Updating my trust

When Updating My Trust, Can I Write on the Original Document?

If you already put together a trust in Michigan but want to change it, this is a big benefit to using revocable tools in the first place. But it’s not as simple as crossing out parts that you no longer want to honor. With an older trust, you need the help of a Michigan trust planning lawyer to help you determine what to do next.Updating my trust

It might seem the easiest way to update your trust to pull out your original version and make writing changes directly on the document itself. However, striking out words in an existing trust or making a note in the margin of your document does not constitute a valid amendment. This could lead to potential ambiguities and litigation. It’s not even a good idea to write on your provided copy as it is important for the original and the copy to stay consistent.

If you would like to make a copy of certain pages within your trust, however, and then make notes on that copy for discussion purposes, that is fine. But do not assume that an amendment is made simply because you have made a written note on the document. If you have questions about whether or not an amendment is required for your living trust, set up a time to speak with a dedicated estate planning lawyer.

Your attorney can help you to identify when a trust needs to be updated and ensure that you get a new original and copy that both reflect these changes. Schedule a consultation with an attorney today to learn more. We can help you add in the new sections of your trust in a way that keeps this protected as a valid legal document.


How Long Will Michigan Probate Take?

When you pass away, your affairs must be closed out with the help of the courts. This involves appointing a person to handle your Michigan probate and all the related administrative tasks.

The length of a probate case depends on multiple different factors, including to what extent the deceased created estate planning tools and strategies to make things easier for their loved ones. The support of a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer engaged early can make things that much easier for beneficiaries to receive assets promptly.

The vast majority of Michigan probate cases take between 7 months and one year, but part of that timing will also depend on how quickly the personal representative is appointed.

The personal representative is the individual responsible for estate administration, such as gathering all of the assets into an inventory, notifying creditors about the passing of the deceased, and paying off taxes and other debts before distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries.

Potential will contests or claims from creditors can also impact timing since in Michigan creditors have up to 4 months to file a claim. If an individual contests the will, this can significantly delay the administration of probate.

Scheduling a consultation with a MI estate planning lawyer and discussing your concerns over probate can help you to create estate planning strategies and tools that make things easier for your loved ones while also adding layers of protection from outside threats.

We can help you plan for probate and beyond. Reach out today to learn more.

What Are the Main Reasons to Get a Living Trust in Michigan?

One of the most common reasons to select a living trust in Michigan is to ensure that your wishes are properly followed during the course of your life and after you pass away.

Property that is stored inside a living trust does not go through probate court after you pass, meaning that your heirs will avoid the expensive and time-consuming process of probate.

A living trust can be very beneficial if you want to leave property to a child. A trustee will be responsible for managing the assets inside the trust while the child is a minor. When the child comes of age, they will receive those assets.

A living trust can also be helpful in Michigan for helping an individual avoid conservatorship or the appointment of another party to make decisions on your behalf. This is because you will have already named a trustee or successor trustee in the document.

If you have questions about how to leverage a living trust or other estate planning tools, a Northern Michigan estate planning lawyer can help.



Can a Power of Attorney Agent Do Anything They Want?

A generic power of attorney document, such as those provided by online forms that are easily downloaded and filled out, may not contain the necessary limitations that you intended. This means that by default, your power of attorney agent may have broad power over your financial or medical decisions. Even in these broad interpretations of generic documents, however, there are a few things that an agent cannot do.

One of the primary guidelines for a power of attorney agent is that they must act in the best interests of the principal or the person who created that document. There are three primary things that an agent cannot do. These include:

  • Transferring or changing the power of attorney to someone else, although the agent does have the ability to decline this appointment at any time.
  • Violate their fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the principal who created this power of attorney document.
  • Make decisions on behalf of the power of attorney document creator after that person has passed away. The only exception to this are cases where the principal has also named that agent as the executor of the will or when the principal dies without a will and the agent becomes the administrator of their estate.       

Even though there are some basic protections with a power of attorney document that prevent an agent from doing anything they want, selecting this person to serve as your agent should not be a rushed decision. Think carefully about who you trust to serve in this role. Contact our office for help with a Michigan power of attorney document.

What Are the Key Components of a Trust?

A trust is an estate planning tool that comes in many different varieties, all designed to help you accomplish various aspects of your estate plan. A trust needs to have a few crucial elements in order to accomplish these goals and to help you with the management of your estate planning intentions.

Several of the most important terms associated with a trust include:

  • A beneficiary which is a party like an heir who receives some type of advantage or benefit from the trust.
  • A trustee which is the organization or the individual who is appointed formally in the trust to administer the assets or the trust itself. Trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to the beneficiaries of a trust.
  • Grantor. You also might hear this person referred to as a settler. This is the individual who creates the trust and has the legal ability to transfer property into it.
  • Property. Property refers to any of the assets that are held inside the trust, such as real estate, automobiles, artwork, jewelry and securities.

There are several different common types of trusts including living trusts, irrevocable trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts and charitable remainder trusts.

If you are curious about whether any of these might be appropriate for addressing your estate planning needs, you should think carefully about your goals and what you hope to accomplish in the creation of the trust and then share these during a meeting with your estate planning lawyer. At our elder law and estate planning law office, we regularly help clients who need support in managing their documents and strategies for the future.



Is It My Responsibility to Pay Nursing Home Bills After a Loved One Passes Away?

The loss of a loved one can represent a significant departure from what feels like the course of normal life. Suddenly, there are probate issues to consider and end of life arrangements to address.

It can be very difficult to keep track of all of the details and keep things moving forward when you are also coping with grief. If your loved one passed away in a Michigan nursing home, this can make it hard to determine what issues are tied to the estate.

