Why You Still Need an Estate Plan

Many people believe that estate planning is only for the ultra-wealthy, a belief that has been exacerbated over the past several years with a markedly increased unified estate and gift tax credit ($5.45 million per individual in 2016). While it’s true that estate and gift tax planning was a common reason for estate planning within recent years, the belief that it is the only or most important reason is a common misconception. Read More

Choosing a Guardian and Conservator for Your Minor Children

For parents of minor children, there is perhaps no more important decision in estate planning than deciding who will care for your children if both you and your spouse were to die or become incapacitated. In making your selections, there is an important distinction to consider: you can (and often should) differentiate between naming someone who will care for your children and naming someone who will be responsible for your children’s money. Read More

A Change in the Law: Funeral Representatives

As of June 27, 2016, Michigan law allows you to formally identify a Funeral Representative who has the authority to make your final arrangements regarding your funeral, memorial service, cremation and/or burial. The Funeral Representative also has the right to possess – or make decisions about who may possess – your cremated remains. You can designate your Funeral Representative in your will, in your power of attorney, or in a separate writing that is notarized and/or witnessed by two persons. Read More

Special Needs and Income Taxes

Are you the family member or caretaker of an individual with special needs, or an individual with special needs? If you or your loved one, as an individual with special needs, meets the government definition of “disabled,” you may be able to take advantage of tax benefits for related expenses. This post will focus on some of those greatest benefits. Read More

Your Estate Plan and Your Safe Deposit Box

If you have an estate plan and a safe deposit box (SDB) you may be wondering one of two things. First, can (and should) you re-title your SDB in the name of your trust? Second, is your SDB a good place to keep your estate plan documents? This post will address both questions. Read More

Medicaid Planning and Multiple Real Estate Interests: An Overview

Many Michigan families own a second property, and preserving that property for future generations is almost always an important goal. However, Medicaid qualification rules only exempt a homestead (up to a certain limit of value in some circumstances), which only protects one property. Medicaid also has a five year “look-back” rule preventing applicants from simply giving their property away or selling it for less than fair market value in order to qualify for Medicaid. For an owner of multiple properties who has learned he or she will need to apply for Medicaid, the first concern often revolves around what will happen to the second property. Read More

Should Your Vehicle Be In Your Trust?

Estate planning attorneys can never stress enough the importance of “funding” your trust – ensuring that assets that you intend to pass by the terms of your trust actually do so.  Funding is accomplished by retitling assets or changing the beneficiary on the asset to the trust. You may be surprised to learn that your vehicle does not need to be retitled to your trust in order to avoid probate court. In fact, unless you have vehicles in excess of $60,000 in value, we generally advise against doing so for the following reasons. Read More

Protecting Trust Assets For and From Beneficiaries

Asset protection is an important consideration in estate planning. Often, we don’t realize that asset protection is needed until it is too late and assets are already at risk. Fortunately, by planning in advance, you can protect your assets from the creditors of your beneficiaries. Creditors can include those to whom loan obligations are owed, such as credit cards, or those less often thought of as creditors, such as lawsuit plaintiffs and ex-spouses. Read More

Incentivizing Beneficiaries

There is an age-old debate about whether a trust encourages a beneficiary to be a responsible and contributing member of society, or whether that same beneficiary has no incentive to work hard when he or she could just as easily live a care-free life paid for by the generosity of an ancestor. The logical follow-up to that debate would be to ask whether leaving such a sum to a beneficiary is really doing them a favor. Depending upon your view of the first question, your answer to the second question will likely differ – but it doesn’t have to. Read More