Estate Planning Brings Peace of Mind
Estate planning is not just for the wealthy or only for those close to retirement. It is for every adult. Estate plans can be simple or complex, and everything in between.
Estate planning involves considering your assets and what you want to happen to them after you die. It is about your loved ones, the ones who depend on you, and providing for them after you die by not only passing on your assets to them when they are ready, but by making the job of taking care of your final estate as smooth as possible for them. Estate planning includes planning for the possibility that you may become ill or disabled and want or need help attending to your legal and financial obligations like filing your taxes and communicating with insurance companies and banks. Or maybe there will come a time when you are unable to make your own decisions. Who do you want to make them for you? What about medical treatment decisions; possibly even end of life decisions? These are difficult situations to consider, but most people feel better about the future after going through the planning process. Once everything is complete they have the comfort of knowing a plan is in place. We will help you think about your goals, devise a plan and implement it.
If you don’t have an estate plan in place, the State of Michigan’s plan will be put in place for you. The Probate Court will implement it and will make any decisions that you haven’t made already—such as who will take care of your minor children if you have died without a will, or who will make decisions for you if you haven’t made plans through a Durable Power of Attorney and/or Patient Advocate Designation. Having to go through the Probate Court is time consuming, involves fees and is a public process.
We will walk you through a comprehensive estate planning process so that the plan you choose fits your situation.
Every person should have a will. It is your way to:
- State what you want to happen to your assets after you die. Everything you own that isn’t in a trust or doesn’t already have a beneficiary designation – e.g. life insurance and retirement accounts which allow you to make beneficiary designations –will be distributed through your Will.
- State who you want to care for your minor children after you die. If you have minor children you can name who you want them to live with and be cared for by – a guardian – and who you want to watch over the money you leave for their care – a conservator. These can be the same person or different people.
- State who you want to be in charge of handling your final affairs after you die. Your Personal Representative pays your last bills, gathers your assets and distributes them as your will directs. Your Personal Representative is responsible to the Probate Court if necessary. You can allow the Personal Representative to hire an attorney to help and/or to be paid a reasonable rate for their time.
You can always change your will as long as you have the mental capacity to do so. It does not have any legal effect until you die.
A trust is a legal arrangement or instrument that allows property to be passed to heirs without the need for court involvement. Do you need a trust? There are many different kinds of trusts. Often people consider setting up a revocable grantor trust as part of their estate plan. This is a trust that you set up and “fund” – put assets into – while you are alive. The same person who creates the trust is also the person who controls the trust (trustee) and the person (or at least one of the people) who benefits from the trust. You retain control over your assets while you are alive. You retain the right to change or revoke the trust (it is a “revocable trust”) while you are alive. When you die the trust becomes “irrevocable”. People choose a revocable grantor trust because:
- You can name one or more successor trustees to take over managing the trust if during your lifetime you became unable to manage it due to disability, illness or incapacity and, of course, for after you die.
- You can state who the assets in your trust will be distributed to (the beneficiaries) and when. Some people do not want assets distributed immediately when they die, especially to beneficiaries who are still young, beneficiaries who have financial management issues, or beneficiaries who have special needs and want to preserve their eligibility for government benefit programs. Learn more.
- Assets that are in your trust when you die will be distributed by the successor trustee according to the terms of the trust and do not have to go through Probate Court proceedings. This allows for greater privacy. The trust document does not have to be filed in probate court after you die, as a will usually does, and therefore is not automatically made a public document in probate proceedings.
We’ll walk you through the many issues to consider in deciding whether to make a trust part of your estate plan.
Powers of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designations
Though none of us want to think about it, the time may come when you are unable to make your own decisions. Planning ahead for this possibility allows you to control who will make decisions for you in the event that you’re unable to make decisions yourself.
A Power of Attorney grants a person the power to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf. A Patient Advocate Designation (also known as a Health Care Power of Attorney or Living Will) grants the power to make medical decisions for you, including end-of-life decisions.
In either case, preparing these documents now ensures that the person you trust most is the one who can make these important decisions on your behalf. Without these documents, your loved ones will have to go through a public, stressful, and potentially expensive court process to appoint a guardian or conservator. The process can delay important decisions that need to be made on your behalf.
It’s never too early to designate Power of Attorney and a Patient Advocate. We’ll guide you through the process of preparing these documents, considering who to designate, and deciding how you want these decisions to be made for you.
Let us help you gain peace of mind.
Elder law and estate planning can help you plan and prepare for the future.