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With complex families comes complex estate administration

Michigan residents may be aware of the challenges involved when a person inherits assets. For example, discussions of recent high-profile celebrity deaths often quickly turn to the question of who will raise the kids and get the millions. Most of these celebrities even had wills, but that does not necessarily prevent subsequent disputes over the content of those wills.

But estate planning can be extremely complicated for all people, not just celebrities. As much as everyone would like to see a simple solution for passing on one's assets, sometimes unavoidable factors have to be considered, making the estate planning process a bit more complicated.

Complex family relationships -- ones involving multiple marriages, stepchildren, and far-flung family members -- leave many estate planners with their heads spinning. But readers in the Detroit area may be interested to hear of a report by the National Stepfamily Resource Center showing that more than half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, and that approximately 75 percent of divorced people will marry a second time.

Add to that fact the increasing longevity of the nation's population, along with the poor state of the economy, and it seems anyone interested in putting together an airtight estate plan could be in for a real challenge. Longer life often means dwindling assets, since money that was initially thought to be passed on to heirs will end up being used for living expenses and late-in-life medical costs.

Even though Michigan has made strides in recent years toward simplifying estate planning and the probate process, there are still a number of details to consider. The more complicated the inheritance scenario, the more important it is to have a comprehensive estate plan that can help asset owners and their families avoid future problems such as probate litigation.

Source: USA Today, "With more blended families, estate planning gets ugly," Haya El Nasser, March 14, 2012

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