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.
It is quite understandable if Michigan residents have a lot of questions about the probate process. After all, anyone familiar with previous posts here knows that topics can range from the details of trusts to powers of attorney to long-term planning. With so many factors to consider during the planning stage, there is every reason for an estate planner to think about what will occur when the actual estate administration process begins.
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.
If our Michigan readers have a will, they are off to a good start with their estate plans. A simple will covers many basic estate planning needs, with many people simply leaving everything to their spouse and vice versa. Couples with minor children have an extra step to take, naming another person or couple to care for their children in the unfortunate event of the spouses' simultaneous death. Many of the steps taken in drafting a will go a long ways toward expediting the probate process, but are there other steps that can help? According to a recent article, there is a sort of "checklist" individuals and couples should look to when beginning to lay out their estate plan.
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."
Any of our Michigan readers who are familiar with previous posts here have seen many that cover topics ranging from the essential nature of drafting a will, the pros and cons of considering trusts in an estate plan and the importance of discussing the options and implications behind appointing a representative in a power of attorney document. A brief overview of the wide variety of possibilities may leave a reader thinking that estate administration is both complicated and expensive. But that doesn't have to be the case.
Although the move to increase people's knowledge of the importance of estate planning seems to have picked up across the country in recent years, many people are probably still confused about the probate process. This is easily understandable. When a person says "probate," some people, even perhaps some of our Michigan readers, will say "what's that?" Conscious of the mystery that surrounds the needs and necessities included in estate planning and probate, the author of one recent article decided to approach the issue in a uniquely simple format: a Top-10 list.
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.
Many of our previous posts have focused on the variety of approaches a Michigan resident can take with estate planning. Estate administration can be a complicated and delicate process, so it is of the utmost importance that all estate planning documents are in the highest level of detail and stored in a manner which will make the probate process as quick and easy as possible. But who is it, really, that needs an estate plan? Is it only wealthy individuals with thousands, if not millions, in assets which need to be designated for distribution? The answer is, quite simply, absolutely not. Even a young couple, perhaps recently married or with a newborn baby, should be sure to complete the necessary documents of an estate plan.