The period of time following the loss of a loved one is, of course, a difficult one. At times, challenges concerning estate administration may arise during an already difficult period. Disputes surrounding the legitimacy of a will or trust; the appointment of a guardian or conservator or power of attorney; or the administration of a trust or estate are potential challenges that may arise following the death of a loved one.
Many Michigan residents have very little knowledge about what exactly happens to a person's estate after he or she dies. Probate administration, and the word "probate" in general, are commonly tossed around. But, the meaning of these terms may be unclear. Probate litigation is another spin on the term, and potential heirs and other interested parties would do well to understand its implications.
The process of estate planning can involve some rather difficult decisions. Not only do individuals consider the wide array of legal instruments available, but the actual process of selecting beneficiaries can be challenging.
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.
When many people have an estate plan drafted they name charities as beneficiaries. This can happen for any number of reasons, but in many situations this is a popular option for people who do not have any close family or friends as potential heirs to the estate in question. What some of our Michigan readers may not realize, however, if that if any type of probate litigation arises due to questions surrounding bequests to charities a state's Attorney General may have grounds to get involved.
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."
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.
Most of our Michigan readers know that one of the ultimate goals of estate planning is to avoid costly and time consuming probate litigation. Probate and estate administration can be difficult enough at times without having to worry about an heir or potential heir bringing a claim forward in an attempt to de-legitimize a will. However, what many of our readers may not know is that it is ultimately up to the estate planner themselves to stay on point in the effort to make sure a probate court fight does not ensue after they pass.