Despite the fact that fewer than half of the nation’s adults have ever written a Last Will and Testament, there is no denying the importance of a sound estate plan in every American’s life. Nor can it be denied that everyone’s estate plan is likely to look just a little bit different than anyone else’s. After all, each person’s circumstances and specific needs are unique. Surprisingly, however, many residents of Michigan continue to ignore this most basic element of end-of-life planning – and when they die, that neglect can have powerful consequences for the families they leave behind.
Remember, when you fail to have any sort of estate plan in place, Michigan intestate laws take precedence when you die. That means that the government’s rules will determine which of your family members receive a portion of your estate, and how much they will ultimately get. The resulting distribution could mean that your chosen heirs receive nothing while someone you intended to leave with nothing receives a sizable portion of your estate. To protect your family and avoid that kind of outcome, you need the help that a Michigan trusts lawyer can provide.
Your Estate Plan Options
Of course, intestate laws are just one reason to make sure that you have an estate plan in place. The fact is that when you fail to engage in this type of planning, you’re denying yourself and your family the opportunity to maximize the financial benefits available to you under the law. You could be missing out on the benefits of any of the potential tax advantages available to someone in your situation. You may be denying yourself potential asset growth strategies. You could even be leaving yourself without a plan to cover the high costs of long-term care when you’re older.
An experienced trusts lawyer can help you to evaluate the current state of your wealth, review with you your short and long-term objectives, and help you to develop the plan you need to make those goals a reality. That plan could be as simple as just ensuring that you have a legally-enforceable will in place, or it might need to be a more complex and comprehensive strategy that makes use of a wide variety of estate planning tools. The good news is that there are options available to you that can help you to achieve virtually any planning goal:
- A Last Will and Testament to provide instructions about the distribution of your assets, the care of any minor children you leave behind, and many other important concerns.
- A living trust that can help your family to receive your assets without the delays and costs associated with the probate process.
- Powers of Attorney documents that can ensure that you have an incapacity plan in place to secure continuity of decision-making in the even that you lose the ability to manage your own affairs.
- Business planning that can help you protect your business and ensure that it continues to benefit your family long after you’re gone.
- Medicaid planning to ensure that you’ll be able to qualify for the benefits you need to pay for nursing home costs if you end up needing long-term care in your senior years.
- Asset protection strategies that can protect your estate from possible lawsuits, bankruptcy, or other threats.
- Probate assistance and trust administration so that you know that your estate is properly secured in a way that benefits your loved ones.
Determining if a Trust is Right for You
Of course, one of the best reasons to consult with a trusts attorney involves the use of a living trust in your comprehensive estate plan. As useful as the Last Will and Testament might be, there are certain things that can be more effectively accomplished through the use of a trust. The most obvious of those things is, of course, the trust’s ability to help your assets avoid probate. Since the need for probate is determined by your ownership of assets, when that ownership is transferred to a trust no probate is necessary.
Other benefits can vary depending upon the type of trust you choose. There are trusts that can help you to manage the financial support you provide to your minor children, trusts that can provide care for someone with special needs – in a way that doesn’t interfere with any government benefits they might be receiving, trusts that can help you with Medicaid planning, and even trusts that can ensure that your beloved pets are cared for when you’ve passed on from this life.
You can also choose between revocable trusts and the irrevocable variety. The former enables you to maintain a tremendous degree of control over your assets while you’re still alive, while the latter can be a useful way to ensure that the assets in your trust are not calculated as part of your estate for Medicaid eligibility and tax purposes. You’ll need to discuss your specific circumstances and goals with an attorney to determine which option is best for you.
Regardless of whether or not a trust turns out to be the right choice for your estate planning needs, the important thing is that you begin now to start getting your estate plan in place. Many common estate plan goals like Medicaid planning need to begin well in advance of any potential need for benefits. Incapacity planning is another important type of protection that should be done as early in adulthood as possible.
At Biddinger, Bitzer & Estelle, PLLC, our trusts experts have the experience and expertise you need to help you craft the ideal estate plan to accomplish your goals. We’ll help you to secure asset protection and growth strategies that can benefit your loved ones well after you’re gone, and work with you to determine which planning tools will best serve your estate plan needs. To find out more about how a Michigan trusts lawyer can help you with your estate planning and elder law needs, contact us on our website today or give us a call by phone at (989) 872-5601.