Make a Legal Plan

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Making a plan in business and in life provides clarity and direction. In this edition of Legally Speaking, Attorney James Bernicky tells us why making a plan is so important as he takes us through some of the questions he gets from people about estate planning and business.

Common Questions about Estate Planning 

Q: “If I’m unmarried but have been with my partner for a long time and neither of us has a will, what rights do I have to my partner’s belongings if they die?” 

A: We’ve had many people contact us with this question before. They have lived with their partner for 10, 20, even 40 years. They have a joint bank account, but the property is in the now-deceased partner’s name. The partner dies, and their estranged child, sibling, etc. comes out of the woodwork and comes to claim the house, the bank accounts, etc. 

These individuals come to a law firm for help, however there’s nothing that can be done legally; they would only have rights to property that was jointly held or left to them specifically in writing through estate planning – ie, a will or trust. It’s a very hard conversation to have with them and something that could be rectified by spending a few hours talking to an estate planning attorney. 

Q: “If I don’t have an estate plan or will, what will happen to my kids and my belongings?”

A: Without an estate plan, the laws or statutes of your state would control your estate and the guardian of your children. 

A proper estate plan is the ONLY method to make sure that YOUR individual wishes are achieved; including the guardian of your children, when your children would receive an inheritance, how your estate is divided, who should NOT get part of the estate, as well as any health directives, and burial wishes. 

Most partners think the kids, house, and inheritance will go to their partner or spouse, but there are provisions for what happens if something unfortunate and unexpected happened to you both at the same time.  

Common Questions about Business Plans

Q: “If I have a verbal agreement with my business partner, is that okay, or do I need a contract? 

A: A verbal agreement and trust between partners is wonderful until there is a dispute about what the agreement said. Then we run into a war of what one person says versus what another says. We’ve seen good friends torn apart by business misunderstandings. 

The important thing to remember as this is not necessarily anyone’s “fault.”  Without putting things in writing, owner one could believe one thing and owner two could believe another. There is no-ill intent, just a failure to put all parties on the same page.

Working with an attorney to develop a contract will clearly lay out the expectations and details of the deal. That way all parties will be able to reference that document throughout the course of their business relationship.

Q: “Do I need an attorney to start my business?”

A: Yes. A definite yes. We highly recommend talking to an attorney about your goals and how to best achieve them — it is so important to build a successful business.  

An attorney can assist you in forming the proper type of company, making sure that all partners, employees, and/or investors are on the same page to help avoid disputes. An attorney can also work with you on lease agreements, purchase agreements, employment agreements, vendor agreements, and filing or defending lawsuits on behalf of the company (as companies in Illinois cannot represent themselves in a court of law).

630 Naperville Guests

James Bernicky opened Bernicky Law Firm in Naperville, IL in 2010. In addition to overseeing the firm, James focuses on the practice areas of residential and commercial real estate, bankruptcy, business law and contracts, entertainment law, wills and trusts, and intellectual property including copyrights and trademarks.

James is admitted to practice law in the state of Illinois and the Northern District of Illinois and is a proud member of the DuPage County Bar Association, the Illinois Bar Association, the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Naperville Chamber Young Professional’s Network. He earned his Juris Doctorate at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago with a certificate in Intellectual Property.

About Bernicky Law Firm

Located in Naperville, the attorneys and staff of Bernicky Law Firm are dedicated to providing excellent legal services for people and businesses in the greater Chicago area and across Illinois. The firm handles legal matters in residential and commercial real estate, family law, bankruptcy, litigation, business law, copyrights and trademarks, entertainment law, traffic, and estate planning. named Bernicky Law Firm the Top Real Estate and Bankruptcy Lawyers in Naperville for the 5th year in a row in 2022, and the firm is a 5 Star lawyer from For more information visit their website.