Comprehensive Estate Planning Assistance in Michigan
Many people we talk to wonder if estate planning is necessary. Some believe that estate planning is “only for rich people” or that they do not need to worry about it yet because they are young and healthy. While we recognize that preparing for the realities of the future may not be something you or your family are excited to address, doing so is extremely important.
Your estate plan is not just a set of instructions that tell the government what to do with your property after you are gone. It is also a tool that allows you to maintain control over your affairs both while you are alive and after you pass away. Designed and implemented correctly, an estate plan will protect you and the people you love.
She will be very helpful and proactive when I do have issues within her area of practice.Adam
A well-designed estate plan will typically use multiple instruments tailored to your family’s needs. When you meet with our firm, we will review your circumstances and walk you through all available options.
Our Michigan estate planning attorneys can assist you with many types of tools and strategies, including:
- Wills. In your “last will and testament,” you can name beneficiaries to assets, a guardian for your minor children, and a personal representative to manage estate administration. Assets named in will must go through probate, and the document’s contents will eventually become public. To avoid delays, scrutiny, and other complications, it is generally wise to consider other forms of asset distribution.
- Revocable Living Trusts. When you create a trust, you appoint a trustee to manage the trust on your behalf. (You can also act as your own trustee until you become incapacitated or pass away, at which point a successor trustee will take over.) Revocable living trusts are modifiable throughout your lifetime and can be used to pass assets to beneficiaries without going through probate. Trusts are also private, meaning their contents will only be known to you, your trustee, and your beneficiaries.
- Powers of Attorney. You can appoint agents to act on your behalf in various capacities. A financial power of attorney handles financial activities you authorize, while a medical power of attorney advocates for you in health care settings. You can set your powers of attorney to “trigger” when you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate.
- Health Care Directives. In a health care directive, you establish enforceable instructions that medical providers must follow in situations where you are unable to communicate. Many people choose to provide instructions for end-of-life care and whether they wish to be resuscitated.
- HIPPA Authorizations. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, prevents medical providers from giving protected information to parties not permitted under the law. A HIPPA authorization gives a provider explicit permission to share protected medical information with chosen loved ones.
- Special Needs Planning. Special needs planning tends to involve protecting someone’s eligibility for public benefits and ensuring they have the resources to live a comfortable life after their parents or other adult caretakers are gone. This will often involve implementing at least one special needs trust, which holds money and assets on behalf of an individual with special needs so that they can continue to qualify for government assistance programs.
- Medicaid Planning. Medicaid planning helps elderly loved ones meet the program’s strict eligibility requirements while ensuring they still have the assets and financial resources that they need to live their lives.
- Irrevocable Trusts. An irrevocable trust cannot be modified after it has been created, and assets transferred into it cannot typically be retrieved. Irrevocable trusts are often used to minimize the impact of estate taxes and achieve asset protection.
- Dynasty Trusts. This type of irrevocable trust is designed to last for multiple generations (or even in perpetuity). Its structure allows beneficiaries to largely avoid transfer taxes, including gift taxes, estate taxes, and generation-skipping taxes.
- Life Insurance Trusts. In this type of irrevocable arrangement, a life insurance policy (and its eventual proceeds) is placed in a trust. Life insurance trusts are used to legally avoid estate taxes, facilitate asset protection, and enforce instructions for how the policy’s proceeds must be used by the beneficiary.
- Family Limited Partnerships (FLPs). An FLP is a business entity owned by two or more family members. FLP assets are not counted toward an individual’s estate, meaning an FLP can be used to avoid estate taxes. Owners can also gift FLP interests to individuals tax-free so long as they do not exceed the annual gift tax exemption.
- Qualified Permanent Residence Trusts. A qualified permanent residence trust allows you to move your principal residence or a second home into an irrevocable trust for the purpose of reducing your taxable estate. This can allow you to pass a home to future generations, but it may make selling the property difficult.
- Gift Programs. Individuals are permitted to gift money or other assets tax-free up to an annual exemption threshold. This means that you can directly pass assets to your chosen heirs throughout your lifetime, reducing your taxable estate in the process. You should consult our Michigan estate planning lawyers before attempting this strategy to ensure you do not inadvertently exceed the gift exemption.
- Retirement Trusts. In this estate planning strategy, you name a trust as the beneficiary of your retirement account, giving these assets enhanced tax benefits.
- Minors’ Trusts. As its name would imply, this type of trust holds assets for minors until they become legal adults.
- Generation-Skipping Trusts. This wealth preservation tool passes assets to the trust creator’s grandchildren, meaning they “skip” a generation and thus avoid estate taxes that might otherwise apply.
- Tax Planning. Especially large taxes will need to think about how to minimize the impact of estate taxes and other transfer-related taxes. We can help you explore a variety of wealth preservation options.
- Guardianships and Conservatorships. Guardianships and conservatorships allow an agent to oversee the well-being and financial affairs of a minor or adult who cannot care for themselves. Obtaining a guardianship or conservatorship can be a difficult, contentious process that will often require assistance from a legal professional.
At the Michigan Law Center, we help families from all walks of life build estate plans that provide meaningful protection and peace of mind. Our Michigan estate planning lawyers specifically focus on helping families with special needs children and adults. We have decades of experience in this unique area of the law and understand how to strategically approach short- and long-term planning. Our team will work closely with you to ensure your estate plan is aligned with your needs and goals.
Estate planning can:
- Ensure your minor children or children with special needs will be cared for after you are gone
- Ensure you will be cared for if you become disabled or incapacitated
- Facilitate a smooth transfer of your assets to heirs
- Dramatically lower income, gift, estate, and generation-skipping taxes
- Keep your personal and financial affairs private
- Simplify the probate and estate administration process
When estate planning comes up, most people think of passing property to heirs after someone passes away. While this is a crucial piece of estate planning, it only scratches the surface of what these tools can do.
The extent of your family’s financial resources does not matter. Whether you are especially wealthy or live modestly, it is in your best interest to prepare for the future. You also should not wait to create an estate plan, as someone can become incapacitated or even pass away unexpectedly. Everyone benefits from having a plan in place as early as possible.
Macomb Twp., MI 48044