How to Share Information About Your Estate with Your Loved Ones

Having other adults in your family who are appointed as executors, trustees or guardians for your minor children means that you need to have conversations with these key people about the basics of your plan.

Sharing information about your estate plan is not a onetime process. If you anticipate retirement and life for at least several more years, these conversations can be spread out over time to ensure that the right people have the right information and understand the specifics of your individual plans.

Everyone who is immediately involved in your estate plan should be clear about their role and the kind of tasks or responsibilities that they would need to handle either after a power of attorney becomes active or after you pass away.

Some of the most important roles you’ll want to include in conversations include trustees, executors, agents for health care powers of attorney, agents for property powers of attorney and authorized individuals who have access to medical information under HIPAA laws. You might specify one primary person for your documents and one or two contingency people or backups.

Make sure that a person who has been named as a backup in any role in your estate has been notified of this responsibility as well. Every key party who is involved in your estate plan should know where to find important documents, such as trusts, wills and powers of attorney.

You’ll also want to include comprehensive access to financial records or at least a list for them to identify credit cards and investment assets, bank accounts, debt and car loans.

As you develop your elder and estate plans in MI, make sure you have informed key people about their role and what, if anything, you need from them.

No Matter the Size of Your Estate, Estate Planning is Worth Every Penny

One of the most common reasons for people to skip estate planning is because they think it doesn’t pertain to them. With limited assets, you might assume that it doesn’t create that much of a problem when you pass away.

Knowing what factors into your individual estate plan or your business succession plan is crucial regardless of your current perception of your wealth. There are many different services available that encourage you to draft these documents online, including a durable power of attorney, trust, health care proxy or will.

However, it can be worth every penny to instead schedule a consultation with a trusted estate planning lawyer who can guide you through the process and ensure that these documents are accurate for state and federal laws and able to adapt in coming years. The value of your estate plan is in the planning not in the generation of documents. Those documents could be useless if they are not filled out properly or legally valid in your state.

The three elements of your estate plan include evaluating the past, adapting your strategies and tactics to the present and anticipating challenges in the future. Document generators can use information from the past to evaluate procedures and processes as you fill out these forms.

The establishment of a personal representative or an agent for a power of attorney adapts to the present but only a relationship with a trusted estate planning advisor can help you anticipate the future. For more questions about aligning your estate plan to the present and the future, schedule a consultation with an estate planning law firm.


When is the Right Time to Meet with an Elder Law Attorney?

The truth is that there is no wrong time to sit down with a Michigan elder law attorney. But knowing what you hope to accomplish with your elder law plan can help you determine that it’s in your best interests to schedule this meeting before you have an urgent need, such as needing to qualify for Medicaid to pay for a nursing home.

Some of the most key questions answered in an elder law plan should be thought about well in advance of a crisis. What kind of care you want to receive, who has the ability to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so, and how your assets might be used to pass on to your loved ones as well as fund your own healthcare needs are just a few reasons why you want to speak with a trusted elder law attorney right away.

During your initial conversation, you’ll discuss your key issues and questions for your elder plan. This is also your chance to get your questions answered when it comes to what documents you might need and how you should approach the process. The support of an elder lawyer can be instrumental in helping to point you in the right direction. An attorney is a very valuable asset when you’re not sure what you need or how you can best proceed.

Don’t let your elder care plan be ignored. Have a goal for setting up a meeting with your elder law attorney now so you that you can plan ahead for your own future successfully.

Women Breadwinners Can’t Afford to Neglect Financial Planning

The past several decades have seen significant areas of improvement for women and financial planning. First of all, women are increasingly choosing not to get married and are increasingly serving as the primary breadwinner in plenty of households. This raises new questions around the topics of financial and estate planning.

Given that women now account for more than 40% of primary breadwinners across the country and the anticipation that women will control two-thirds of wealth in the United States by 2030, it is important for women to sit down and appreciate their financial plan and revisit it regularly.

Another common concern that comes up a lot in conversations around estate planning and elder law is that women tend to live longer than men. This risk of longevity means that women must be looking towards their retirement with the potential of living many years past a spouse or other caretakers.

