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Detroit Probate, Trust & Estate Administration Law Blog

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.

Asset protection with a spendthrift trust

Ensuring that your family members are able to benefit from the assets you leave behind is one of the primary goals of estate planning in Michigan. We at the Bingham Legal Group PC often recommend spendthrift trusts to people who have concerns about their beneficiaries' ability to handle wealth responsibly.

When you place assets in a trust, the trustee has control over them based on the instructions you leave. This can take some measure of accessibility out of the hands of your beneficiaries, which could be particularly advantageous if you are concerned that a creditor or ex-spouse may try to get their hands on your assets. According to Forbes magazine, a spendthrift provision can protect the trust funds even further. 

Updated estate planning is important for blended families

If you have remarried, questions will arise at some point concerning your estate. The number one question will be about who gets what, and how, after you die.

Beneficiary designations are not just about naming your heirs in a will. You may not have realized it, but these designations play a big role in any retirement accounts you might have, which in turn, play a big role when it comes to estate planning.

How do you know if your parent's estate needs a new executor?

You may not want to take on the considerable responsibility of agreeing to be the executor of your parent's estate in Michigan. However, once your parent passes away, the person chosen could prove less than satisfactory.

Here are some clues that he or she should be removed from the position.

Do I need a lawyer for estate administration?

While many people immediately think of lawyers for handling criminal cases or litigation such as in divorces or contentious custody battles, they may not consider the need for an attorney in a situation such as estate administration. Often, individuals do not think about planning for the proper distribution of their assets or the management of their estate, and this can leave their loved ones in difficult circumstances amidst the trying time of dealing with a death. 

If you properly manage your wealth with estate planning, it can take the burden off of your loved ones when it comes time to designate how to distribute your assets following your death. However, this is not something you should face on your own. You should not squander the time and effort you have dedicated to building your wealth with haphazard or inappropriate planning. Here are a few things to consider when you are deciding whether you need a lawyer for your estate administration.

Estate planning and communication

With estate planning, communication is paramount to the efficacy of your trust or will. In addition to talking with loved ones, trying to answer any questions they have, and going over any concerns that may arise, it is also very important for you to find answers to any questions that you have. By taking the time to talk with those who are affected by your estate plan, you might be able to eliminate confusion or even prevent disputes from arising later on. There are many facets of effective estate planning, but our law firm knows how crucial communication is.

For some people, it can be hard to talk about death or the way that assets will be divided in the event that one passes away. However, these challenges can be magnified if they are ignored or pushed off. Talking with loved ones about these matters may give you a clearer understanding of which decisions should be made with regard to your estate. Moreover, you could find that you have more peace of mind after you have gone over these issues with loved ones. Discussing certain aspects of your estate plan with relatives could also prevent a contentious dispute from rearing its head in the future.

Things to consider before joining a pooled special needs trust

Parents in Michigan who are concerned about their adult child with disabilities may be looking for a solution to ensure his or her quality of life is maintained after their death. According to FindLaw, special needs trusts are often the estate planning tool that fulfills this goal. There is more than one type of special needs trust, though, and for some families, a pooled-account trust may be the best option.

Rather than being controlled by an individual trustee or a trust company, a pooled trust is managed by a nonprofit organization. It is often beneficial for adults with special needs who are under the age of 65, whose parents may not have the assets to fund an adequate trust, or who do not have a viable trustee option. Assets are pooled in the trust account to make investments more lucrative. The adult child would still have an individual account, and his or her needs, such as services and items beyond basic food, housing and clothing, would be taken care of by the trust. 

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