Every Adult Needs A Comprehensive Estate Plan
We never know what the future holds for us. At The Linden Law Firm, our attorneys assist every client in developing and maintaining a comprehensive and up-to-date estate plan that is appropriate for their current stage of life.we handle estate planning for traditional and nontraditional families alike in Metro Detroit and throughout Michigan. With more than 20 years of experience, our lawyers focus on providing our clients with skilled legal service with personalized attention. We will guide you through the legal complexities of estate planning to make sure you can pass on your assets effectively.
AN INTEGRATED ESTATE PLAN
An Estate Plan consists of several distinct documents, including wills, trust agreements, powers of attorney, patient advocate designations, deeds, assignments, and others. One of the most complicated aspects of estate planning and elder law is creating these documents to work in concert with each other and with the other estate planning documents.
Focusing on thorough, client-driven legal service, we will work with you to create an integrated, legally effective estate plan that will work as it should and will help you avoid conflict and litigation.
LIFE CHANGES AND SO SHOULD YOUR PLAN
- Plan for business succession in a rapidly changing economy;
- Preserve your digital legacy through digital asset protection plans;
- Understand the obligations of fiduciaries such as agents, attorneys-in-fact, trustees, personal representatives, guardians, conservators and others;
- Manage inheritance expectations during an economic downturn;
- Administer estates and trusts and manage the probate or trust administration process.
WHO WILL YOU TRUST TO MAKE YOUR FINANCIAL AND HEALTH CARE DECISIONS?
This is one of the most challenging questions that people face as they are creating their estate plan and is only one of the many questions that come with powers of attorney and patient advocate designations. When establishing an estate plan, it is important to work with an experienced professional that will help you navigate the complex challenges that come with drafting these documents.
Often people contact an attorney stating they only need a “simple will.” That may be so, but too often such clients do not know about or understand the differences between a will and a trust, how differently they can impact a client’s affairs, or they do not know or simply misunderstand other legal documents that are situationally suited to help them manage their affairs including Powers of Attorney, and Designations of Patient Advocates. Properly individually tailored Estate Plans should consist of more than just a will or a trust.
- Wills: A will is a comprehensive document that sets forth how a testator (the person who created the will) wishes to dispose of his or her property after death. Generally, the will names an appointed personal representative (who carries out the will’s instructions) and beneficiaries (who receive the testator’s property). If a will exists alone, the process of distributing property and obtaining access to assets such as financial accoutns will have to go through probate court and be subject to public scrutiny.
- Trusts: A trust is written agreement in which one person (the trustee) holds legal title to property for someone else (the beneficiary). The person who creates the trust is usually called a grantor or settlor. Trusts are chosen for their flexibility and wide range of possible uses, and may take a variety of different forms depending on the particular individual’s needs and goals:
- Revocable trust — can be amended during the grantor’s lifetime
- Irrevocable trust — cannot be amended
- Living trust — also called an inter vivos trust, it is created while the grantor is alive and property put into the trust is not subject to probate
- Testamentary trust — created as part of a will and takes effect when the grantor dies
Trusts are not subject to probate. Probate is the process whereby a will is validated and the decedent’s estate is administered. Wills are subject to probate, whereas trust instruments are not. In Michigan, probate is generally unsupervised. The appointed administrator collects, classifies and values assets; identifies heirs; distributes assets according to the will’s terms; settles debts with creditors; files tax returns; and performs other duties. If there is concern over the administration of the estate, the probate court can order that probate be supervised. If probate is supervised, the judge must approve all aspects of the administration of the estate.
Because trusts are not subject to probate, they avoid time-consuming court proceedings and costs associated with probate. Generally, probate is a slow process even if everything goes normally. If the decedent had a vast or complex arrangement of assets or if claimed beneficiaries contest the validity or interpretation of the will, the process can be even more time-consuming. The probate process can cause strife among family members. In addition, probate can be expensive, with attorney’s fees, personal representative’s fees and an inventory fee.