This means careful contemplation around Medicaid in Michigan and other long term care issues. If a person is expected to live longer, it might mean that their investment assets, for example, need to be invested at a higher level of growth which would normally lead to higher exposure to volatility.

While this might be uncomfortable for a woman to approach, increased confidence that a person has sufficient growth to achieve their long term financial goals is critical. Another key issue that pops up for many women is the need to effectively plan for your estate. A discussion with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney is often the first step in addressing these key issues. We work with many women who want to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve taken care of an elder law and an estate plan in MI.



What You Need to Know About an Elder Care Plan?

As a loved one ages or has recently been diagnosed with a serious mental or physical condition, it can require the use of an elder care plan or the quick creation of an elder care plan. Your elder care plan can be an organizational tool or an agreement with a loved one or even a formal contract that is used to coordinate payment or necessary care services.

These plans can vary in level of detail but it is strongly recommended that if you have specific wishes about your individual care plan that you do the necessary work to document these in full. One of the most important things you can do is understand the process of creating a comprehensive care plan as you get older. This includes:

  • Assessing the current caregiving situation, such as what care is already being provided.
  • Identifying the overall goals of care and expectations.
  • Creating a comprehensive care team and deciding which professionals might already exist in your community or network and which ones might have to be contacted separately.
  • Match the necessary solutions with the care members you have identified.
  • Look at other senior care resources.
  • Put the care plan into action.

All of these situations can be discussed directly with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you to navigate these complex decisions and important questions that might need to be asked as you go forward.

Schedule a consultation today with an estate planning attorney who can help you to ensure that your most important issues are addressed in your care plan and your loved ones are not put in the difficult situation of having to go to court to try to determine what you wanted.

Our Michigan elder law planning attorneys have a few offices to help you ensure you get the support you need.


adult woman holding hands of senior woman in wheelchair

Have You Planned for Lifetime Incapacity?

adult woman holding hands of senior woman in wheelchairEstate planning often begins with you asking questions about what happens if you are no longer around. However, this is not a comprehensive estate plan. In fact, it’s only the first piece of the puzzle.

Most people would assume that they’ve created a comprehensive estate plan if their plan covers occurrences that happen after their death but this is a dangerous mistake because estate planning is not limited to death planning alone.

There are multiple ways in which your estate plan can impact you and your family members during your lifetime, which means that you need to think about all possible situations that could affect you even before you pass away. Incapacity can occur suddenly but can have far-reaching consequences.

It happens when a person loses the ability to make their own decisions on either a permanent or a temporary basis. If you suddenly find your memory failing or are coping with the consequences of an accident and are no longer able to make decisions for yourself.

You must have an incapacity plan in place to enable someone else to make these decisions on your behalf and to help you feel confident about the fact that you have appointed other people to make decisions on your behalf and have the legally valid estate planning documents to back this up.

Speaking with a dedicated estate planning attorney today will help you to plan for the uncertainties of tomorrow.

The bottom line is that incapacity planning is not something that only affects the elderly. It’s also about how you guard against challenges that could impact you in your younger years, too.

businesswoman and businessman signing contract in the office

These Are the Situations That Should Absolutely Prompt You to Update Your Will

businesswoman and businessman signing contract in the officeYou’ve created your will, stored it in a fireproof box, and made sure that your estate planning attorney and other relevant stakeholders had access to it. This doesn’t mean that you can forget about the importance of updating your will as different life events occur. Far too many people end up sitting down with their MI estate planning attorney years after they intended to really update their will.

While some wills might pass the test of time, others will require reevaluation on an annual basis to ensure that they reflect the needs of the person who created it.

Some of the most common reasons why you might need to sit down with your estate planning lawyer outside of an annual review to discuss your options include:

  • You are getting ready to have your first child.
  • You are contemplating getting a divorce and your current spouse is listed on all of your documents.
  • Your child has recently gotten married and you are concerned about an inheritance potentially being tapped by that new spouse.
  • You have already gotten divorced and haven’t updated your will since then.
  • Any of your beneficiaries develop substance abuse or debt problems.
  • Any of your beneficiaries or executors have passed away.
  • A young family member that you were previously concerned about being a spendthrift has now become a responsible adult.
  • You have recently inherited a substantial sum of money.
  • There are state or federal tax or estate planning law changes that affect your current structure.

