Illinois Law Now: ISBA provides business start-up advice and answers other legal questions

The Madison County Record Dec. 26, 2011, 6:34am

Question: I'm planning on starting a business in 2012. What factors should I consider when setting up the legal structure?

Answer: Before making a decision, you should carefully weigh the numerous considerations concerning liability and tax issues. There are several corporate structures available, and a lawyer could best help you determine which one is best for you. A lawyer can also help with the legal requirements of setting up the business.

Question: What are the grounds for receiving sole custody of a child?

Answer: Regardless of whether a parent has been granted sole or joint custody, his or her rights may be terminated by the court for reasons that include abandonment; failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility for the children; desertion of the children for more than three months; repeated neglect or cruelty to the children; and failure to protect the children from harmful conditions.

If the court "terminates" parental rights, the parent will be stripped of all privileges and responsibilities of a legal parent, including visitation rights.

Question: I've seen newspaper ads that say certain people or offices can help avoid the expense of a lawyer. What exactly are these people or offices allowed to do?

Answer: In Illinois, only a licensed lawyer can give legal advice. If a service or person offers to do something as simple as help you complete a legal form, it may be considered the unauthorized practice of law. Some stores and websites sell legal forms for use by the public. If you purchase this type of form or forms, and you fill them out to the best of your abilities, you are representing yourself, which is legal. If another person tells you what form to use, or attempts to guide you in your responses to requests for information on the forms, they are practicing law, illegally.

Question: What laws exist to maintain the confidentiality of my personal health information?

Answer: Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as well as existing Illinois laws, you have certain legal rights regarding the privacy of your confidential health information. Every time you are admitted to a hospital, visit a doctor's office, fill a prescription at the pharmacy, or send a health care claim to your insurance company, a record is made.

Providers of health care services, including hospitals, physicians and dentists, as well as insurance plans that pay for services on your behalf, including Medicare and Medicaid, have a strict obligation to maintain the confidentiality of your health information, and they can only release the information with your written authorization.

Question: My laptop was stolen, and I filed a claim with my insurance provider. Can the insurer raise my homeowner's insurance rates?

Answer: Yes. There are no laws prohibiting an insurance company from raising your rates. When you ask your insurance company to cover any damage to your home or property, you file a "claim."

One claim may not increase your rates, but more than one claim made within a few years of the first claim, normally leads to a rate increase. Insurance companies even cancel coverage for people who file too many claims.

Question: With all the holiday parties and celebrating, what advice do you have for DUI prevention?

Answer: Very simple. The easiest way to avoid a charge of "Driving Under the Influence" or a DUI is to not drive if you've been drinking. If you plan on drinking, decide in advance which of your friends will be the "designated driver." If everyone has been drinking, take taxis home. Be aware that penalties for the conviction of DUI have gotten harsher. You can be sentenced to jail, face a steep fine, and lose your driver's license. A conviction can also make it harder to find a new job.

For more information about Illinois law, visit If you have a legal question, send it to

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