Contrary to the common conception that the disposition of a will upon death is a private matter, everything that transpires in probate court (such as testimony and rulings on who receives what) will be available to the general public via public records, making heirs vulnerable as they lack control over this information and possibly making then the targets of criminal activity. Thus, because a trust is not subject to probate, matters can be kept private.
- Power of attorney: A power of attorney (POA) establishes an agent (called an attorney in fact) to handle the principal’s financial affairs, and it details the scope of authority and manner in which financial affairs should be handled.
- Designation of patient advocate/Medical Power of Attorney: A designation of patient advocate is a legal document that establishes an agent to take care of the principal’s medical and health care decisions. Within this document, we can also guide clients in leaving detailed instructions for the agent to follow regarding how health care decisions should be handled.
HEALTH CARE OR MEDICAL POWER OF ATTORNEY
Life Support, Feeding Tubes Or Antibiotics — Which, If Any, Would You Want?
Michigan Does Not Provide for Living Wills, but Other Methods, Such As Health Care Powers of Attorney or Designations of Patient Advocates Are Available to Assist You.
People often are confused about “living wills” and what they are. A living will, sometimes called an advance medical directive, is a document that specifically describes your wishes regarding health care measures such as artificial life support, feeding tubes, hydration, hospital care, and antibiotics if you are unable to communicate due to an illness or injury.
Michigan law does not recognize a living will as a binding legal document, and the term “living will” does not exist in Michigan law. Instead, Michigan law allows individuals to designate a “Patient Advocate” — often known as a “health care power of attorney.” Unlike a living will, a health care power of attorney allows you to appoint a designated person to advocate with medical providers and to make decisions regarding medical care on your behalf if you are not competent or are unable to assist in your own care decisions. As estate planning professionals, we will gladly spend time helping you determine who that should be and what directions they should have to fulfill your wishes.
Spare your family, friends, and medical caregivers from the stressful and often contentious process of guessing what your intentions would be if you could state them yourself, as well as the equally difficult process of determining who gets to make your care-related decisions.
At The Linden Law Firm, we help clients craft documents that clearly direct loved ones, medical providers and, if necessary, courts in understanding and following your wishes. If you would like to make arrangements for a free consultation about a health care power of attorney (POA) contact our Southfield, Michigan office.
NON-TRADITIONAL FAMILIES HAVE A GREATER NEED FOR CAREFUL AND PERSONALIZED ESTATE PLANNING
Are you a same-sex couple? Are you in a permanent relationship, a civil union, or now lawfully married? Are you a grandparent, aunt or uncle raising a child belonging to another family member? Are you a single parent? Is your family anything other than the assumed nuclear family with mother, father and 2.5 children? If any of these questions are answered yes, then you are likely a non-traditional family.
Nontraditional families have just as much need to make an estate plan as do traditional families. In many ways, it is even more important for a nontraditional family to craft a comprehensive estate plan. The laws are more complicated and less intuitive for nontraditional families. Many rights that married couples or direct parent-child relationships have are unavailable to grandparents and nontraditional families. Recent Supreme Court decisions and changing state laws are continually moving the landscape for what legal presumptions and benefits are available to people. This is where proper estate planning can ensure the protection of yourself and your loved ones in circumstances where the default protections in the law are unavailable, unclear or rapidly changing.
The Linden Law Firm represents grandparents, aunts and uncles, same-sex couples with children, unmarried couples, divorced families, split families, families with adopted children, adult adoptions and other nontraditional families establishing comprehensive estate plans.
If you are in a nontraditional family and you would like to plan for your estate, the lawyers at the Linden Law Firm, PLC can help you and your family create a legal strategy that will work in protecting your interests. We also represent nontraditional families in probate administration and probate litigation.
- Revocable trusts
- Irrevocable trusts for children
- Life insurance trusts
- Special Needs Trusts
- Charitable trusts
- Family partnerships
- Family limited liability companies
- Personal residence trusts
- Prenuptial agreements
- Protective orders
- Decedents’ estates
- Trust administration
- Estate tax returns
- Gift tax returns
- Tax audits
- General durable powers of attorney
- Health care powers of attorney
- Elder law