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

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

Reduce Your Taxable Estate: Fund Education

There are many options available to reduce or eliminate a taxable estate upon your death. Many involve complex planning with various types and combinations of trusts, including credit shelter trusts, grantor trusts, and charitable trusts. Often overlooked, however, is the opportunity to reduce your taxable estate by financing the education of your intended beneficiaries. Read More

Selecting Your Fiduciary

When formulating estate plans, most people carefully consider to whom they should give their “stuff.” Who gets the piano? The book collection? The emerald ring and the antique pocket watch? But the process of choosing fiduciaries – the trustees, personal representatives, and agents – is handled as if bestowing an award upon them rather than interviewing them for a job. Read More

Pet Related Tax Deductions

While only California has begun a movement to treat pets as dependents, there are a number of deductions already available within the federal tax code that can be applicable to pets in certain situations. Do any of these scenarios apply to you and your pet? Read More

Gifting to Grandchildren: The GSTT

Did you know that if you leave money directly to your grandchildren, the funds may be taxed twice? The Generation Skipping Transfer Tax (GSTT) is responsible. Understanding the GSTT requires a discussion of both of life’s two certainties – death and taxes. Read More