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Macomb County Estate Planning and Probate Blog

Why is estate planning important for young adults?

When going to college, getting started in one's profession, getting married or starting a family, one of the last things on a young person's mind is his or her mortality. Estate planning is not meant for young people after all, right? Actually, there are reasons as to why young adults in Michigan would benefit from having the legal protections offered in an estate plan in place.

The whole point of estate planning is to be prepared for what is to come and to give oneself a voice. Without a will, trust, power of attorney and/or beneficiary designations -- among other estate planning documents -- one will have no say about what happens to one's estate in the event of death or incapacitation. It will simply be passed to one's parents, a surviving spouse or to a judge who will decide what to do with it.

What to gather before probate administration can begin?

The executor of an estate has the difficult task of making sure that the estate is closed out properly. This can seem like an overwhelming task for Michigan residents who have never before taken on such a role. If it is not handled appropriately, the executor could be held personally liable. To help probate administration go over smoothly, one could benefit by taking inventory of any assets, legal documents and debts tied to the estate. As soon as all this information is gathered, one can open a case in probate court.

What information should the personal representative gather before probate administration begins? There is actually quite a long list of items that one should have in possession before administering an estate. A few of these items include:

  • Will/Trust
  • Funeral instruction if left by the deceased
  • All financial documents
  • Any life insurance policies
  • Information about debts
  • Information about jointly owned assets
  • Several years' worth of tax returns

Issues for women to consider when estate planning

The benefits of estate planning for women are many. For example, you can ensure that your children, after your passing, avoid court, avoid estate taxes and receive the property you wanted them to.

Priorities for estate planning tend to change with age. For example, as a young mother, you may want to ensure that you appoint a guardian to provide for your minor children. On the other hand, if you are about to retire, you may want to make sure that you have adequate resources to help you through long-term care if that becomes necessary. In many ways, estate planning can affect women more than it does men. Women tend to live longer than men, and women also tend to marry older spouses. As such, there can be special issues for women, no matter their income levels, to consider.

When estate planning, young parents may want to name a guardian

Preparing one's estate is not something that many young parents in Michigan really feel is necessary. They generally have their hands full and it just does not seem like an important thing to do. The truth of the matter is, for people with minor children, estate planning really should not be put off as doing so will leave their children unprotected.

If one died today or became incapacitated in someway, who would take care of one's children? Without naming a guardian, this is a choice that will be left up to a judge. Is that something with which one can live? Or does one want to have a say in the matter? It is fairly safe to say that the vast majority of parents would like to have a say in who will raise their children in the event that they cannot.

Estate planning for those who do not have children

According to the 2016 Rocket Lawyer study, 64 percent of Americans do not have at least a will in place. This is a rather large group of people who are leaving their assets unprotected should they pass on, whether expectedly or unexpectedly. Why do so many people in Michigan and elsewhere fail to complete the estate planning process? For some, the answer is that they do not have children so they do not feel it is necessary.

The truth of the matter is, one does not need to have children to have an estate plan. Those who do not generally want to make sure that their assets are used for good after they are gone. That will likely not happen, though, if one does not have a will or other estate planning documents completed.

Michigan probate administration: Movement in Prince case

Few people in Michigan and elsewhere have the type of assets that music icon Prince left behind when he died. However, this is still a case from which people can learn. Without a valid estate plan in place, probate administration can take a long time.

Prince died in April 2016. As he died without a will or any other estate plan in place, there has been question about who should inherit his assets. Many have come forward to make claims on the estate. However, more than a year later, a judge has finally made a decision about who will be named as beneficiaries.

Michigan estate planning: Don't forget to fund a trust

Creating a trust takes a lot of time and effort. Unfortunately, there are those in Michigan and elsewhere who, after leaving their attorney's office, fail to take the steps necessary to fund their trusts. Do not make this estate planning mistake.

So, what happens if one fails to fund his or her trust? Well, when it comes time to administer one's estate, there will be a lot of work for his or her loved ones. Before anything can be done, every asset will have to be identified and ownership of the property will have to be determined. If assets are not jointly owned or if there are no beneficiary designations, they will become what are called probate assets -- meaning distribution will then be based on the instructions left in a will, or if there is not will, it will be up to the court to decide based upon applicable law.

Michigan estate planning: Making a valid will

While everyone may not need or even want a will, for those who do, having one in place is a great way to make sure that their estates are protected at the time of their deaths. Creating a will, a valid will, can take time, but it is time that may be considered well spent if it means that the document is legally binding. Michigan residents who need help with this can turn to an estate planning attorney in order to make sure they have done all that is necessary to create a valid document.

When it comes to wills, at the end of the day, it is all about execution. How a will is prepared does matter. If any concerns over execution are raised, the administration of one's estate may come to a stand still.

Trust administration is not a walk in the park for the trustee

When one is named the trustee for a trust, there is a lot of responsibility that comes with that title. Trust administration is not necessarily a walk in the park. A wrong move or a bad decision can come back to bite the trustee in more ways than one. Those in Michigan who are named trustees can take steps to protect themselves should any issues arise when administering a trust.

The job of a trustee is to manage a trust and administer it according to the documented terms. While this seems simple enough, mistakes can be easily made and beneficiaries may not always be happy with how things are done. Unfortunately, if there are concerns that a trustee is not up to the task, of if he or she has made bad decisions or distributed assets erroneously, beneficiaries may have the right to take legal action.

3 tips to follow as an executor of an estate

If you have accepted the role of executor of an estate, you might feel a mixture of honor and stress. It can be easy to get overwhelmed with the process, as administering an estate is a lofty responsibility. Taking some simple proactive steps to properly manage the assets will help you avoid any pitfalls, suspicion from beneficiaries and probate litigation.

You do not have to feel overwhelmed or like you are going it alone. Here are some tips to make your role as executor easier to handle.

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