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Macomb County Estate Planning and Probate Blog

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.

Once granted can powers of attorney be revoked?

It is a difficult decision, naming a person to act as a personal representative to assist with financial matters or in the event one becomes incapacitated. After the choice is made and the legal documents completed, can powers of attorney be revoked if the agent is overstepping or not performing his or her duties appropriately? Thankfully, this is something for which the laws in Michigan and elsewhere do allow.

When one, the principal, assigns powers of attorney to someone he or she believes to be a trusted individual, the agent, he or she expects that person to act in his or her best interests. Sadly, there are times when agents have their own agendas. When this happens, the principal or other family members may not be sure what their options are to stop the misuse of power.

What you don't know about a Will

I often receive calls where an individual says to me, "Nick, I want a Will" or "I just need a Will".  I in turn tell the caller that while everyone should have one, a Will - will not keep a loved one out of court.

Why one should not avoid estate planning

There are numerous Michigan residents who do not have estate plans in place. Why? Everyone has their own reasons. However, there are also good reasons as to why one should not avoid the estate planning process.

According to a recent study by BMO Wealth Management, 52 percent of the participants said that they do not have estate plans prepared. This number is on par with the belief that half of the adult population in the United States have done little, if anything, to get their affairs in order in the event of death or incapacitation. That is quite a few people who are leaving their assets, selves and loved ones completely unprotected.

Get help with a generation skipping trust administration

Generation skipping trusts can be a great way to avoid having your assets taxed more than is necessary. Making sure your beneficiaries receive as much as possible is certainly an understandable goal. This week's column will discuss what this type of trust is and why it can prove beneficial to certain Michigan residents. It will also go over how an attorney can assist with the trust administration.

If you want to pass your assets on to your grandchildren, rather than your children, you can do this by creating a generation skipping trust. Why do this? There are very personal reasons for doing this; for example, some may just want to make sure that their grandchildren are provided for and others may simply decide that their children are not in financial need.

Is changing a house deed a good way to avoid probate litigation?

When going through the estate planning process, it is understandable that one would want to do everything possible to help avoid the need for probate when it comes time for the estate to be administered. One way that some Michigan residents may try to prevent their estate from going through probate litigation is by adding a child or other family member to their house deeds. There are pros and cons to doing this, though.

The biggest and only real benefit of adding another person to the deed of one's home is joint property ownership. Jointly owned property is not subject to probate. Why? Because the surviving owner will become the sole owner upon the other person's death.

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