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Oakland County MI Estate Planning Law Blog

Leaving confusion to heirs

Estate documents should ease the distribution of property and other matters for heirs. Inadequate estate planning, however, can end up passing on complications and problems.

The first problem is failing to leave a roadmap for all the assets acquired during a lifetime. These include brokerage and bank accounts, mutual fund holdings, insurance policies, and house and mortgage documents.

Estate executors have important duties

Being appointed an executor of an estate reflects a level of trust, but the appointment can require a lot of time, especially for business owners. Executors should know about their role in estate administration. An executor carries out the decedent's wishes as set forth in their will. Family members are usually appointed because they are most familiar with the decedent. This process usually takes up to one year to complete.

Getting long-term care for a spouse or partner

As couples get older, partners or spouses sometimes must change their roles to become primary caregiver. Ultimately, when this task becomes unreasonably difficult, they must decide when the time is appropriate for obtaining long-term nursing home care.

When a holiday dinner turns into an estate dispute

The holiday season is not always joyful. After the death of a loved one, it can be full of legal and emotional complications. Disputes over an estate may arise among you and your family over the holidays. As you all convene in one place, it can be the setting that brings disagreements to a new level. If you argue with your family members about your inheritance over a holiday feast, you may wonder what to do next.

Inheritance disputes can be painful to deal with, especially as you are still working through the grieving process and trying to celebrate the holidays. But, sometimes, holiday arguments give you the clarity you need to move forward with potential litigation. If you want to challenge the will after the holidays, here is what you should consider. 

Murder alleged in will contest

Battles over a family's estate can be bitter. Recent litigation over a will contest in Washtenaw County became especially acrimonious after one man accused his brother of drowning their wealthy mother because she was planning to make changes to her will.

The deceased mother was a healthy, retired teacher from Ann Arbor who lived in Arizona during the winter months. She disinherited her oldest son without his knowledge in 2007 and named the younger brother as her representative.

Passing on non-monetary property may be complicated

Passing on money and bonds to heirs may be relatively straight-forward. But, distribution of things like property, art and jewelry require additional estate planning. Determining an object's fair market value is important, regardless of whether the asset or profits from its sale are passed on. This is important because some assets may appreciate over time. Insurance coverage should be updated so that planning decisions are based upon accurate information.

A correct appraisal is essential because mispricing assets is risky. Art work, for example, should be appraised by someone certified by a recognized organization. Also, the value of an asset may depend on timing. Appraisers must know when a particular asset is more valuable than expected.

Create an estate plan for your surviving digital life

A person may own a lot more than they initially think. For example, a Michigan resident who does not own a home and has a modest income may not believe that they actually need an estate plan. However, they likely have many items of personal property, checking and savings accounts, and maybe even retirement investments that will need to be distributed upon their death.

In this day and age, they also may have a relatively modern form of property as well: digital accounts like Facebook, Twitter, and SnapChat. Americans often create and maintain many online accounts to allow them to stay connected to their friends and family. However, when they pass on, there may be big questions about how those accounts can and should be managed by the decedents' estate administrators.

Estate planning is important

The failure to have a will in Michigan is not an absolute disaster, especially when a decedent wanted to have an outright distribution of assets to their children.

If there is no surviving spouse, Michigan law will allocate their share to a child even if there is no will. Any property that was given during life will be classified as an advancement if that intent was stated by the decedent when the gift was made.

Do you need a generation-skipping trust?

If you are a Michigander seeking ways in which to pass your estate down through your family, you may wish to consider establishing a generation-skipping trust. These trusts generally designate your grandchildren as beneficiaries, thereby bypassing your children and saving your estate the double estate taxes it would pay if your children first inherited followed later by your grandchildren.

Keep in mind, however, that you do not necessarily need to designate your grandchildren as beneficiaries of your generation-skipping trust. You can name anyone you want, as long as (s)he is at least 37-1/2 years younger than you and is not your spouse or former spouse.

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