will live, who will be responsible for assisting the person with special needs with decision making, and who will monitor the care of the person with special needs. 
  • At least one type of special needs trust. In almost all cases where a parent leaves funds at death to a disabled child, this should be done in the form of a trust. 
  • Life insurance. A parent with a child with special needs may want to consider buying life insurance to fund the supplemental needs trust set up for the child's support.  The more resources available, the better the support that can be provided the person who has a disability.

As with almost any type of planning, people's life situations are all different and numerous variances occur. The attorneys at Dutton & Casey concentrate in estate planning, probate, and elder law, which incudes planning for people who have special needs. For more information, please review our website or contact us directly.


Erin Vogt

To further assist our clients, we offer Care Navigation and Advocacy...a service that is designed to help with decision making and establish and maintain quality care.


Erin Vogt, a licensed clinical social worker and certified care manager, supports both our clients and attorneys by providing comprehensive assessments, family caregiver advocacy and education, and the resource information needed for the client and family to understand and make decisions.


Erin meets with clients and their loved ones,  where they are, whether that is at their personal home, assisted/supportive living, long-term care facility, home of a loved one, or the hospital.


learn more


Third-Party Notification Program via the Cook Country Treasurer's Office

Any homeowner in Cook County may designate another person or organization to be contacted by the Treasurer's Office  if the applicant's taxes become delinquent. This program was developed to provide peace of mind to property owners who may not be able to receive or understand the severity of a tax-delinquency notice.


This "third party" then can follow up with the homeowner, family, or other trusted friends to make sure that the homeowner or others are aware of the delinquency and make arrangements to satisfy the taxes before the tax sale.


more information




Senior Tax Opportunity Program (STOP)

The Senior Tax Opportunity Program ("STOP"), offered by the Center for Disability and Elder Law,  began in 2007 and has   expanded to include outreach presentations to explain to community members the real estate process and the various exemptions that may be available along, with workshops during which eligible older adults and people who have a disability can meet with a volunteer attorney who will review the tax statement, examine the exemptions that may be available, and assist in preparing the appropriate exemption requests. 


In addition, the attorneys can assist in drafting Certificate of Errors which when approved can entitle the taxpayer to retroactive tax reductions and can also remove the property from the tax sale list while the owner works on paying the back taxes and submitting additional paperwork. 


For additional information, email Attorney Mark Hellner, or call 312-376-1880. 

benefits check up
This free, confidential website screens individuals for thousands of public and private benefits that can help them pay for food, medicine, housing, utilities, and more.


The knowledge that we will eventually die is one of the things  that seems to distinguish humans from other living beings.


At the same time, no one likes to dwell on the prospect of his or her own death. But, if you postpone planning for your demise until it is too late, you run the risk that your intended beneficiaries -- those you love the most -- may not receive what you would want them to receive, whether due to extra administration costs, unnecessary taxes or squabbling among your heirs.


This is why estate planning is so important, no matter how small your estate may be. It allows you, while you are still living, to ensure that your property will go to the people you want, in the way you want, and when you want. It permits you to save as much as possible on taxes, court costs and attorneys' fees; and it affords the comfort that your loved ones can mourn your loss without being simultaneously burdened with unnecessary red tape and financial confusion.


All estate plans should include, at minimum, two important estate planning instruments: durable powers of attorney and a will. The first is for managing your healthcare and finances  during your life, in case you are ever unable to do so yourself. The second is for the management and distribution of your property after death. In addition, more and more, Americans also are using revocable (or "living") trusts to avoid probate and to manage their estates both during their lives and after they're gone.


learn more how the attorneys at Dutton & Casey can assist you, or someone who you care about, plan for today... and tomorrow.


SS symbol

Do you have a friend or loved one who receives Social Security and is unable to manage her payments? If so, you can request that the Social Security Administration (SSA), the government agency that disburses Social Security, name you as the representative payee for that person.


Being a representative payee gives you the power and the responsibility to manage that money for your friend or loved one. (The Office of Personnel Management and the Railroad Retirement Agency also appoint representative payees and the responsibilities are basically the same.)


As a representative payee, you only have the power to handle the Social Security benefit for your friend or loved one (the beneficiary) and not any other money or property for that person unless some other document, such as a power of attorney, government agency, or court, appoints you to do so.


It is important to remember that the check from the SSA is not yours; it belongs to the beneficiary. The beneficiary is supposed to get the benefit of the money. Your role includes performing four very important duties:


1) You must act only in the beneficiary's best interest, which means the beneficiary's money belongs only to them. You cannot pay yourself for managing their money and you cannot borrow it or lend it to anyone else; those would be conflicts of interest, which you must avoid. You should also do your best to make sure the beneficiary does not get scammed or mistreated.


2) You must manage the beneficiary's Social Security check carefully, which means you should make sure the beneficiary's daily needs and any other foreseeable needs are met, bills are paid on time, and all taxes are paid.


3) You must keep the money from the Social Security check separate from your own money, which means you cannot keep the money in any kind of joint account or sign any contracts or leases for the beneficiary. If you have to open an account or sign anything for the beneficiary, sign "(beneficiary's name) by (your name), representative payee" so everyone knows you are acting on the beneficiary's behalf.


4) You must keep good records of everything you do with the beneficiary's money, which means keeping track of all money you spend for the beneficiary, keeping all receipts, making annual reports to the SSA, and generally keeping the SSA informed about both the beneficiary and yourself.


Remember, there may be other people appointed to help the same beneficiary with other things. They have the same general four duties as you, and all of you must work together if that is in the beneficiary's best interest. If you are not a family member and the beneficiary has family, you must keep family members informed about what you are doing for the beneficiary. This will reduce the chance that they will have problems with your actions. In the end, however, the decisions about the Social Security check are yours to make because you are responsible. You are the one who will get in trouble if something goes wrong. For example, if someone thinks you violated one of your four important duties, they can report you to the SSA. The SSA will investigate, and if it decides that you misused the beneficiary's money, it will make you replace what was lost out of your own pocket.


more information on the representative payee role


upcoming events

We have numerous programs, for community  members and professionals, planned for 2014.


learn more 



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Serving Cook, DuPage, and Lake Counties in Illinois.
Office Hours in Arlington Heights, Chicago,
Skokie, and Westchester, Illinois.