The Importance of Estate Planning

The idea of an estate plan may immediately conjure up images of people with vast riches and several houses that need management, but everyone has an estate. Your estate includes anything you own, such as your car, your personal belongings, your bank accounts and investments, and your life insurance policy. Estate planning is a key part of being single, married, or divorced because having a will in place is extremely important in the event that something happens to you, yet many Michigan residents do not even have a will. Not having a plan in place leaves their loved ones vulnerable to expensive court bills and legal fees. This can be avoided by taking the time to create an estate plan to communicate your last wishes.

What An Estate Plan Includes

Creating a proper estate plan can seem morbid given it is predicated on incapacitation or death. However, thinking about being able to take care of the people you care about most and ensuring their future happiness can make the process a life-affirming decision. Both Michigan and federal laws allow for each individual to come up with a plan that suits his or her needs, but any thorough estate plan should consider the following items:

1. A Will. A will is one of the most fundamental parts of any estate plan and outlines how a person wants his or her assets to be divided. In Michigan, the will be overseen at its signing by at least two adult witnesses who are not inheriting anything through the will. Although it is legal for anyone to write their own will and Michigan will recognize even hand-written ones, working with an attorney can ensure all the language in your will is legally correct;

2. A Living Trust. A living trust is the most effective way to avoid probate and in Michigan, it is possible to have one for nearly any asset you own. Essentially, a trust document names someone as the trustee, most often the individual, and a successor trustee. Ownership and control of the property then falls to the trustee, allowing him or her to transfer funds to any beneficiaries in the event of your death or incapacitation;

3. Power of Attorney. Power of attorney can simply be a document that gives someone the legal right to make decisions in your place. This can be anything from paying bills to selling assets or making medical decisions;

4. Health Care Decisions. Despite not recognizing living wills unless a patient is terminally ill, the laws in Michigan do allow individuals to draw up advance directives to ensure your wishes are carried out regarding medical care, such as life support; and

5. Funeral Arrangements. Making the arrangements necessary for funerals include considering both financial and personal aspects, such as the individual's choice of burial or cremation.

Estate planning may involve many other considerations, such as estate taxes or business arrangements, and are highly dependent on each individual and his or her family.

Work With A Michigan Estate Planning Attorney

Because estate planning involves so many legal issues, it is always advisable to work with an estate planning attorney to ensure that everything is in order. Improperly executed estate plans can be very expensive and time-consuming to sort out. In fact, it is estimated that Americans spend roughly $2 billion annually in probate courts. For any questions and help regarding divorce and estate planning in the Tri-County area of Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties or greater Michigan, contact The Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins to discuss your options. Mr. Robbins has years of experience in family law, including estate planning, in Michigan. Call 248-646-7980 or contact him online today to schedule your initial legal consultation.