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Small mistakes can have a big effect on your assets

Any of our Michigan readers who are familiar with previous posts here have seen many that cover topics ranging from the essential nature of drafting a will, the pros and cons of considering trusts in an estate plan and the importance of discussing the options and implications behind appointing a representative in a power of attorney document. A brief overview of the wide variety of possibilities may leave a reader thinking that estate administration is both complicated and expensive. But that doesn't have to be the case.

The complexity of an estate plan will depend on the planner's wishes and, usually, the size of estate in question and the total value of assets involved. Naturally, anyone contemplating an estate planning move will likely have dozens of questions. Sometimes the answers will vary, but what about some of the issues that slip through the cracks? A recent article detailed several areas where even the most careful planner may overlook important considerations.

The recent article discussed several financial mechanisms that would be included under "non-probate" property, including joint accounts - something a majority of our readers likely have or have had at one point. When two people own something like a bank account equally, upon the death of one the other will usually take full ownership. This happens outside of the probate process.

"Probate" property can include a wide variety of assets and personal property, which, if not specifically mentioned and designated for distribution in a will, can become part of the general estate and subject to division as otherwise detailed in the will. The propensity to overlook important details is sometimes just human nature, but in probate court these small details can make a huge difference. Getting familiar all of the potential missteps can help an estate planner avoid even the most minor of errors.

Source: greenbaypressgazette.com, "Carissa Giebel column: Common issues overlooked in estate planning," Carissa Giebel, April 29, 2013

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