Many people go their entire lives without ever having to be involved in the probate process. Nowadays people are living longer, which often has the unintended result of many people using up all of their assets prior to death, with nothing much of value to pass on to their heirs. And, as anyone familiar with previous posts here knows by now, there are still many people who don't have an estate plan, even though they probably should. All of these factors, combined with the relatively infrequent contact most people have with a probate court, can result in a bit of mystery surrounding probate, and especially probate administration.
Most of our Michigan readers probably know that estate plans are very specific to each individual's situation. For instance, a Michigan resident of even modest means will need a will to designate property distribution and appoint guardians for minor children. However, someone with substantial assets may need more than a will. An estate plan for a wealthy person could include a number of different trusts, designed with separate and specific goals in mind. Every person's estate plan will differ depending on who they want to receive their assets and by what means they would like to achieve their goals. A recent article, however, focused on one type of person in particular - business owners.
Michigan has a great reputation as being a place to go to enjoy the outdoors. Many people from other states will purchase summer homes on one of the lakes to enjoy with their families, or to rent out to others when they aren't in personal use. A summer home is a big purchase for a family, but it is often worth the extra effort and money it takes to maintain a separate house that is sometimes hours away from where a family actually lives. And, when kids get older and start families of their own, the summer home can actually become a focal point for large family get-togethers or a vacation spot for what was one family that has now become several. But does owning a summer home present unique questions from a probate standpoint? According to one recent article, the answer to that question is a resounding "yes."
Almost all of our Michigan readers probably have a varying amount of assets, and most also have relatives. These two aspects of life may not mix well after a person dies, which is why estate planning is so crucial. Yes, it can be somewhat morbid to sit down and plan out what you would like to see happen to personal property after death, but doing so will spare family members and others the trouble of sorting through all of the legal issues that can come with a will contest or other probate litigation. But what exactly are the key aspects of a will? A recent article tackled that very subject, and it pointed out areas that some of our readers may not have considered before.
For many Americans, and perhaps some of our Michigan readers, the probate process can be a bit of a mystery. Of course most people know that they should at least have a will, even those people who don't have one. The problem, however, is that many people simply do not know what will actually take place when the time to use that will comes around. Although anyone planning out and executing an estate plan usually does so with the express goal of avoiding probate litigation, that is not always possible. Estate administration can be tricky at times, but as long as the estate planning documents are clear and the executor is competent, the whole process will generally go much more smoothly.
One of the primary goals of estate planning is to designate property distribution upon death. But, what is the best way to plan for this? When a person is trying to get more information about an estate plan, anyone helping them draft their will and all of the other appropriate documents will need just as much, if not more, information from the planner about their intentions, assets and relatives. Is there a good way to compile this information and then go through the tough choices involved in divvying up personal property? A recent article set out one option, called the "Four P's": People, Property, Plans and Planners.