Contrary to what you may have long believed, estate planning is not just for the rich. Everyone can benefit from some level of planning, even if it involves nothing more than creating a simple will to dispose of a few keepsakes and other treasured belongings. For most people, however, it is generally a good idea to go beyond the Last Will and Testament and focus on not only financial matters but incapacity planning and other concerns as well. Of course, to establish an effective plan that will accomplish all of your end-of-life objectives, you really shouldn’t be without a Michigan estate planning attorney.
Why Your Estate Plan Matters
Forget about money for a moment and consider all of those other concerns that come into play when you get older. Nursing care costs continue to rise at a steady pace. Do you currently have a plan in place to manage those costs should you find yourself needing assisted living accommodations? What about disability and incapacitation? If something happened to you tomorrow and you were left unable to make decisions about your own financial and medical wellbeing, who would? You see, your estate plan should be about more than just how your belongings get divided up between your heirs when you pass away. It should provide for your well-being as you get older too.
An effective estate plan should accomplish the following goals:
- Provide effective tax mitigation
- Enable you to maintain effective control over your property while you remain healthy
- Provide for an agent to act in your stead if you ever become incapacitated
- Detail the type of care you want during any incapacitation
- Protect your estate if you end up needing long term care later in life
- Take care of any special needs heirs after you are gone
- Distribute your assets when you die
- Protect your estate assets from creditors
Why You Need a Michigan Estate Planning Attorney
If you just look at that list of estate plan objectives, one thing becomes clear: no online forms are ever going to be able to provide you with the type of sound estate planning you need to accomplish all of those things. Moreover, when you rely on those do-it-yourself options you run the risk of making mistakes that could leave you in worse shape than before you started. Things like tax mitigation and asset protection are too complex to be handled with any one-size-fits-all downloadable form. To get the peace of mind you deserve, you have to rely on professionals who specialize in estate plan creation.
Nursing Home Care
Just consider a seemingly simple matter like nursing home care. We know that, from a statistical standpoint, roughly half of today’s seniors will require nursing home residency at some point in their lives. Many of the rest will need in-home care or other specialty nursing services. That care can average about $249 a day in the state of Michigan – roughly $90,000 a year. Given that the state’s median household income is slightly less than $50,000 a year, it stands to reason that most seniors will have had a difficult time saving the money they will need to pay for that care.
Obviously, there are only a few ways that this care can be paid for in most instances. One option is to trust that the senior’s family will come together to manage the bills – but even that only spreads the burden so far. Another option is that seniors could be fortunate enough to have their lifetime investments pay off well enough to meet these financial obligations – but investments are never a sure thing. Finally, the senior could make use of Medicaid provisions, and work to receive those benefits to pay for care.
The problem is that Medicaid eligibility involves meeting strict requirements. Without sound estate planning, seniors basically have to divest themselves of virtually all assets to ensure eligibility, and thus leave their heirs with no inheritance. By consulting with a competent estate planning attorney, seniors can utilize a variety of strategies and techniques to protect their assets even as they lock in their own Medicaid eligibility.
Planning for incapacity is something that few of us ever want to think about – but we must. If the worst comes to pass and you are left unable to manage your own affairs, would you rather have those decisions made by someone you trust or allow a court pick someone to act on your behalf? Without an effective estate plan that includes financial and health care powers of attorney, your wellbeing will end up being decided by a probate court, and a guardian will be appointed to make all those important decisions. Sure, the court might select the same person you would have picked, but it’s just as likely that it won’t. By preparing those documents in advance of incapacitation, you can ensure that your chosen agent is representing your interests.
Earlier, we asked you to forget about money for a moment. Well, that moment is over, and it is time to deal with the money question as well. Obviously, your estate plan should be designed to protect your assets from excessive taxes, predators, and debtors. That plan should also enable your assets to continue to grow while you are alive, and be properly distributed when your life comes to an end. Most importantly, it should enable you to pass on a meaningful legacy to your loved ones when you pass away.
All of these goals are too important to entrust to do-it-yourself estate planning. They are also too vital to put off for another day, since none of us are ever guaranteed tomorrow. Fortunately, the attorneys at Biddinger & Bitzer, PLLC are always here to help you get the help you need to craft an estate plan that truly meets your unique needs. Your future and your family are important to us, so let us put our expertise and experience to work for you. Give us a call today at (989) 872-5601 or contact us online to learn more about how estate planning can secure your future and your legacy.