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Oakland County MI Estate Planning Law Blog

Estate planning for pet protection

Pets are a beloved member of 68 percent of American households and rising because many couples without children have pets and the use of comfort and emotional support animals is growing. Leaving pets out of estate planning, however, could lead to the unintended euthanizing of the pet or its placement into a shelter. Pet trusts are an effective measure to help assure the pet's future well-being.

In a pet trust, the owner appoints a trustee to care for the animal and sets aside a specific amount of money for that care. Trusts also allow for the creation of a sub-trust that provides directions for the pet's care.

Preparing an estate plan for a parent with dementia

Dementia is one of the most debilitating conditions afflicting the elderly. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.8 million people currently suffer from this disease in the United States alone. If your mother or father is one of them, you know you have a difficult road ahead.

While it is unpleasant to plan for the passing of a loved one, it is crucial to prepare when the person involved has dementia. It is never too soon to sit down and discuss your parent’s estate plan, including any existing paperwork and undocumented wishes.

What needs to be done to an estate following death?

Probate, the court proceeding governing the distribution of a decedent's property, is only one process that occurs after that person dies. The decedent's executor must also perform other several duties that are an important part of estate administration.

These duties include gathering the estate's assets, paying any debts and final expenses and distribution of the estate's remaining assets. Assets usually include solely and jointly owned assets, assets that were held in trust, business interests, proceeds from life insurance policies, retirement accounts and certain contracts.

Online wills pose risks

The internet may be an excellent source of information, including forms to assist with estate planning. However, people who download these documents may not know what it is needed to know about Michigan law and estate planning. Do-it-yourself form documents may not address the many complexities surround the planning and drafting of wills and other important documents.

Reality of long-term care financing

At least 70 percent of retirees will likely need long-term care at some time in their lives. Preparing for this need requires long-term care planning and dealing with some new realities.

Long-term care expenses can now erase savings accrued over a lifetime. The average monthly cost of nursing home care in this country was $7,148 to $8,121 in 2017. However, Medicare does not pay for the cost of this care and Medicaid is an option only when a person becomes financially destitute. In most states, the Medicaid look-back period to recover transferred is 60 months.

The basics about powers of attorney

Prudent estate planning incudes drafting documents and planning for unexpected events besides distribution of property after a person dies. A power of attorney is recommended for the time when a person cannot make financial or medical decisions for themselves. Knowing what this document can do, however, is an important part of this planning.

First, there is no one standard power of attorney document. Michigan and other states have different requirements. Some states do not recognize a power of attorney from outside their jurisdiction. Because a power of attorney is a contract granting important decision-making powers to another person, the principal executing the document must have sufficient mental capacity. A power of attorney cannot be used instead of a guardianship if the person does not have mental capacity.

What estate administrators should know about undue influence

As an administrator of an estate, you have a lot of responsibilities. One of your duties is to represent and protect the estate and decedent against legal challenges. It is important for you to be aware of and prepared for claims of undue influence.

If a beneficiary contests a will due to undue influence, he or she makes claims that the testator was a victim of manipulation or coercion. Not all charges of undue influence are true, so it is vital to know the signs of a potentially legitimate claim. 

Estate planning for second lives

Estate documents are usually utilized for assuring the proper distribution of funds after a person dies or dealing with issues near the end of their lives. But, there is also reassuring news for those who plan to have their body scientifically frozen for future revival. Estate planning may cover this process, known as cryonics, through the creation of a future income trust, which allows access to assets until a person is ultimately revived and keeps the trust's contents from melting away.

Two cryonics centers exist in this country. The Cryonics Institute in Clinton, Michigan, has almost 200 bodies in storage. It places the body is a large container known as a cryostat. Liquid nitrogen at negative 328 degrees suspends all cell activity. Fluid is checked each week and topped off when necessary. All water is removed from the cells before the body is placed in this device, so it does not expand and tear the cellular tissue apart. This facility charges $28,000.

Dealing with rising care costs

Many people should include financing for living in a nursing home in their long-term plans, because 56 percent of Americans between the ages of 57 and 61 will reside in a nursing home during their lives. The rising costs of nursing homes necessitates long term planning.

Long-term care includes services that aid a person with daily living, such as eating, bathing and dressing. Health insurance, Medicare and disability insurance do not cover this. Medicaid covers some services if a person's income and assets do not exceed Michigan legal limits.

Last minute changes to a will can cause long-term problems

Last minute changes to a will may work in the movies, but may cause problems in real life. Poor planning can lead to a will contest or other legal problems.

An estate plan may face serious problems if it is stale. Problematic issues include a second marriage, with children from earlier marriages, an older or debilitated widow or widower who changes the disposition of their wealth or assets shortly before they die, a dysfunctional family, an heir who acts solely on self-interest and an executor or trusted agent who is dilatory, biased or aggressive.

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