Plants on the Window

FAQ

Down-to-earth and (actually) understandable legal answers.

Do you have a question not answered? Consult with an experienced Detroit estate planning lawyer. Let an experienced Michigan will and trust attorney answer your specific questions.

 

WHAT IS AN ESTATE? (I.E. WHAT IF I DON'T HAVE A YACHT?)

It sounds fancy. It isn’t, and it usually does not involve a yacht.

This simply refers to your property.  In the context of wills and trusts, estate law relates to managing your property if you pass away or for a person who cannot personally handle their property because of their age (think, your kids) or medical limitations.

WHAT IS AN "ESTATE PLAN"?

An estate plan is the strategy used to manage your property and navigate the laws surrounding your property.

When property and/or money transfers hands, these transactions are regulated by the government in many forms, such as gift tax, income tax, capital gains tax, and more. The process to handle these transactions can also be lengthy.

An estate plan uses different legal tools to legally and strategically avoid these less-than-favorable default laws. A strategy may include: wills, living trusts, irrevocable trusts, powers of attorney, living wills or advanced healthcare directives, and more.

HOW CAN AN ESTATE PLAN BENEFIT ME?

Estate planning has many benefits for both the old and the young. It can ensure your children or grandchildren are financially and physically cared for – on your terms. It can be the difference between financial security and insecurity for your spouse (spoiler: not everything automatically transfers to your spouse when you pass away), especially if he/she is suddenly going from a dual parent home to a single parent home and a dual income home to a single income home. Creating a plan now also lifts a significant burden from your family, so they are not left dealing with red tape in the midst of grief and adjusting to their new circumstances.

A comprehensive estate plan in Michigan includes planning ahead for medical incapacitation. This can be especially important to preserve family relationships when there is disagreement on what to do. 

DO I NEED A WILL OR A TRUST?

Nearly everyone should have at least a will. A trust is particularly good option for those with minor children and/or those who want to make sure their money is used properly and not wasted.

However, just a will or a trust will {not} avoid many of the most significant estate planning concerns, which is why you need a comprehensive estate plan. For example, a Michigan will does not avoid the legal expenses and delays of probate. It also cannot keep your children from getting large sums of money when they come of age. You will need to implement additional strategies to address these issues.

WHO NEEDS AN ESTATE PLAN?

An estate plan is particularly important if you have minor children, have health concerns, or are over 60. However, there are different types and levels of estate plans, which means that almost everyone can benefit from on

WHAT IF I HAVE FEW/NO ASSETS?

It probably does not impact whether you need an estate plan for two primary reasons:

(1) Estate planning is about so much more than money. It is about preserving family relationships, making things as easy as possible on your spouse, and taking care of your kids during medical incapacitation and after passing away. You do not need much to accomplish these goals.

 

(2) You probably have more “plannable assets” than you realize. You may have $30,000 of equity in your home, which may not seem like much compared to what is left on your mortgage. However, consider your child getting $30,000 in cash the day they turn 18. Or, getting $200,000 from your life insurance policy. Context is everything.


An estate plan set up by an experienced will and trust lawyer can help you accomplish your goals, regardless of your net worth.

DOESN'T EVERYTHING AUTOMATICALLY GO TO MY SPOUSE?

Nope. Yes, you read that right.


The only way to make sure all of your property is given to your spouse without delay is to create an estate plan in advance. Without a plan, at least some of your assets will eventually get to your spouse, but you will need to go to court to get them. There are inventory fees, filing fees, and other costs. And, often you have to pay an attorney an hourly rate to represent you (often over $150 /hr in many markets). You can expect to lose 3-8% of your assets in this process. It is not ideal.


For many people, planning in advance is the faster, cheaper way to make sure all of your assets go to your spouse.

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