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Detroit Probate, Trust & Estate Administration Law Blog

Is someone trying to exert undue influence over your mom?

Your mother has been careful about keeping the family estate intact, just the way your dad left it to her when he died. Now she suddenly wants to change her will.

You suspect a distant cousin who has recently entered your mom’s life may be trying to influence her in terms of making major decisions, and that includes making changes to her will. Is there anything you can do to find out more about Cousin Myrtle’s motives in befriending your Mom?

The importance of a unique estate plan

When it comes to estate planning, there is no one size fits all solution. In fact, the circumstances surrounding one estate may vary dramatically in comparison to another estate, which highlights how crucial it is for you to set up a unique estate plan that caters to your individual needs. Your estate plan should also take into account the unique needs of your family members and beneficiaries. Additionally, you may need to revise your estate plan at certain points, depending on changes that occur in your life or the lives of your loved ones.

For example, you might have a sizable estate with significant assets, in which case your approach may need to be a bit different. Or, perhaps you run a business and are concerned about what will happen to your business after you pass away. Moreover, you may have step-children, which could affect your loved ones during the probate process and in other ways, necessitating an individualized estate plan. Regardless of the unique aspects of your family, finances, and life, it is pivotal for you to work out an estate plan that suits your needs. Unfortunately, some people overlook certain parts of their lives when putting together an estate plan, which can lead to complications in the years to come.

When a spendthrift trust is recommended

People in Michigan who want to manage their finances both while they are living and after they have passed should have a trust. This, along with a will, can aid in estate planning and ensure finances are taking care of effectively when the owner becomes incapacitated. For those who are worried the beneficiaries will wile away the money in an irresponsible manner, a spendthrift trust is highly recommended. 

CNBC stresses the importance of having a living trust. In it, the owner specifies to whom their assets shall be distributed after their death or if they become mentally unable to manage their finances. A trustee is named, and this person is in charge of making sure the wishes are followed in an efficient manner. While a trust is a great way to make sure beneficiaries are taken care of, it can be tricky with those who are not financially responsible.

How can I obtain an estate tax closing letter?

When it comes to trust administration and other estate-related matters, many facets of the law can leave people with questions. Our law office knows that it is crucial for you to find answers and review any issues that are relevant to your case. For example, if you are wondering how you can access an estate tax closing letter, it is important to know that you are able to do so but you will need to fulfill certain requirements. In Detroit and cities all across Michigan, finding answers to these types of questions can provide a sense of peace and also help people who are struggling with estate matters move forward.

The Internal Revenue Service states that estate tax closing letters are issued, but they need to be specifically requested by a taxpayer or his or her representative. It is important to note that before receiving a closing letter, the person making the request must be authorized to receive such information and they will also need to provide certain types of information. For example, if you are an executor looking for a closing letter, you will have to give a court-issued Letters Testamentary copy. Other information that must be given includes a will copy, the requestor's address and name, and the decedent's date of death, social, and name.

Revocable vs. irrevocable trust

For some Michigan residents, setting up a trust may be one of their New Year's goals. One of the decisions that has to be made is whether the trust will be revocable or irrevocable, and this depends on the reasons for setting up the trust in the first place. 

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation states the biggest difference between the two types of trusts is one can be modified or canceled by the grantor, while the other cannot. In a revocable trust, the owners of the deposit account names beneficiaries for the account amount upon the owner's death. The trust can be changed at anytime by the owner. With an irrevocable trust, the owner can deposit money or other assets into the trust, but gives up the ability to change or cancel the trust.

Making changes to a living trust

Life changes often create the need for estate planning changes, but when modifying a trust in Michigan, it is important to do it right. According to the American Bar Association, a trust amendment is a document that attaches to the existing trust, rather than a rewriting of the trust. In fact, if a person takes out a page, changes it, and puts it back in, this could lead to challenges and disputes later. 

If the original trust was written properly, then assets can usually be added to it without any need for amendments. However, an amendment is necessary for a new asset if there is more than one beneficiary, or if it is going to a beneficiary who was not named in the trust before. 

Your estate plan benefits your heirs, but how does it help you?

You have taken the time and effort to create a will in Michigan, and you feel reasonably confident that your children are not going to suffer financially if you die while they are young. However, this estate planning tool only gives peace of mind for the time after your death. What if you are involved in a car accident that leaves you in a coma? 

According to the State Bar of Michigan, the document that can resolve many of the financial issues that may crop up while you are incapacitated is known as a power of attorney. In this document, you name an agent who you trust to take care of your finances for as long as you are unable to manage on your own.

What happens to my 401(k) plan in the probate process?

People tend to think that all their assets must eventually go through probate, but that is not true. For example, if you and your spouse share joint ownership of your home, your spouse will own it under right of survivorship after you pass away.

You no doubt own other assets that will not have to go through probate as long as you adhere to certain guidelines.

Estate fraud and probate

People have many responsibilities and concerns when it comes to the probate process, whether they are unsure of their duties as an executor or experience problems with other beneficiaries, such as disagreements over how a loved one decided to distribute their assets after their death. However, estate fraud is a serious problem and the Bingham Legal Group knows just how difficult these issues can be for families and individuals to work through.

Estate fraud can take a number of forms and it is vital to pinpoint and address any occurrences of this offense. For example, someone may exert undue influence to take advantage of a decedent and benefit financially. Or, an executor may breach their duties by failing to distribute assets as the decedent wished. For example, a parent may be upset that their child's grandparent wanted to give them some type of property and they could refuse to give their child the asset. In some intances, beneficiaries may not even be aware that they were supposed to receive property.

Holiday celebrations and estate disputes

On this blog, we have covered some of the reasons why disputes over an estate arise. Sadly, these disagreements have the capability to tear a family apart and can be especially tough to deal with during certain times of year, such as the holidays when family members join to celebrate. Bingham Legal Group knows that these matters can be tough for people on all sides of the dispute, whether you are an executor facing false allegations of neglecting your fiduciary duties or you are a beneficiary and believe you have been wronged. Either way, you may have to confront strong emotions and stress as you review the situation and this can be even more challenging during the holidays.

Sometimes, disagreements are unavoidable. That said, you may want to try to reduce friction between family members, if you are able to. Often, families who are struggling through will disputes and other disagreements related to an estate are under a considerable amount of emotional strain. Sometimes, these disputes can create lasting damage to relationships. On the other hand, if you think that your rights have been violated, you should not feel as if you have no choice but to stay silent.

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

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