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Estate plans for Michigan residents without children

An estate plan is not restricted for people with children. Without a will or other estate documents, Michigan law will determine who inherits a person's assets regardless of that person's wishes. Estate planning is also needed to deal with other important issues that can cause disruption and expense for relatives.

A trust is one method that can manage assets during a person's lifetime and allocate an inheritance after death. This process is private and avoids probate litigation. Under this process, most assets are transferred to the trust during a person's lifetime and are allocated in a protected manner after death.

If there are no living spouses or children, other relatives such as parents, siblings, uncles and aunts and cousins receive notice of probate. They can intercede in this process and gain access to information even if they were not close to or liked by the decedent. Without a will, all of these relives have an opportunity to inherit assets. A will restricts notice of probate to these relatives.

A trust requires appointment of a trusted and qualified successor trustee to manage the trust and properly distribute its assets after the person dies. Allocating assets is an important component of planning. While taking care of parents is important, most people live longer than their parents and must name successor beneficiaries, such as nieces, nephews and friends. Charities may also be included through a specific bequest or purpose.

Pets also need attention. The estate plan could identify who will care for the pet and provide funds for this purpose. A formal pet trust may be created.

Finally, every adult needs plans for addressing the time they may not be able to make important decisions on their own behalf. These include an advanced directive for health care and a durable power of attorney for legal and financial decisions. Without these documents, a spouse and other close relatives will become involved in a guardianship or conservatorship court proceeding to appoint a person to make these decisions.

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