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Detroit Probate, Trust & Estate Administration Law Blog

Addressing the breach of fiduciary duties

When it comes to estate matters, the challenges that can arise take many forms. Sometimes, families find themselves in the middle of a heated dispute following the loss of their loved one due to allegations that an executor breached his or her fiduciary duties. If you are a beneficiary who believes that an executor failed to distribute assets properly, you should immediately take steps to address the situation. Our law firm also recognizes that some executors in Detroit and across Michigan may also be falsely accused of breaching their fiduciary duties.

There are various reasons why an executor may fail to distribute the assets of an estate properly. Sometimes, they may be overwhelmed and accidentally miss something, while other cases involve intentional wrongdoing. Regardless, if your loved one's estate has not been handled appropriately, the executor must be held responsible for their actions. Sadly, this occurs too often and has made life very hard for many families.

Are your online accounts covered in your will?

Whether you post pictures and updates about your life constantly from your phone or you have important business information backed up in your email account, chances are, your way of life in Michigan has a digital side that is important to you. It could be important to other people, too, and if you die without a plan in place, they could be left without the keys to your online information.

According to The New York Times, there are many ways to prepare for what happens to your online information, in part because different companies have their own practices for the death of user accounts. For example, Snapchat and Twitter require a copy of a death certificate before they will allow a family member to delete an account. They also require verification of the family member's relationship to the deceased. Facebook and Google allow you to choose a person to take over management of your account after your death. 

What you need to know about probate

In Michigan, legal ownership of your property and assets must go through a process after your death to make sure that any unfinished business such as debt is taken care of, and your possessions are distributed to those who you have named. Your will can designate how you want your estate handled, but it does not typically sidestep probate. At the Bingham Legal Group PC, our estate planning attorneys understand what is involved, and we often provide answers to help people anticipate and plan for this eventuality.

Findlaw explains that the executor of your will is the person you chose to take care of your affairs. His or her responsibilities include the following:

  •          Inventorying your property
  •          Paying your estate’s debts, claims and taxes, as well as court costs and attorney’s fees
  •          Settling disputes
  •          Distributing the remaining assets to your beneficiaries

Federal estate taxes and the benefits of having a trust

Someone who is making estate plans in Michigan may believe that a trust is his or her best option to avoid costly estate taxes. This is not necessarily the case, but there are a number of important and valid reasons why a trust may still be the most effective way to ensure that his or her estate is managed the way it should be.

The Motley Fool explains some of the intricacies of the federal estate tax code. Under the federal tax code, there are twelve tax brackets. Estate taxes within these brackets range from 18 percent to 40 percent. While these brackets are not exactly undone by the 2017 federal estate tax exemption of $5.49 million, for the mo, t part they are rendered a moot point. The federal estate tax exemption functions as a unified credit for estates that are up to $5.49 million in value. Without the exemption, the tax bracket for a person with an estate of $5.49 million would require payment of $345,800 on the first $1 million and 40 percent of the other 4.49 million ($1,796,000.00). Over $2 million would be taken by federal taxes before any money reached her heirs. With the credit, her estate pays nothing for the first $5.49 million and then pays the 40 percent of the highest tax bracket for any amount over $5.49 million.

Is preparing an estate plan a good idea for millennials?

An estate plan is not something young people often think about. The idea normally surfaces around the time the first child comes along, but the new parents might not take action on it right away.

Putting together an estate plan may sound like a logical next step once you start a family, but what if you are still single and intend to stay that way for the foreseeable future? Why would you need an estate plan in that case?

What is a ladybird deed?

If you are worried about how debt, Medicaid, probate and other factors will affect your estate after you die, you may want to consider a ladybird deed. According to the Michigan Bar Journal, this document transfers real estate to your beneficiary upon your death, but it allows you to retain the use of the property for as long as you live. Not only that, you can continue to make all the decisions regarding the property without the input of the grantee, including selling it or choosing a new beneficiary.

One of the benefits of this level of control is that you may be able to protect your estate from your beneficiary’s creditors. As long as you are alive, there is no interest transferred to the person you name as the grantee, so his or her creditors cannot require the property to be sold to pay the debt. However, the property is not protected from your creditors because you have access and control of the estate, including the right to sell the property.

Revocable vs irrevocable trusts: It’s about control

In planning long-term financial goals, including estate planning and end-of-life issues, people may be interested in all the benefits of trusts. According to MichiganLegalAid.org, a person, known as a grantor, who chooses to create a trust designates another person or entity, the trustee, to hold the title of an asset. The type of trust will affect who can be the trustee, and also who may receive the benefits of the trust. It also determines control.

If the grantor opts for a revocable trust, he or she has the ability to set and revoke the terms at any time during his or her life. Grantors may name themselves the trustee and the beneficiary of a revocable trust. This allows people to continue to use or benefit from their property while they are alive, but at death, the person named as successor trustee distributes the property remaining in the trust to the successor beneficiaries the grantor named. Many people set up revocable trusts to prevent their assets from going through probate.

Order of succession in Michigan if you do not leave a will

You may assume that if you die without a will, your assets automatically go to your spouse and children. While there is some truth to this, Michigan has very specific rules for the distribution of your estate to your heirs, as well as definitions of who your heirs are. We at the Bingham Legal Group PC often provide legal information about state laws and inheritances.

According to accessKent, current state law dictates that your surviving spouse inherits the first $150,000 of the estate under certain circumstances. If you do not have children together, after that first allotment, your spouse receives three-fourths of the balance and your parent receives the rest. If you do have children together, half of the balance would be distributed among them, and your spouse would receive the other half. If you have children that are not your spouse’s, he or she would take the first $100,000 and half of the balance, and the rest would be divided among your children.

Why estate planning is so important after divorce or remarriage

A Michigan estate plan is not something you prepare once and then put away. Divorce and remarriage, in particular, are events that should prompt you to make some changes. The team at Bingham Legal Group PC understands how these factors may affect your loved ones if you die before changing your will, and we often advise clients on the best way to address their unique family structure in their estate plans.

According to the Michigan Bar Journal, the state has default rules that apply when you do not have an estate plan. These do not distribute your assets equally between your spouse and your children, so it is crucial that you spell out your wishes in a written will, or a large portion of the assets that you intended for your descendants to have could go to your new spouse.

Can ADR resolve both business and estate planning disputes?

When it appears that you are on your way to court over a business disagreement that has spiraled out of control, or you anticipate disputes over your final wishes, you may want to consider the concept of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Two processes are part of ADR: Mediation and arbitration. How does the ADR process work and when should you use it?

proper representation is important.schedule a meeting to review your case andlearn more about how we can help you.

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