What You Need to Know About Making Changes to a Will in Michigan?

There are many different life circumstances that might prompt you to update an existing will. Making changes to your will is relatively simple so long as you understand the legal impacts of updating your document. A few different kinds of wills are legal in Michigan including a holographic will, a self-proving will, and a statutory will. If you have a statutory will, you need to fill out a form to create it, but it is always recommended that you work with a knowledgeable Michigan estate planning attorney.

Reasons for Updating Your Will

You have the right to update your will at any point in your life so long as you have the mental capacity to understand the changes you’re making. When you want to make either an amendment or draft a new document, it’s wise to meet with your MI estate planning lawyer first.

Making changes to your Michigan will could occur because:

  • You’ve purchased additional property.
  • You want to remove a beneficiary.
  • You need to add a beneficiary because of a new child or adoption.
  • The value of current property has increased.
  • You want to name a separate executor.
  • You’ve divorced or remarried and need to update beneficiaries.

A will does not become active until you die which means that you can modify it at any point in your life without legal consequences. You can start over by writing a new will and opening that with a statement that you revoke any prior wills.

You can also add an amendment to your existing will if you intend to only make minor updates to one portion of the will. Remember that your will does go through the probate process, so additional planning opportunities need to be evaluated if you prefer privacy or need tools like a trust. Our Michigan estate planning lawyers can help you update or revoke your will.


Don’t Forget About Your Estate Planning During a Divorce

There’s certainly a clear path going forward for your estate planning documents after a divorce is finalized. After all, many of the key questions about who owns or will take what out of the divorce will have been answered. But there’s also a good chance that your current estate plan, which might still apply while your divorce is pending is associated with a lot of decisions that empower your soon to be ex-spouse to receive assets.

As soon as you separate from your spouse, it’s a good idea to consult with an estate planning attorney in your state to discuss the updating of these documents in lieu of an impending divorce.

This helps to protect your loved ones in the event that an unexpected issue arises while your divorce is still pending. For those whose divorce proceedings go on longer than anticipated, this could expose you or your loved ones to unnecessary risks or confusion. Remember that in addition to updating your will and other stored estate planning documents, you’ll have other accounts in which beneficiary designations have already been made.

These are things like life insurance policies or 401(k) accounts where a piece of paper filed directly with the company will determine what happens to that account if you pass away. Make sure that you keep a clear list of these and document or keep copies somewhere so that you know when you need to update these materials in other life changes, such as when you add a new grandchild or someone who was named as a beneficiary passes away.

Need a Northern Michigan estate planning lawyer to answer your questions? Reach out to our office today.



How Does It Work to Fund a Trust in Michigan?

In order for a revocable living trust to accomplish its goals appropriately, the trust maker has to do more than create the document and sign the agreement. The settlor then needs to take an additional step after identifying the property that will be placed inside the trust to appropriately fund the assets into the trust.

This means that the property ownership must transfer from the individual trust grantor or creator over to the trust itself. How this occurs will specifically depend on the type of property involved.

Certain assets might require a transfer of ownership to the trust, whereas others might simply require designating the trust as beneficiary. Some titled property, for example, like a means you will need to get a new title that shows the living trust is the official owner of this asset. For untitled property, a dated and signed document known as an assignment of property will appropriately designate the trust as an owner.

For some certificates of deposit, a new CD needs to be opened in the trust’s name after the CD has matured. This will help to minimize the possibility of early withdrawal penalties. For bank accounts, you’ll need to contact the financial institutions directly because this may involve closing out an account and transferring the funds into a new account that is owned by the trust. For business interests, shares will need to be retitled into the name of the trust.

For HSAs, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and medical savings accounts you’ll need to update the beneficiary designation forms with each of those individual companies to reflect the trust as the owner. Securities will vary by brokerage type and the kind of security. These bonds and stock certificates might need to be reissued with the trust as the owner. For more clarification you can ask these questions of your estate planning lawyer in MI.


What Is the Most Important Component of an Elder Law Plan?

It can be helpful to think of estate planning documents as tools in your toolbox. Each one of them can become essential in the event that you need it. But when it comes to creating the cornerstone of your estate plan, a will is often front and center but thinking this way cannot neglect the importance of a power of attorney.

There are two different types of powers of attorney that you should have; a medical POA and a financial POA. Your power of attorney enables you to choose someone to make financial or medical decisions when you cannot, but they are not the same thing and a power of attorney document might only accomplish one of these goals.

These two documents are critical to an elder law plan because they do impact you while you are still alive. You need to have them drafted while you are still viewed as mentally capable of signing them. They are very helpful in the event of incapacity, such as when an accident renders you unable to make decisions for yourself or when you were to begin to see the impacts of something like dementia.

Signing these documents after you might not be viewed legally competent, however, can be problematic from the perspective of them being classified as valid. Make sure that you discuss your options for generating a power of attorney document with the support of an estate planning lawyer.


A Quick Guide to Setting Up a Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust is an important component of how you protect a loved one who is reliant on government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. Tapping into these benefits while still providing for your loved one can be done through a special needs trust.

You’ll want to assemble a team of professionals including financial advisors and an estate planning attorney to ensure that the interested party’s needs are truly protected. A special needs trust allows parents or other interested family members to contribute funds for the benefit of a disabled party.

Recipients of these benefits cannot have any more than $2000 in assets, but special needs trust can also help to guard against financial abuse of a disabled person and to ensure the appropriate oversight so that the funds are spent wisely and on what the recipient truly needs.

Trusts can be funded by inheritances, life insurance policies that pay when one or both parents pass away, family assets or lawsuit awards.

Knowing that you have protected a loved one and left behind a plan that guards their current government benefits will give you great peace of mind and help get key family members on board.

