Wills and Trusts
A Will or Last Will and Testament, is document prepared while an individual is legally competent, which spells out how the individuals estate will be administered. Without such a document, the deceased person’s estate will be distributed according to how our legislature in the State of Michigan has determined.
The State of Michigan does allow for the use of a statutory will for less complicated estate plans. In most cases this will involve the primary concern being that of who the guardian might be for a minor child. A statutory will is not a replacement for an attorney or their advice. Information regarding the statutory will can be found at: http://www.michbar.org/generalinfo/libraries/wills.cfm.
A trust is the most popular legal mechanism for avoiding the necessity of the probate process to distribute a deceased individual’s assets. For most individuals, the biggest reason to get a Revocable Living Trust is to avoid the time and expense of probate. A Revocable Living Trust is the most popular, however, a properly designed trust has many other benefits, including potentially: protection during an illness or incapacity; it can be perpetual (lasts after death); privacy (wills must be probated and are public information); and even some tax savings. There are many types of trusts and your legal advisor can explain what type of trust might be necessary at your present position in life.
Probate Administration and Trust Administration
Probate administration involves a process of transferring the assets of a deceased person to their legal heirs (intestate) or the persons designated in their Last Will and Testament (testate). For most persons, over the years probate administration has established a negative connotation. Heirs or devisees often perceive probate administration as being at a high cost, with large attorney fees and a long drawn out process. The proper attorney or law firm retained to assist the individual acting as Personal Representative of the probate administration can minimize the costs, attorney fees and time.
Trust administration involves a process that is not that dissimilar to probate administration, but the major difference is that the court is not involved in overseeing or monitoring the administration. A trust must have been prepared or entered into by the decedent before their passing for a trust administration to be used. Trust administration can save substantial monies thereby benefiting the beneficiaries of the trust administration, however, sometime the use of the court is good thing in that it can protect the beneficiaries from a trust administration that is not administered correctly.
Medicaid and Long-Term Care Planning
Medicaid is a state and federally funded program designed to pay for many health care needs of individuals who are eligible. In world of Elder Law, most people think of long term care or nursing home care when they think of Medicaid planning. Medicaid eligibility is based on income and assets of the applicant and/or their spouse. Further, the individual must qualify by being assessed to need the care available in a nursing home setting.
The term “Elder Law” is very popular today among estate planners, advertisers and clients. For the most part “elder law” involves the use of various legal tools, knowledge and government resources, which are more applicable to individuals in their later years of life. As we age, many legal issues can arise that require the advice of others, including real estate sales, long term care planning, medical decision making and governmental benefits that we never needed when we were younger. There are various endorsements or certifications for attorneys that practice “elder law.”
Powers of Attorney
A durable power of attorney in Michigan is a law-abiding document that appoints another party the authority to make financial and other legal decisions on your behalf.
A medical power of attorney or advanced directive is a document in Michigan that allows someone called a patient advocate to make your medical decisions when you cannot. Two doctors or a doctor and psychologist must determine you unable to make a decision, before the decision is to be made by the patient advocate. Michigan does not recognize what in other states is referred to as a “living will."