Schedule a consultation today with an estate planning lawyer who can help you to accomplish your estate planning goals.



What Is a Trust and How Can It Be Used as a Component of Your Estate Plan?

If you have the essentials of an estate plan, such as a will and a power of attorney document, this might not go far enough to accomplish all of your estate planning intentions. Your will is the cornerstone of your plan, but it doesn’t give you enough control or privacy in most cases.

This is a big reason why many people turn to the services of an experienced estate lawyer for the creation of a trust. If you’re new to the concept, here are some basics about how a trust functions. If you have an estate you want to avoid the probate process, you need to consider setting up a trust to manage your assets in addition to what was accomplished by drafting your will.

Not every person needs a trust, but it can be a great way to create a legal entity that both manages and owns your assets on behalf of your beneficiaries. Three primary parties make up these stakeholders in a trust agreement. These are the grantor or the person creating the trust, the trustee who is responsible for managing the trust, and the beneficiaries who enjoy some form of benefit from the trust. You might choose to create a revocable or an irrevocable trust. 

A revocable trust might also be referred to as a living trust. It takes effect while you are still alive and enables you to change the terms of the trust during your lifetime. An irrevocable trust, however, is used to define those trusts in which the terms are permanent. Certain types of trusts must be irrevocable under the law.

You can speak with an estate planning professional to learn more about what this means for you, and whether or not revocable or irrevocable trust is the right way to go. At our office, we have extensive experience helping clients with trust creation and Northern Michigan estate administration.


Best Ways to Protect Your Business with Estate Planning

Entrepreneurs have advanced estate planning needs because they must think about their individual situation as well as the future of their business. It can be catastrophic for both your business and your legacy to not have these concerns properly addressed. Some of the challenges that come with failing to take the necessary steps to protect your business include litigation, tax inefficiency, loss of business value, and dissipation of assets.

There are three primary ways that protect your business through the power of estate planning. These are a buy sell agreement, asset protection, and succession planning. Whether you’re a family-owned business or a family farm, don’t skip out on the benefits afforded by business succession planning. Our law firm provides support to individuals and business owners who recognize the connections between their personal and professional estate planning needs.

A business continuity plan should be outlined in a buy sell agreement that enables a pre-selected buyer to purchase ownership interests in the company based on specified trigger events. It can also outline the valuation methods for how the company will be sold. The second method of protecting your business through estate planning is asset protection planning. This can include asset protection vehicles such as limited partnerships, LLCs and S corps which prevent a creditor of the company from claiming personal assets. Finally, succession planning is another option for the owner of a business.

A contingency plan and successor directors could be named in succession planning documents to avoid disorder in the event of a business owner’s sudden departure. Creating a customized business succession plan should be done with the assistance of a qualified attorney in Michigan.



What Should Prompt an Estate Plan Update?

Have you already sat down with our Michigan estate planning attorneys to create a will, trust, power of attorney, and other documents?

Life changes should prompt you to revisit your estate plan on an as-needed basis. However, even if you feel that your life circumstances have not recently changed enough to warrant a consultation with an estate planning attorney, the age of your plan is another reason to consider partnering with an estate planning lawyer.

There are some events that you might not even be familiar with that could make your plan obsolete even if your life circumstances have stayed the same.

These can include state laws, federal tax laws, changes in Medicare and Medicaid, and more. Estate planning attorneys are always keeping an eye on the market and looking for new and better ways to do things and strategies that can help their clients accomplish their individual goals, taking all of these factors into account. Many people aren’t familiar with all of the changes that make it necessary to revise your plan, which is why having an ongoing professional relationship with your attorney can make a big difference.

A good rule of thumb to keep in the back of your mind is that if your plan was created more than five years ago, you probably need to set up a second consultation with your estate planning attorney. If the plan is over a decade old, you certainly need to revisit these documents and ensure that they are legally compliant within your estate and still address the primary goals that you have for your overall assets.

Set up a time to speak to your Michigan estate planning attorney at least once a year to review changes in your life or external issues that might affect your estate planning strategy.