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Oakland County MI Estate Planning Law Blog

Senate tax bill hits family business trusts

Considering and drafting documents for trusts should include tax planning. However, changes to the tax code passed by the U.S. Senate may place family-owned businesses at a disadvantage because trusts may be excluded from deductions and face higher tax rates.

Trusts are traditionally established to preserve a business for future generations or safeguard assets against taxes, a former spouse in a divorce or other claimants trying to seize part of them. Family-owned businesses often constitute pass-through companies such as partnerships, limited liability companies and S Corporations.

Pack up estate planning with move

Michigan residents who move to and even visit other states should not overlook updating their long-term planning and reviewing their estate planning documents. Other states will respect the validity of these documents and plans if they are legal in those states. However, there are important exceptions.

Most state laws are similar. Contracts governed by Michigan law are still enforceable in other states and still governed by the laws in Michigan.

Never too early for an estate plan

Anyone with substantial property must consider how their assets such as home, brokerage account, retirement plan or savings account will be distributed after their death. Heirs who squander their inheritance or court battles are more likely without solid estate planning.

Assets may be protected for future generations with the creation of valid trusts. These can be created with several protections such specifying that assets can pass to beneficiaries when they reach a certain age or restricting the use of money to certain necessities such as education or medical expenses.

Family fights over bakery fortune

Poor estate planning can lead to acrimony among relatives. A legal battle over the fortune of a deceased Baltimore bakery magnate involves allegations that cash was stolen from an office safe and safety deposit box, use of phony trusts, bad seafood and arguments in restaurants.

John Paterakis built a bakery empire that supplied McDonalds and other major corporations. He died when he was 87-years-old in Oct. 2016.

End-of-life wishes as you care for your terminally ill parent

Taking care of an aging parent is a difficult task. That task is monumentally more difficult, however, when your parent has a terminal illness and thus has a prognosis that tells you how long you might expect him or her to live. People often avoid questions around end-of-life matters when they are healthy because it can be so uncomfortable to think about death and the related planning that accompanies it. When parents are facing the end of their lives, they may be counting on you to help them make important decisions.

While you may be handling decisions around their health care, there are usually also critical matters surrounding finances, property and wills that you have to address as well. There are so many different matters, in fact, that it may seem quite overwhelming. Here are a few broad areas to look at when it comes to helping dying parents put their affairs in order before they pass.

Deadlines govern post-life business

An important part of estate planning and settling an estate is meeting legal deadlines. Selection of a competent executor in this life helps prevent litigation and other confusion after the testator is gone.

The estate's size plays a large role with the time it will take to settle. Typical estates comprised of bank accounts, a home, car and personal possessions are comparatively simple and take less time. However, ownership of small businesses, several property holdings or complex investments take longer to resolve for proper distribution. If the decedent died without a will, additional time may be needed for court-appointment of an administrator and more court supervision.

Estate planning prevents problems in life and death

Drafting four important documents and keeping them current is an essential part of estate planning that protects individual, allow them to take care of themselves when they are alive and provides protection for their heirs. Age or net worth are not barriers to having these documents.

The first document is a will. It dictates how assets are distributed to families and other beneficiaries following death. A personal representative is appointed to account for assets, debts, taxes and the distribution of remaining assets.

3 steps to take if you were left out of a will

If you just found out you are no longer in a will, you probably feel crushed and devastated. Unfortunately, sometimes wills can have surprising contents. If you are facing unexpected exclusion from an inheritance, you may be wondering what you can do. 

In this situation, there are a few things you can do to understand what happened and determine if you can challenge the will. Read on for a guide to dealing with being cheated out of your inheritance. 

When to contest a will

Litigation can outlive a person who made a will. In a Michigan will contest, a beneficiary can file a legal challenge to the will's validity. These challenges can take place before probate or after probate opens.

An unsatisfied heir or beneficiary must have standing, a financial stake in the estate, to challenge wills. This means that the challenger is a person who is entitled to receive an inheritance even if the person is not named in the will. These include a person named as a beneficiary in the estate or a person who may have a legal right to inheritance in specific order, known as an heir-at-law.

What powers are granted with a power of attorney?

For the most part, our loved ones know us fairly well. They understand our interests, what we don't like and even our aspirations. But when it really comes down to it, do you feel like they really know you and what you would do in a given situation? This is what needs to be considered and addressed when drafting powers of attorney. Many individuals in Michigan and elsewhere are faced with the task of naming a loved one to make their financial and health decisions if they are deemed incompetent. This is anything but an easy task to complete.

Whether you are including a power of attorney in an estate plan or are drafting this document because you are about to undergo a medical procedure, it is imperative to understand how these documents work and what could happen if the powers do memorialize in a valid document.

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