Many people are familiar with the purpose of a will. They understand that one of its primary purposes is to direct how assets will be distributed, and to whom, upon the will creator's death. Another important, yet commonly overlooked, element of estate planning is a living will. Although it is similar to a traditional will in that it is a written document with legal force, there are many differences between a standard will and a living will.
In several posts on this blog we have discussed numerous estate planning topics as it relates to wills. One important theme throughout these discussions is ensuring that your estate planning documents will be considered valid at the time they are executed.
Any of our Michigan readers familiar with previous posts here know that there are a wide variety of estate planning instruments to consider when it comes to protecting assets and avoiding probate litigation. Some will choose trusts because of the relative ease with which assets can be passed on to future generations. Others choose the tried-and-true will, in which the estate planner can designate property distribution as well as detail important decisions like naming guardians for minor children. There are many approaches, and having an estate plan is almost always better than leaving an estate in the hands of state intestate laws.
Our Michigan readers are probably familiar with numerous posts here that have detailed the many various parts that can make up a comprehensive estate plan. Considering the benefits of trusts, long-term planning and powers of attorney is part of evaluating which components are right for each individual or family's situation. With so many options to consider, most Michigan residents would probably think that over-planning is more likely to occur than coming up short. But, according to a recent article, having an estate plan that is less than comprehensive is one of the more common mistakes in estate planning.
The complexity of any given task will cause many people put it off for as long as they can. Estate planning probably falls within that realm of thinking for a large number of Michigan residents. Sure, most people know that they need a will, but even that can seem like a complex task that can be pushed off until another day. Recognizing this common mental block, a recent article sought to educate readers on how to make the process a little less intimidating.
With so many ways to approach estate planning, many people often have more questions than answers. What will the impact be on tax planning? What are the best documents to draft for protecting inheritance? What if I have children with special needs and I want to make sure they are taken care of? The list could go on and on. Fortunately, the simple answer to many of these question is this: trusts. However, there are many types of trusts for an individual or family to consider. One popular method, known as the "living trust," was recently the subject of a very informative article which tried to dispel certain myths about this particular estate planning device.
Many of our Michigan readers may often think, "I know I should consider my options for estate planning, but when is the right time?." There are definitely certain times in life when a person is more likely to think about getting their affairs in order. For instance, watching relatives going through probate litigation in a will contest could create a sense of urgency to do better yourself in order to avoid such a situation. For others, the birth of a child could provide a perfect reminder that one of the most important aspects of a will for someone with minor children is to name guardians in the unfortunate event of an untimely death. In the latter case, a recent article provided a few tips for those young adults who are getting started in life and considering an estate plan.
Over the past few decades our society has seen the rise of what is known as the "blended family." Think of "The Brady Bunch" here - a blended family is when a couple gets married after they were previously married to someone else with whom they had children. The blended family is a household where the re-married couple and all of their children are living together. Although this may sound like a good time for everyone involved, there is the potential for conflict and controversy in a blended family, maybe even more so than in a traditional family. And the conflict could rise to dangerous levels when the issue of estate planning comes up.
When many of our readers think about estate planning, wills are most likely the first documents to come to mind. A will is the bedrock document of any solid estate plan. If a person has a will, they are off to a good start when it comes to protecting assets for future generations and beneficiaries. But is a will all that is needed?
Many of our previous posts have stressed the importance of comprehensive and detailed estate planning. For most people, the question marks that can pop up from dying intestate are just too great of a concern to ignore. However, if there are some among our Michigan readers who have taken the first step and actually constructed an estate plan, it is important to remember that life-changing events can happen - and your will should sometimes be changed as well.