Planning for the end of life is often emotionally difficult, but a comprehensive estate plan can resolve uncertainties about end-of-life care and can prevent familial contention after your death. In Michigan, there are many different estate planning tools that can be used to achieve your individual goals and resolve your concerns. An experienced attorney understands the intricacies of the law and can work with you to create your estate plan today.
Wills and Trusts
Wills and trusts are the basic tools in Michigan for the disposition of a person’s property at death. They can be strategically used to minimize taxation, protect a surviving spouse and children, and manage assets for those who are not capable of responsibly administering their own affairs. Further, they allow the designation of a person to administer the estate after the decedent’s passing. An experienced lawyer can ensure that your will or trust is valid and is executed in accordance with Michigan’s formalities, and can help to protect your wishes against any future will contests.
One important consideration in any estate plan is tax planning. Estate tax, income tax, generation-skipping tax, and gift tax must all be taken into account. For 2015, the federal estate tax exemption is $5.43 million, and Michigan no longer has a state-level estate tax, so most people do not have to seriously consider estate taxes in their planning. But income tax, gift tax, and generation-skipping transfer taxes may also be relevant. An estate planning attorney can help you avoid taxation on your estate, so that you can pass on as much of your property as possible to your chosen beneficiaries.
Another foundational concern of estate planning is avoiding contention among family members concerning the distribution of the estate. It is important to be as clear as possible when drafting wills and trusts, so as to avoid any ambiguity that could lead to disputes among the beneficiaries of your estate. An attorney can work with you to make your estate plan clear and minimize familial disagreement after you are gone.
Powers of Attorney
But the disposition of assets is not the only consideration when forming an estate plan. Powers of attorney are useful tools to give another the right to act in a person’s behalf, in case that person becomes incapacitated.
A durable power of attorney grants a trusted family member or professional the right to act on another’s behalf in regards to financial affairs if a person becomes incapacitated and unable to manage his or her own finances. The power of attorney will last as long as the incapacity lasts. If you have already worked with your lawyer to create a durable power of attorney, there will not be a need to have a public hearing in probate court to appoint a conservator.
A health care power of attorney names someone to make medical decisions on a person’s behalf, if that person becomes unable to manage his or her health care. Health care powers of attorney may also include advance statements of medical preferences, especially preferences regarding life-sustaining treatments. If no health care power of attorney exists, and you become incapacitated, the probate court will appoint a guardian to act in your stead.
Other Estate Planning Tools
In addition to wills, trusts, and powers of attorney, you may want to consider other tools and aspects of estate planning, including:
- Business succession planning;
- Charitable giving;
- Marital agreements;
- Life insurance;
- Special needs planning for disabled family members; and
- End of life care, such as financial planning for a nursing home.
If you have not created an estate plan and would like to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney, please contact Royal Oak estate planning attorney John Little to schedule a free phone consultation at 248-865-3455