Getting bills from a nursing home or other medical organization can add to this stress and can make things confusing for friends and family members who are trying to help. There are two major types of financial responsibility.

The first is the personal responsibility where you would need to pay from your own funds on behalf of the deceased party who owed money to the nursing home. You only have a personal responsibility to do this if you signed a personal guarantee with the facility. In other cases, children are not responsible for their parents’ medical bills or other bills.

You could, however, be required to pay these bills from your mother’s own funds, such as any assets that were associated with the estate. This is one reason why many family members in this situation choose to work directly with a probate administration attorney to verify that all of the important details and primary concerns have been properly addressed.

When thinking about putting a loved one into a nursing home, this might raise questions and concerns on your own end about how you’ve planned to budget for long term care costs. You can create a long-term care plan with a goal of qualifying for Medicaid or other goals by working directly with an estate planning and elder lawyer. Contact Thumb of Michigan elder lawyers to discuss your long term care plan.

Did You Know Medicare Doesn’t Cover Most Long Term Care?

If you are planning ahead for the future of your older years and are assuming that Medicare might pick up the tab, if and when you need a nursing home, that’s not always the case. One of the biggest potential costs in your personal retirement could be the need for the expense for long term care.

In 2017, according to the research completed and shared in the Genworth Cost of Care Study, a private room in a nursing home cost over $97,000 on average across the country.

A room in an assisted living facility costs more than $45,000 and having a home health aide come to your personal home for 44 hours of care per week is nearly $50,000. Medicare provides for certain services when it comes to nursing, but not for custodial care which is often common with long term care needs.

Custodial care includes activities of daily living, such as dressing and bathing. Using a combination of a life insurance policy and long term care policy or covering these costs on your own is one way to ensure that you have money set aside to pay for long term care.

Many people are not in a financial situation to be able to afford time in a nursing home or even the support of a home health aide. Important planning in advance needs to be completed so that you can be clear about your financial picture and understand whether or not you might qualify for other options, such as Medicaid. Schedule a consultation with an elder lawyer to learn more and to set up a plan to protect you into the future.


What Does It Mean to Say You are Involved in Life Care Planning?

It can be very complicated to get older and be concerned about the health care expenses associated with a medical need. If you have an advanced medical concern, you will likely need some form of long term care.

The long term care system in the United States is a very complicated system of care facilities, Medicare, care providers, long term care insurance, doctor’s appointments, mental health and legal issues, Medicaid, nutrition and more. It can be very difficult to take this complex system and break it down into meaningful tasks, which is why the support of a life care planning lawyer in MI can be beneficial.

Looking to someone to help you sort through these complex issues and create a plan for just in case can be very helpful.

Thinking about every possible challenge that could emerge from chronic illness or disability of an elderly loved one should prompt you to schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer to talk through your options.

Although it is certainly hoped that you never need to trigger or rely on these options, knowing that these questions have already been thought through will make things much easier for you and for your loved ones if something does happen to you.

The attorneys at our elder law offices are here to guide you through this process and help answer your questions. If you need support thinking about your life care plan, your estate planning documents, qualifying for Medicaid, or other questions around the elder care process, now is a good time to take advantage of a consultation so we can map out what you need.


Creating an Elder Law Plan to Avoid Exploitation

Unfortunately, the elderly are often targeted for financial exploitation schemes due to their substantial savings and the perception that some of them may be suffering from advanced cognitive issues. In these circumstances, it is best to be proactive by establishing an elder law and estate care plan that can assist you with minimizing the possibility of fraud.

The financial exploitation of seniors in America is significant problem and plenty of instances go unreported. Many elder law attorneys have seen how these issues have unfolded and have helped those impacted and family members’ attempt to recover. Some of the statistics around elder exploitation include the fact that 61% of victims are female, the average victim is 79 years old, and over 40% live alone.

Having an established estate plan can help to ensure that only trusted and qualified parties are appointed to make decisions or craft or sign documents on behalf of a loved one. While many family caregivers might have the best of intentions, it is very important to think carefully about these issues and to determine what is most important to you as you age so that you can avoid these common problems. Creating your documents now and appointing trusting loved ones can go a long way towards avoiding exploitation.

It’s equally important to think about how your estate and elder law documents should be drafted in advance of older age in the event you were to suffer from cognitive difficulties. In order for documents to be classified as legally valid, they should be drafted when you are of sound mind.

Schedule a consultation with a dedicated elder lawyer to get your questions answered.



It’s Special Needs Law Month

Do you have a loved one with special needs who you would like to provide for well into the future?

October is Special Needs Law Month, highlighting the importance of scheduling a consultation with a trusted elder attorney. There are many different legal needs associated with someone who has special needs concerns, particularly when it comes to remaining eligible for government benefits. For these government benefit programs like SSI or Medicaid, asset and income restrictions must be met by the applicant in order to continue receiving these important benefits.

Giving outright gifts of cash or other kinds of assets to a person with special needs could accidentally disqualify them from these important and crucial support systems. This is why it is often recommended to create a special needs trust with the help of an elder lawyer.

A special needs trust is one that is created using the money of the person who has the disability or having another person use their money to establish the trust for the benefit of the person with disability. These are known as first party special needs trust and third party special needs trust.

One of the most important differences between these two kinds of trusts is that a first party special needs trust, i.e. the one that is created with information from the party with special needs to benefit themselves and a third party trust is that the first party trust has a Medicaid payback provision whereas a third party trust does not.

If you intend to leave behind an inheritance for a person with a disability, it is critical that you understand this distinction and schedule a consultation with a trusted elder law attorney in your area. Our MI special needs law estate planners can assist you.