For many people thinking about their legacy, creating a will seems like enough so talking to an estate planning lawyer may not seem necessary. After all, there are DIY wills you can obtain and kits you can but – why do you actually need to get legal help?
The reality is, you do need to talk with an attorney for lots of different reasons… not the least of which is to make sure you actually follow Michigan law so your will is valid and you get to control your legacy.
Not only is it important to ensure you make a will the court will actually probate after your death, but it is also a really good idea to get legal help so you can make certain you aren’t missing out on other estate planning tools you need to use besides a last will and testament.
For some people, making a will – with professional legal help – is all that is needed to transfer assets to loved ones and secure a legacy. For many others, through, a will isn’t going to provide needed protections and other tools will have to be used. Biddinger, Bitzer & Estelle, PLLC can provide help in determining if a will is sufficient, in helping you to create a will, and in helping you use other tools.
Going beyond a will can be especially important in any of the following five situations.
Your Estate is Going to be Taxable
If you have a larger estate, your death could trigger estate tax. Estate taxes are paid based on the value of assets over the exempt amount. The exempt amount, or excludable amount, is the money and property you can pass tax-free. As of 2017, you can pass on up to $5.49 million without the IRS taxing your estate. You can also pass on unlimited assets to your spouse and, if you don’t use your $5.49 million exclusion, your spouse can use both yours and his or her own.
If your estate is large enough that taxes will be assessed, talk with an estate planning lawyer. A lot of money is at stake, and there are strategic, legal ways to try to reduce the taxes triggered after death.
You Want to Leave Money to a Spendthrift Heir
If you love someone who is not responsible with money, you’re probably worried they’ll squander an entire inheritance you leave to them and then end up with nothing to show for it. You may also have valid concerns about the inheritance you provide being lost to creditor claims.
You don’t have to choose between disinheriting your spendy loved one or resigning yourself to your assets being lost quickly after your death. Instead, create a spendthrift trust. Name your irresponsible friend or relative as the beneficiary, name a smart and capable person to act as the trustee, and provide instructions in your trust document for how distributions of trust assets to the spendthrift are to be made.
You Want to Leave Money to a Loved One with Special Needs
If someone you love is disabled, that person may rely on Medicaid for medical bills and may get Supplemental Security Income. If you simply make a large financial gift, this could cause a loss of access to these benefits, which are means tested. You don’t want to be the cause of benefits being lost, so talk with an experienced attorney about creating a special needs trust. This trust also allows you to name someone to manage the assets who you are confident can protect the wealth and use it appropriately to enhance quality of life for your loved one with special needs.
You Want Heirs to Inherit Really Quickly After Your Death
The probate process can take a long time. If you have heirs or beneficiaries who need to inherit your assets right away so they have financial resources to live on, they will be in trouble as probate drags on for months.
Likewise, if you have assets that need to go to new owners right away for proper management- like a business or hands-on investments- the value of assets could decline if they are in limbo for months and being managed by the executor of an estate. Create a trust so the property can quickly pass through trust administration or consider other tools like pay-on-death accounts or the use of an LLC during your lifetime to transfer assets.
You’re Afraid Someone Might Contest You Will
If you’re worried someone is going to argue that your will isn’t valid and try to deprive your chosen heirs or beneficiaries of the inheritance you’ve left to them, use other tools that are even more difficult than a will to challenge. An experienced attorney can explain to you how to protect your plans for your legacy so a will contest doesn’t end up with your desired heirs or beneficiaries being disinherited.
Getting Help from a Michigan Estate Planning Lawyer
Biddinger, Bitzer & Estelle, PLLC will evaluate your personal situation to help you determine if going beyond a last will and testament is right for you. To find out more about how a Michigan estate planning lawyer at our firm can represent you as you secure your legacy, join us for a free estate planning seminar. You can also call us today at (989) 872-5601 or contact us online for personalized information on how we can help you.