A person may own a lot more than they initially think. For example, a Michigan resident who does not own a home and has a modest income may not believe that they actually need an estate plan. However, they likely have many items of personal property, checking and savings accounts, and maybe even retirement investments that will need to be distributed upon their death.
After a person dies or becomes incapacitated, an heir or family members may have to engage in a scramble and search for important documents and assets. They may not know whether these documents are kept in a lawyer's office, a safe or a shoebox under the bed or have passwords to gain access to important information. An important part of estate planning is consolidating this important information in one place accessible and known to family members.
Changes to the federal tax law effectively excludes 99.9 percent of all Americans from federal taxes by providing a $11.18 million estate exemption to single persons and $22 million to married couples. However, well-reasoned estate planning can help people in Michigan ensure that their inheritance will pass on as intended, lower the possibility of family disputes and reduce costly lawsuits.
Usually, estate administration is ignored until there is a fight over a Michigan will or inheritance. But, there are some trends indicating that this legal area is changing, and estate and probate litigation may grow in 2018.
Michigan's estate administration law was intended to assure transfer of property from testators and heirs through probate. However, misappropriation of funds sparked change to this law.
Famed singer James Brown died on Christmas Day in 2006 but his estate, estimated from anywhere from $5 million to $100 million, is involved in at least 12 lawsuits. Estate administration is stymied and no money has been distributed to Brown's designated beneficiaries.
The executor is a vital part of estate administration in Michigan. Their responsibilities are numerous, but their experience is often limited.