Frequently Asked Questions
- Last Will and Testament: This document distributes your probate assets to your named beneficiaries, designates guardians for your children and appoints an personal representative to follow your wishes after your death.
- Durable Power of Attorney For Financial Affairs: This document allows you to appoint someone to manage all of your financial affairs during your life, including the sale of assets, managing your banking and checking accounts, paying your expenses and all other financial affairs. A Durable Power of Attorney is crucial for avoiding the expense and hassle of appointing a conservator through the Probate Court in case a person becomes incompetent. A Durable Power of Attorney can even be permitted to establish trusts and implement Medicaid planning techniques. Married couples are often surprised to learn that marriage alone does not give one spouse authority to help the other spouse.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Medical Care Decisions: This document allows you to appoint a trusted person as your patient advocate to make medical and health decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so on your own. This appointed person will also have the right to terminate life support if you are in a terminal condition. A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is crucial for avoiding the expense and hassle of appointing a guardian through the Probate Court in case a person becomes incompetent. As with financial matters, marriage does not authorize one spouse to make decisions for the other spouse.
A will is the legal statement of your wishes as to the disposition of your after death. In addition, you may name in your will the person you want to handle your estate. This person is called a personal representative. A will also allows you to name the person you want to serve as your minor children’s guardian and conservator.
- The distribution of your estate is governed by Michigan Law not you!!. If you are survived by a spouse and children, your estate will be divided among those family members. If you have only children, the estate is divided among your children. If you have neither a spouse, or children or grandchildren, the estate is distributed to your parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces or nephews, or cousins, depending on who survives you.
- The probate court will appoint the guardian of your minor children without any input from you.
- The probate court will appoint the person who serves as your estate representative.
- The probate court will require in many cases that the estate representative purchase a bond at the estate’s expense. With a will, bond can be waived.
- A trust can pass property directly to heirs without the intervention of the Probate Court. Avoiding probate means avoiding the public nature of the process; avoiding court costs and attorney fees; avoiding delays in asset distribution associated with probate; avoiding the possibility of a will contest; and avoiding the need for a second or ancillary probate process for property held in another state
- A trust can reduce or eliminate estate taxes in some situations
- A trust can allow you to provide for an illness or disability by avoiding a costly and cumbersome guardianship and conservatorship.
- A trust can create a vehicle to distribute your children’s inheritance and life insurance benefits over a period of years; protect heirs who are vulnerable due to their level of maturity, age, health, or inexperience in financial matters; safely provide for children of prior marriages; and provide for your children in the event your spouse remarries and accidentally or intentionally leaves your property to the second spouse.
The services of an attorney are usually required in probate court because many legal and procedural issues arise, even in the most basic estate administration. There are many laws and procedures that relate to the probating of estates, and the family should be able to rely totally on the attorney to see that all acts are performed in accordance with the law. The attorney will represent the estate’s personal representative, the person appointed by the court to be in charge of the administration of the estate. The personal representative has the responsibility of performing all acts necessary in the administration of the estate, which includes identifying and appraising the estate assets, filing an estate inventory, paying the claims filed against the estate, distributing the assets, preparing the estate tax return if necessary, and filing a final accounting. The attorney and the estate representative are paid for their services out of the estate assets.
Lifetime and estate planning for individuals who have special needs, are incompetent, disabled or elderly, deserve special care and attention from trained professionals. We are here to provide guidance and planning opportunities beneficial to you and your challenged loved ones.
You may have a minor or adult child or other family member who has been disabled from birth, or, thereafter. Understandably, you want to be able to continue to ensure that your loved one is adequately provided for after you are gone. Or, you may need assistance with managing the financial and residential affairs of a parent or loved one who can no longer adequately take care of himself or herself.
Help is available from our professional team. With vast experience and knowledge in the laws and landscape of various types of special needs trusts created for a disabled individual, which will not affect or jeopardize current or potential asset-based governmental assistance available, we can put into place an appropriate plan to bring peace of mind to you and your family. Even if your loved one is not now or anticipated to ever need SSI or Medicaid assistance, preservation and protection of assets set aside to bring joy, dignity and optimism to your special loved one when you are no longer able to.
We are also here to assist with probate court guardianships conservatorships procedures for incompetent individuals. If possible, we implement a less restrictive alternative plan which does not necessitate probate court involvement. For elderly individuals, we bring support, suggestions and solutions to medical, financial and safety concerns of the family, always mindful, however, that our duty is foremost to the elderly client.
Our firm regularly and routinely provides advice and planning opportunities on:
- Financial powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney, wills and trusts
- Special needs trusts – whether or not asset based governmental benefits are involved
- Guardianships and conservatorships
- Representing applicants or prospective wards in probate court filings and litigation
- Elder law planning
- Protecting vulnerable family members with special needs trusts, guardianships and other disability or elder law planning
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