Estate Planning

Proper estate planning, no matter your circumstance, can provide for the orderly and properly supervised management of your assets during your lifetime and transfer of assets to your loved ones upon your death.

For over 50 years, the Michigan estate planning attorneys at Willingham & Coté, P.C.'s East Lansing law office have been assisting clients to protect their loved ones through the use of several estate planning strategies, as outlined below.  

Proper estate planning, no matter your circumstance, can provide for the orderly and proper management of your assets during your lifetime and transfer of assets to loved ones upon your death.

The Importance of Family Communication

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A will is a legal document in which a person names another person or party to manage his or her estate and specifies wishes in regards to distribution of assets.

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Revocable Trusts

A revocable trust is a type of trust that can be changed or canceled dependent on the grantor. You own your assets had have the ability to determine what happens to them.

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Irrevocable Trusts

An irrevocable trust is a type of trust that trust that cannot be changed after an agreement has been signed on or after the Trustmaker dies or after a specific point in time.

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Pet Trusts

Pet trusts allow you to establish trust funds and arrangements for your pets upon your passing.

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Gifting has many tax and estate related benefits for individuals. We will help you understand the effects of gifting and help you execute the process properly.

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Financial Powers of Attorney

Financial Power of Attorney is a way to arrange for someone to manage your finances in the event you become unable to make those decisions for yourself.

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Medical Powers of Attorney

In the event that you are not able to make heath care decisions for yourself, Medical Power of Attorney designates someone to make those decisions on your behalf.

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Estate Planning FAQs

An estate plan is a prearranged plan that can include either a will or a trust that will designate who should receive your property after you die. This plan is strategically set in place to minimize the potential estate taxes costs associated with settlement and family conflict, while coordinating what will happen to items such as your investments, home and life insurance.

While the typical estate plan deals with the transfer of your assets at your death, to be fully effective a complete estate plan should also include a Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney

The importance of an estate plan is to ensure that your assets get distributed to the proper people upon your passing, including spouses, children and grandchildren.

Without a proper estate plan, you gamble that your assets will be distributed to the wrong people. 

When someone dies without a will, it means they have died “intestate”. If this happens, the laws of the state are utilized to determine how a person’s property is distributed. These laws vary depending on the status of the deceased person, whether married or single, children or no children. However, typically property is dispersed among “heirs” including spouses and children.  Or, if there are none, then parents and siblings, uncles and aunts, and distant relatives, including the deceased individual’s grandparents. In the case that there aren’t any relatives, then the estate will go to the state.

Will – a document that specifies how to distribute someone’s property upon death and requires the supervision of probate court.

Trust – a document designating that property be held by the trustee and is to be used to benefit the beneficiary.  During one’s lifetime, that person is typically both the trustee and the beneficiary.  But, at one’s death a successor trustee is appointed and one’s family members are then typically the beneficiaries. 

Power of Attorney – a document that gives one person the legal power to act on behalf of another person.

Medical Power of Attorney - a document that gives authority to one person to make medical decisions on behalf of another person

Your estate is made up of a variety of items including:

  • Your home
  • Any other personally owned real estate
  • Interest in a business
  • Bank accounts
  • Your portion of joint accounts
  • Stocks
  • Life insurance benefits
  • Retirement plans and IRAs
  • Property owned by a trust in which you have significant control

Probate is the process where a court reviews a will to assess whether it is valid or invalid and then supervises the distribution of the property of a deceased individual.

A person or persons should be appointed as guardian(s) for children and their property under the age of eighteen. This person(s) will act in lieu of the parents in the case that the children are abandoned or the parents are unable to care for them or deceased.

If your child or children are under the age of 18, then you should choose a guardian who will be legally responsible for that child at your death. One’s choice for a guardian is typically set forth in one’s will or trust.

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