There are times in life, perhaps in some of our Michigan readers' lives, when a tragedy will bring family members together. An unfortunate situation, such as a car accident or a prolonged terminal illness, can lead to family members gathering at the hospital, hoping for bits of news from doctors and asking themselves what they can do to help. In the most dire of situations, health care professionals may approach the family members for a decision on what course of medical treatment should be rendered. If the incapacitated person is without the right kind of power of attorney, those moments could lead to fractious and fruitless discussions amongst the family members.
Many of our Michigan readers have probably been having a good time in recent days, celebrating the holidays and getting together with friends and family. This is certainly the time of year when many people are ready to relax and catch up and spend time with the people who are most important to them. For some that means days spent shopping, playing in the snow or watching sports together on television. But, a recent article has suggested that many people should take this time together with family members to address another topic: estate planning.
Our Michigan readers may be familiar with several of our previous posts, which bring to light some more information about the various documents involved in a comprehensive estate plan -- a will, trusts, etc. One of our recent posts detailed the importance of an oft-overlooked part of a comprehensive estate plan: powers of attorney. These documents, which some people may not be as familiar with as they might be with something like a will, also play key roles in laying out certain desires and wishes to be followed.
Any of our Oakland County readers who are familiar with some of our most recent posts have seen the discussion of some of the most important aspects of a solid, comprehensive estate plan. Of course, it is probably obvious that the first estate planning document to be discussed is a will, since this particular instrument can spell out many of the most important wishes to be carried out, from asset distribution to funeral arrangements. And, for those who may be interested, previous posts have discussed the many uses of trusts, and how they can be especially effective in addressing several areas concerning the transition of assets. However, there are other documents that should not be overlooked for the importance - powers of attorney.
Ever heard of the "sandwich generation"? Most of our Michigan readers probably haven't, but apparently this is the term that some use to refer to the children of baby boomers, mostly because these are the people who will find themselves supporting both their parents as they age and require long-term care, and their own children as they set out to attend college.
Michigan residents love cars, especially in the Detroit area. That is why many people were saddened by the death of Carroll Shelby on May 10. Shelby was responsible for some of the most iconic American muscle car designs and engines, and the Ford Mustang Shelby remains one of the most venerated cars to ever come out of Detroit. Shelby died at the age of 89 in Dallas, and unfortunately his body remains there at the medical examiner's office while his family members dispute over how his burial will proceed.
Our readers in the Detroit area may recall our previous discussions about the variety of estate planning tools -- such as wills and trusts -- that can be included in a comprehensive plan. But one instrument that sometimes is overlooked is the power of attorney. Powers of attorney are key parts of an estate plan because they ensure that your wishes are followed -- not when you die, but when you become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions on your own.
In the case of America's population in general, and Michigan's especially, statistics show that people are living longer. Michigan's population percentage of people 65 and older is greater than the national average, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. What the statistics don't show is that not everyone is preparing for this new reality in their early-life estate planning.
Readers in the Detroit area were likely saddened to hear of the death of Etta James, the R&B icon with the powerful and husky voice who sang such hits as "At Last" and "Tell Mama." James passed away recently at the age of 72. Sadly, in her later years, she suffered from a number of health problems, including leukemia and dementia, and the final year of her life saw much controversy over matters of estate planning. Oakland County residents may take interest in the dispute over the care of James' estate, as many families in Michigan often face similar issues.
A couple of weeks ago, Michigan residents may remember that we discussed aspects of a modern estate plan that would avoid probate problems potentially caused by people having online accounts that outlive them. Well, like digital clockwork, Facebook has responded to the problem. The social network has introduced an application (or "app") that can be used to allow appointed trustees to post video or text messages on a person's wall, even if he or she is deceased. And, to avoid future probate disputes, readers in the Detroit area may want to look into similar measures with regard to all of their online accounts.