While estate planning is something that has garnered more attention in recent years, it still remains something that most people tend not to prioritize. Sad though it may be, the fact is that not even half of the nation’s adults care enough to make out a will. That’s right; if you’re reading this in a room with nine other people, roughly four-and-a-half of you have not bothered to plan ahead for your own death. Oh, and that half-a-person probably just downloaded some cheap do-it-yourself will off the internet. It’s no wonder that probate continues to be such a troublesome process for so many people around the country! To avoid creating a whole host of problems for yourself and your heirs, you need to rely on an experienced Michigan estate planning attorney.
Problems in Life
First of all, it is important to understand why so many people fail to plan. For many, estate planning brings to mind thoughts of their own death – and that’s uncomfortable for anyone to contemplate. The problem is that your estate planning is not just about your death; it’s about how you live the rest of your life. After all, if all that was involved was a simple declaration of where your stuff goes when you die, then there really wouldn’t be that much to talk about in most instances.
Here’s the thing, though: modern estate planning is about your legacy. It includes not only your existing assets, but all those other assets that you will acquire over the course of the remainder of your life. As a result, it also includes all of those things that you do to protect those assets, grow them over time, and ensure that they accomplish all of the goals you’ve established for you and your loved ones. Those things cannot be managed with wishes and dreams. They require careful planning, and a strategy designed to bring your objectives to life.
You also need to protect yourself with financial planning and retirement strategies that can ensure that your wealth grows over time to be there when you need it later in life. That wealth needs to be safeguarded against incapacity as well, since injury or illness could strike at any time. If you were suddenly left with no ability to make your own decisions, who would manage your affairs? If you can’t answer that question with confidence, then your interests aren’t being protected.
Finally, you need to know what to expect when you retire. Is there a possibility that you could end up in need of nursing home care? If so, you need to know that your care can be paid for – and for most of us, that means being eligible for Medicaid assistance. Your plan may need to include Medicaid planning to ensure that you can meet the strict program eligibility standards when that time comes.
Problems in Death
You might think that your death brings an end to your problems – and in a sense it does. If you care about your family and the legacy that you’re leaving behind, however, those problems may be just getting started. Whether you have a will or not, your estate may have to go through the probate process. With a will in place, that process will involve your executor settling your debts and distributing your assets to heirs. Without a will, the same basic process occurs, except for the fact that your assets get distributed in accordance with the state’s intestacy laws.
Now, this may or may not be a good thing, depending upon your family’s needs. If you’ve made arrangements for them, then there may be a chance that they can wait for up to a year or more to receive the inheritance you provide. If not, then things might be a little rougher for them – especially if they depend on your income to meet their needs. The good news is that you can avoid any potential problems with effective estate planning today.
If you know that your family will need access to your assets quickly, then you should take steps to avoid probate for at least some of those assets. You can accomplish this in a number of different ways:
- Use transfer-on-death provisions for your bank accounts to enable your surviving heir to access the account as soon as you die. You can do similar things with stocks, bonds, and other securities.
- Use joint tenancy with homes, cars, and other properties so that the surviving tenant receives the assets automatically when you die. That can avoid the need to wait for probate’s completion.
- Use beneficiaries with life insurance policies. This is something that everyone should already be doing anyway, but many people forget to do it.
- Create a trust. With a trust, you can name a trustee to manage your assets and distribute them when you die. That can ensure that your loved ones have easy access to their inheritance without any court intervention.
- Consult an attorney. You’re going to see all manner of advertisements extolling the benefits of various online documents and forms that promise easy estate plan creation. Don’t bother with them. The fact is that your estate planning needs are unique, and you need something more than a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to protecting the people and things that are most important to you.
At Biddinger, Bitzer & Estelle, PLLC, our estate planning experts know that your legacy plan is about more than just death. It’s an acknowledgment that life is filled with uncertainties that need to be planned for if your assets and loved ones are to enjoy the protection they both need and deserve. We can help you to provide yourself with that protection using strategies that are customized to meet your unique needs and circumstances. If you’d like to know more about how your Michigan estate planning attorney can assist you with all of your estate planning needs, visit us at our website or call us today at (989) 872-5601.