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Detroit Probate, Trust & Estate Administration Law Blog

Planning ahead to help your spouse after your death

There is little else as unsettling as thinking about how your spouse would manage if you were to pass away. While you can do your best to provide a supportive lifestyle while you are living, what happens when you are no longer physically able to protect your spouse? At Bingham Legal Group, we have helped many couples in Michigan to create an estate plan that is applicable to their living situation and is capable of meeting their end-of-life desires. 

One of the best things that you can do to provide support to your spouse and any dependents you may have once you pass away, is to be proactive while you are living in making sure that you plan ahead. An estate plan encompasses a variety of aspects from how you wish your assets to be distributed to how certain decisions regarding your inheritance should be made. Throughout the process of creating an estate plan, you should work closely with your spouse as the two of you reach agreements on important decisions. You can also address tax responsibilities in your estate plan to prevent burdening your spouse with tax exemption requirements when you pass away. 

3 methods of reducing estate tax

When you work on your Michigan estate plan, chances are, you do so with the intent of leaving as much of your wealth behind for your loved ones, or the causes you care about, as you possibly can. One effective method of doing this involves reducing the amount of tax assessed against your estate, and there are several different methods you can utilize to help do this. At Bingham Legal Group PC, we are well-versed in the various methods of reducing estate tax, and we have helped many clients navigate this and related estate planning objectives.

According to U.S. News & World Report, one of the most effective methods available to you in terms of reducing estate tax involves placing some of your assets into trusts, rather than leaving them behind in a traditional will. Why? Once you place assets in a trust, they become the official property of your trustee, rather than yourself, meaning they do not come into play when assessing the overall worth of your estate. Trusts come in a variety of different types, so some types of trusts may better suit your unique needs than others.

How fiduciaries breach their duty

If you accepted the responsibility of becoming the executor of someone’s Michigan will, you become a fiduciary when that person dies and you are faced with the duties entailed in taking his or her estate through the probate process. Being a fiduciary means that you are the person who oversees and looks out for the estate’s assets, pays its bills and taxes, as well as those of the deceased person, and ultimately distributes the remaining estate assets to the people or entities designated in the deceased’s will. Sometimes you may even be one of those people yourself, but usually a testator gives the executor job to someone who is not one of his or her heirs.

It goes without saying that being a fiduciary is a big responsibility. Everything you do must be in the best interests of the estate and the best interests of its ultimate heirs. You must not do anything in your own interests and/or adverse to theirs or you breach your fiduciary duty.

Revocable trusts and a beneficiary’s divorce

You have many options if you are thinking about setting up an estate plan, whether you decide to go forward with a special needs trust for one of your loved ones who struggles with a disability or some other type of estate plan. It is important to consider many factors, and there are a number of situations which can impact an estate plan. For example, the end of a marriage can lead to estate plan revision because a former spouse was listed as a beneficiary or was given authority that is no longer desirable. Moreover, if one of your beneficiaries splits up with their spouse, you may also want to think about how this could impact your plans.

Divorce can be unpredictable, and it can lead to a variety of legal challenges. As if your own divorce is not complicated enough, it can be even more challenging to understand some of the hurdles that a loved one is going through in their divorce. For example, if you have a child who is married, and they are listed as a beneficiary in your estate plan, you may be worried about how your assets will be divided and whether their former spouse will receive any of the proceeds.

When people pass away before creating an estate plan

The estate planning process can seem complex and time-consuming, which causes some people to push off setting up a will or creating a trust. Moreover, some people may believe that they are too young for an estate plan and that they have many decades of life ahead of them. Unfortunately, unexpected problems can arise at any time, from a serious health crisis (such as a terminal cancer diagnosis) to an unforeseen accident that claims a life far too soon. As a result, it is important for you to set up an estate plan if you are worried about how your estate will be distributed to loved ones after you pass away.

When someone dies before they have an estate plan in place, their death can be even more difficult for those they love. Not only will many family members have overwhelming emotional pain, but there may be a lot of confusion with respect to the distribution of assets belonging to the deceased. Moreover, disputes can arise over how to split up assets and family members may be completely unsure of what to do in certain regards. Unfortunately, this has happened to many families and the situation has resulted in someone's assets being divided in a way that goes against what they would have wanted.

A look at testamentary trusts

When it comes to trusts, there are many different options for people to choose from. However, it is essential to find out which trust will suit your needs best. In this blog, we will examine some of the ins and outs of testamentary trusts, which can be a bit confusing at first glance. These trusts offer a number of benefits for some people and help them ensure that their assets are passed on to their loved ones properly. As with any type of estate-related issue, it is imperative to make sure you thoroughly review the details beforehand.

First of all, it is important to point out that testamentary trusts arise after the testator passes away. These trusts, which are specified in a person's will, can address either a portion of his or her estate or the entire estate. Moreover, someone may have multiple testamentary trusts. These trusts can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. First, they can be helpful with respect to life insurance policy proceeds as well as settlements from legal action after the testator has passed away.

International assets and your estate plan

Estate planning can be very complex and this is true for almost everyone who decides to set up a plan, whether they move ahead with a will or decide that a trust is the better option. For some people, estate planning can be even more complicated, however. For example, some people own property outside of the U.S., which can make setting up an estate plan even trickier for various reasons. If you have international assets or are dealing with other international issues that could impact your estate plan (citizenship, beneficiaries living overseas, etc.), it is especially important for you to carefully approach this process.

For starters, you should try to go over the details of your circumstances carefully and make sure that the most appropriate type of estate plan has been identified before moving forward. Next, you should carefully review any of your unique challenges that could affect your estate and the way in which it is split up among those you love. With careful planning and close attention to detail, you may be able to overcome these hurdles and set up an estate plan that suits all of your needs.

Nontraditional couples and estate planning protection

Many people do not get around to estate planning until later in life. Nontraditional couples may not get around to it all, perhaps thinking they do not qualify.

The truth is that estate planning is essential for nontraditional families of all kinds, and it is a responsibility couples should act on sooner than later.

Calculating the value of an estate

The probate process can be tricky for a number of reasons and those who have been placed in charge of an estate plan often have a number of responsibilities, some of which may seem overwhelming. In this post, we will look into the importance of correctly calculating the value of an estate, an issue that can be quite challenging in some instances. Some estates are relatively modest and others may involve a significant amount of assets, which can make valuation even more difficult. However, this is an essential aspect of the probate process.

The way in which the value of an estate is determined could have an impact on the distribution of the estate and tax matters. Furthermore, some people wish to figure out the value of their estate before they pass away. Calculating the value of your estate beforehand can be helpful for a variety of reasons, such as helping you figure out how to minimize the tax implications associated with your estate plan and give you a better understanding of how you should distribute your estate among those you love.

Second marriages and estate planning

Often, when people tie the knot, they expect to stay in a marriage with their spouse for the rest of their life. However, things do not always work out well and some couples ultimately end their marriage. This can bring on a number of changes in one's life, especially when it comes to financial matters such as estate planning. Moreover, some people may choose to get married to someone else, and this can also give rise to various considerations related to one's estate plan. Whether someone wishes to modify an existing estate plan or set up a will or trust after their second marriage, it is essential to be careful moving forward.

Second marriages can be very positive for those who may have left an abusive or otherwise toxic marriage. With a fresh outlook on life and hope for the future, many people are excited to move forward with their new spouse. However, it is important to consider the different ways in which a second marriage could affect you and your loved ones financially. First, if you have an estate plan from your previous marriage, you should carefully go over the plan and think about your options. You may be able to make key changes to your existing estate plan.

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