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Oakland County MI Estate Planning Law Blog

Aretha Franklin's wills problems persist

Aretha Franklin left an unbelievable musical legacy, but her estate may be remembered for the problems caused by poor planning. A contentious will contest was on display at recent Oakland County probate hearing.

In a 3-hour complex and contentious hearing involving nine attorneys, the judge asserted more control and placed the estate's administration under judicial administration. The court will play a significant role with many decisions such as the sale of its property. Ms. Franklin's niece will continue to serve the estate's personal representative.

Planning an inheritance trust

Heirs often assume that their inheritance is protected from creditors, taxes, divorce and undue influence, if there was an incapacity. But, there may be little support for this assumption unless inheritance trusts were properly planned. Several components should be considered.

The person who receives the inheritance, the client, is named as the trustee and may designate the successor trustee, if they resign, die or suffer incapacity. Any successor trustees must comply with reasonable limitations, such as limiting successors to their spouse, children or a trust company to assure that a person outside of their family cannot overtake the trust.

Key aspects of undue influence

Estate holders have the right to designate the distribution of their assets as they please. However, sometimes, other people may try to weigh in on that decision, whether directly or indirectly.

In cases where family members of an estate holder do not agree with the estate holder's will, they may choose to negate in court. To support their case, they may state undue influence as a catalyst for the designation. It is important to understand a few key aspects of this claim.

Typical estate planning estates

A bad Michigan estate plan can have consequences long after a person dies. There are common errors that afflict estate planning.

Failure to name a contingent beneficiary on insurance policies and retirement accounts or updating this information is a typical error. Not naming a contingent beneficiary can leave an estate open to probate and creditors. For an IRA, this failure can eliminate a tax break to the person who inherit the account to draw out distributions over their life expectancy.

Trusts are not limited to the wealthy

There is a wide misperception that trusts are used only by the rich to transfer their wealth to their descendants. In addition to protecting inheritance, however, trusts also have advantages for families with relatively modest assets.

A trust is a legal creation made through a private agreement. The parties are the grantor, who contributes property for the benefit of beneficiaries, and a trusted person identified as the trustee. The trust is governed by a trust document containing conditions set by the grantor the timing and conditions for distributing assets to beneficiaries.

Assigning power of attorney and keeping family peace

Without proper planning, dealing with estate matters and handling parent's business and personal matters can become a modern-day Cain versus Abel family dispute. Before executing a power of attorney, family members should understand its powers, its place in estate planning and how sibling powers can be assigned and shared.

A general power of attorney covers an agent's management of financial, business or personal affairs. This power is often exercised when a parent cannot govern their affairs because of ill health or other reasons. A health care power of attorney grants a sibling power to make health care decisions, usually under these conditions.

Medicare has limits

Putting off planning for financing a nursing home or other assisted living can lead to unwanted surprises. Counting on Medicare may have unexpected consequences because it has restrictions and does not pay for long-term nursing home care and other care except in limited circumstances.

Medicare pays for medical expenses in a nursing home, assisted living facility or a person's home. But it does not cover the costs of staying in those facilities or custodial care.

Can you change or remove a trustee?

A recent study revealed what each state's residents have the most concern about when it comes to finances. In Michigan, the most Googled financial term was "income tax." However, perhaps Michigan residents should take a cue from New Yorkers and feel more concerned about estate planning, which was that state's most searched term. 

One aspect of your estate plan you need to carefully consider is who should be the trustee of your estate. This is an individual who has a legal responsibility to administer property within a trust to the proper parties. You need to carefully consider who should have this responsibility, but in the event you want to change the trustee for whatever reason, it is possible to do so. 

Where an inheritance goes when an heir dies

Estate planning deals with the distribution of property when its owner dies. But wills must also deal with the possible situation when an heir dies before receiving the property owner's, also known as the testator, assets.

There are a couple ways to address this situation where an heir dies during estate administration. First, a will may contain a survivorship clause. This clause requires any person receiving distribution to survive the decedent for a specified time period. If this beneficiary does not survive for this period, that person is legally deemed to have died before the will's testator and will specify who receives that beneficiary's share.

TOD accounts may be an estate tool

There are several ways to transfer assets to family members after death. While wills are the most known method, transfer on death accounts may have advantages.

A TOD account directly transfers its assets to named beneficiaries when the account holder dies. Each state has laws governing estate planning. But bank accounts, investment accounts and deeds are considered TOD accounts where assets are transferred to their named beneficiaries.

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