For more questions about why and how to establish a special needs trust, consider a phone call with an experienced attorney. If you need to guard a loved one with special needs using a trust, our MI law office can assist you.



What Does It Mean to Say the Trustee is a Fiduciary?

When you create a trust, an important part of that process is selecting who will serve as the trustee of the assets placed inside. If you’re not familiar with the importance of this role and what it means to be a trustee, this blog will help.

A trustee is an important component of the estate planning strategy of creating a trust. There are several different parties involved in the establishment and administration of a trust. One of these is known as the trustee who administers the terms of the trust. The trustee has what is known as a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust. This means that they are legally bound to manage the trust property solely in the interests of the beneficiaries and consistent with the law and the trust agreement.

There can be co-trustees as well as co-grantors or co-beneficiaries which can complicate the administration of a trust. A trust becomes fully operational and under the trustee’s discretion after property has been transferred into it. The trustees manage the assets for the benefit of beneficiaries. This means they cannot engage in self-dealing or taking on activities that would benefit them personally rather than the beneficiaries or at the expense of the beneficiaries.

If you have questions about this process and are interested in establishing a trust for yourself, schedule a time to speak to a dedicated estate planning lawyer about the options available to you and how to move forward lawfully understanding the type of trust you’ve selected.


Do I Really Need to Create Last Instructions with My Will?

Everyone is aware of the potential repercussions of not having clear instructions for your personal information and your records if you were to pass away. But it’s also one of those easy things to kick off into the future and assuming it’s not relevant to your life in the immediate moment.

The truth is that you could be making things much more difficult for your loved ones unnecessarily by failing to consider the process of these important financial tasks. Your last instructions should be spelled out in the event that you possibly become incapacitated or pass away.

These details should be discussed with your trusted advisor like an estate planning lawyer as well as any family members who will be relevant for serving in this role. For example, don’t appoint someone as your power of attorney agent unless you are both confident in their ability to serve in this role and feel comfortable that they are aware of this possibility and are aware of what it entails.

These trusted positions can become especially important in the event that an accident or sudden illness occur and you want to have confidence in the people that you have selected and the method through which you have chosen to appoint them. To consider all of the bigger pictures as it relates to other aspects of your estate plan, such as elder law concerns around long term care and how to handle issues like asset protection planning, set aside time to speak with a dedicated estate planning lawyer today.


Durable Power of Attorney Versus Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney can cover a broad range of transactions whereas a limited power of attorney document only covers specific circumstances, such as allowing another person to register a new vehicle for you.

A typical power of attorney will expire if you become mentally incompetent whereas a durable document includes special language that makes it effective even in the event that that happens. A general durable power of attorney appoints an attorney in fact to take action on your behalf.

This person does not have to be a lawyer or a company and an attorney in fact can play many different roles including filing tax returns, applying for government benefits, buying and selling property and managing bills, investments and bank accounts. If you do not have a general durable power of attorney and become incapacitated, your family would otherwise need to go to court and have you declared incompetent before they can take care of any of your finances for you.

A different document is a durable health care power of attorney which is critical in the event that a medical emergency leaves you unable to make choices about your care or unconscious. This appoints another party to communicate with doctors and to make medical decisions for you.

This document is different from a living will or an advanced directive, which details the kinds of treatment you do or do not want to receive if you are at the end of your life and can no longer share information about this on your own. Schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney in your area for further information about the kind of powers of attorney you should create.


Does a Trust Help with Property Distribution?

Whether you’ve had the unfortunate experience of being a beneficiary or a family member to a loved one who didn’t have estate planning or you simply know this is part of the process of being an adult, estate planning helps you to determine the most important things to do to protect your rights and ensure that your beneficiaries receive the assets you want.

The two most common methods for distributing assets to your beneficiaries are wills and trusts. Everyone has most likely heard of a will at some point in their life but wills are not one size fit all and should always be personalized to your specific intentions.

One of the problems with a will is that everything distributed in the will should go through the probate process, which can be time intensive and costly for your loved ones. This is why many people turn to the purposes of a trust for distribution of assets.

Trusts are a popular and effective strategy for disposing of your property in a way that is less burdensome on family members and more cost effective. These outline all of your desires and wishes regarding property distribution, but a standard trust does not always have to wait until the individual passes away.

Once it has been properly funded, in fact, the trust can go into effect. It is very important to understand the rules required in executing a trust and scheduling a consultation with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney in Michigan is one of the first and most important steps that you can take.


End of Life Issues to Remember As You Create Your Estate Plan

Your estate plan and your elder law plan should think about all of the different issues that might affect you as you approach your older years. There is definitely no easy way to start discussing some of the complicated issues around end of life concerns because many people experience a broad range of emotion.

Fear about your future or the future of your friends and family is common but it is also beneficial to establish a sense of peace so that you can enjoy the remainder of your life. It certainly helps to be prepared by retaining an elder law attorney to assist you. The legal system addresses many different kinds of end of life issues.

One of the most common to be addressed in elder law is what happens when a person becomes incapacitated in their older years. Financial affairs and issues still must be addressed and healthcare decisions still must be made. All of these issues are critical and can allow you to benefit from proper planning.

Discussing your health care decisions, such as the establishment of an advanced health care directive is a great starting point. Granting a power of attorney for health care means that you name another person who has the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. You should certainly trust this person but they should also be aware of any specific wishes you have around your health care decisions. Likewise, you will also need a power of attorney document for financial decisions.

Giving someone a durable financial power of attorney is one option to allow this designated person to manage your financial affairs for you if you become unable to do so. Contact our elder law attorneys for more support with your elder plan.