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Oakland County MI Estate Planning Law Blog

Managing assets as a successor trustee

Trusts are a popular choice for many people in Michigan who want greater flexibility and options when planning for how their assets can support their loved ones. Not only do they allow property to transfer outside the probate system, but they can create structures to support minor children, people with special needs and other beneficiaries on an ongoing basis. When many people create their trusts, they are responsible for managing them during their lives and can make changes and amendments to their plans as necessary. In most cases, people name a successor trustee to take over the management of the trust after they become incapacitated or pass away.

In some cases, people may name a professional agency, attorney or financial advisor to act as a trustee, particularly if the trust is large and complex and requires ongoing distributions. People may want to avoid conflicts of interest between the successor trustee and various beneficiaries. In other cases, naming a loved one as a successor trustee is a better choice, especially if the trust is smaller and manageable. Still, people may be confused about what their next steps are when it becomes time to take on responsibility for the trust.

Planning for the future can help to avoid conflict

Many people in Michigan want to make sure their children and other loved ones are cared for after they pass away. When people remarry later in life, both spouses may be more interested in providing for their adult children as part of their estate plan while others may want to develop systems that help them support each other as well as their kids. However, experience may point to the importance of open family communication about estate planning. Many of these incidents involve families with adult children who have lived outside the home for many years, but closer communication could prevent potential theft as well as rifts in the family.

Many types of property are designed to pass on without relying on a will. For many people, these non-probate transfers ease the process, making it simpler for their loved ones to inherit their possessions without going through probate court and the associated fees and delays. For example, jointly owned homes with a right of survivorship transfer to become either party's sole property on the other's death as do most joint bank accounts. Life insurance policies, retirement funds and other accounts pass directly to the named beneficiary on the accounts.

Gifts can be a key part of estate planning

Estate planning can be a complicated subject in Michigan. Not only can it be a fearful experience as it acknowledges mortality, but there could be concerns about disputes arising among relatives as to how the assets are divided. Tax implications are also a common worry. For many, gift-giving is a useful strategy to address a variety of concerns with family members and to give to groups and organizations the testator cares about. There are aspects of gifting that people need to understand as part of the estate planning process. Legal advice can always be beneficial with these considerations.

Gifting is a testator donating to an organization. It could be a non-profit organization or some other group. There are other terms for it including a legacy. The gift could be any amount the testator wants and does not need to be connected to income. This is an alternative for anyone regardless of income level and wealth. It could be done once or as an ongoing series of donations. Money can be donated as a gift, but so too can assets that the person wants to be converted for the recipient's use. Anything can be included. Real estate, collectibles, jewelry, insurance policies and stocks are examples.

Important discussions to have before your parent passes away

Knowing that one of your parents is nearing the end of his or her life is not easy. At times, you may feel paralyzed by the idea of no longer having your loved one around, and other times, you may feel as if you need to go nonstop in order to ensure that everything is in order for when the time does come.

Of course, one of the most important actions during this time is to spend as much quality time with your parent as possible. Though you may not be able to do some of the activities you once enjoyed, you will certainly not regret the time you spend together now.

What does an elder law attorney do?

In short, and elder law attorney is simply an advocate for the elderly and their loved ones. He or she works to plan and administer a multitude of matters specifically affecting the elderly population, or disabled persons. These issues can include long-term care planning, end of life directives, health care issues, retirement accounts, Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, guardianship matters and more.

Elder law is a specialized field in that rules are often different once a person reaches a certain age. For example, Social Security disability grid rules change when a person turns 55. Health insurance options change as we grow older, as does our need for assistance in simple day to day living. Elder law attorneys handle all of these matters, making them a valuable and necessary part of growing older.

The responsibilities of an executor in Michigan

When a friend or loved one asks you to act as the executor of their estate, it would be hard to say no. However, as just about anyone who has worked in estate administration and probate can tell you, most who say yes have no idea what they are committing themselves to.

The very first thing an executor must do is accept the appointment. Then, all heirs, trustees, and creditors of the decedent must be notified that a probate matter has commenced. They will each have their own deadlines by which a claim against the estate must be filed.

Probate litigation: The collision of family and money

One of the best decisions a person can make when it comes to estate matters is to leave a Last Will and Testament, setting out their last wishes for the distribution of their assets. As any party who has ever participated in probate work can tell you, things do not always go as planned. Sometimes, they go worse than anyone could have ever imagined. We all want to believe that after we are gone, our loved ones will work together peacefully and respect one another. But, often, this doesn't happen.

There are a multitude of situations when probate litigation may arise. Each comes with its own unique set of family dynamics and circumstances. However, one thing almost always remains the same. Where there is a substantial amount of money or valuable assets at stake, the gloves often come off and the potential heirs come out of the woodwork. This can be especially true for blended families, where disputes may arise among an ex-spouse and current spouse, or biological children and step-children.

The importance of an experienced estate attorney

There are few areas of the law where knowledge and experience are as important as they are in estate matters. Probate and estate planning are ever changing landscapes, affected by a number of laws and regulations. This is why you and your family should only trust an attorney with a proven track record of successful planning and probate litigation.

The Prince Law Firm has been handling estate and probate matters for over 25 years. We represent all parties involved in these types of matters, including personal representatives, heirs, trustees, and beneficiaries. It is our goal to make you and your family feel comfortable in your estate planning decisions. We want to make sure you have the information you need to make the most informed decisions.

A family caregiver may need to seek guardianship, conservatorship

As they reach their elderly years, some Michigan residents may no longer be able to handle their personal affairs on their own. Some individuals may suffer a serious injury or illness, and others may develop conditions like Alzheimer's or dementia. For younger loved ones like you, it can be difficult to watch a parent or other older family member struggle.

If you have concerns about the well-being of your parent, you may wonder what to do. At first, you may have thought that your parent simply had a lapse in judgment once or twice or mislaid something that he or she could not find later. However, when a serious event took place like his or her power shutting off because of not paying the bills, you knew you needed to step in.

Don't forget about unseen assets

Families in the throes of estate planning may sometimes forget about some assets, such as Medicare, retirement accounts, and Social Security. These are assets that can be very important down the road and could carry a lot of value within the estate. A wrong move in the consideration of such assets could have serious repercussions.

These types of assets will pass on to a designated beneficiary, chosen by the current recipient. If a deceased spouse has outstanding medical bills and was a Medicare recipient, a surviving spouse can count on those expenses to be covered. They would not have to worry about those bills having to be paid out of estate funds. If the deceased was drawing a monthly check from Social Security, the widowed spouse would then be able to collect that benefit.

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