Michigan Estate Planning Documents & Info

Estate planning can be complicated, especially if you don’t know where to begin. While an experienced and local estate planning attorney is an invaluable resource, here is some general information to get started.

Serving Southwest Michigan, Legacy Counsel offers comprehensive and meticulous will drafting and updating services, ensuring that every aspect reflects your unique needs, family dynamics, and business interests.

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Revocable Living Trusts

A revocable living trust is a common estate planning tool used to avoid the time, cost, and public nature of probate. Without a trust, assets pass through probate court before they are distributed to heirs. A living trust, on the other hand, takes ownership of your assets while you are still alive. However, you can appoint yourself as the trustee, so you retain control of all of your assets. If you become incapacitated or pass away, control of the assets passes to the successor trustee, who you name. This person will be responsible for administering the trust in accordance with your instructions, which lay out when, how, to whom, and in what increments, the assets should be distributed.

For more information on revocable living trusts in Michigan, check out the following resources:

Last Will & Testament

Your will is the document that expresses your wishes about how you would like your assets distributed after your death. Although a will is a legal document, it is not automatically enforceable. Instead, a will is presented to the probate court to act as guidelines for how you wish to have your estate managed. Within a will, you can name an executor to your estate and provide guardianship nominations for minor children.

See the following resources for more information on wills in Michigan:

Advance Healthcare Directives

An advance healthcare directive is also called your “Medical Power of Attorney,” “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care,” “Health Care Power of Attorney,” or “Health Care Proxy.”

Typically, an Advance Healthcare Directive consists of two parts: a healthcare surrogate nomination and a living will. A healthcare surrogate is empowered to make medical decisions on your behalf if you should ever become incapacitated or unable to communicate your wishes. A living will provides your end-of-life preferences to guide the surrogate. This part of the directive indicates which medical treatments you would like performed in an attempt to prolong life.

For more information on medical powers of attorney in Michigan, check out the following resources:

Living Wills

You may have heard the term “Living Will” in estate planning before. Although these documents are not specifically authorized under Michigan law, they can be a beneficial tool for letting healthcare providers know your wishes should you face a serious illness or end-of-life scenario.

Living wills are similar to medical powers of attorney in that they describe your health care wishes in the event that you become incapacitated and cannot communicate. However, living wills do not appoint a health care surrogate to carry out medical decisions on your behalf. Instead, a living will is a written statement that you may share with your doctors and relatives as a guideline for your care.

Here are some resources related to living wills in Michigan:

Financial Power of Attorney

A Financial Power of Attorney is different from a medical power of attorney, but both appoint someone to make important decisions on your behalf. With a financial power of attorney, you can nominate an agent to manage your finances in the event of your death or incapacitation. This document is needed in order for your agent or representative to conduct affairs with the Michigan Office of Retirement Services (ORS).

For more information, check out these resources:

Lady Bird Deeds

A Lady Bird Deed, also known as an enhanced life estate deed, allows an owner to transfer real property, such as a plot of land, to beneficiaries. Owners can retain the right to control their real property while they are still alive through a lady bird deed.

For more information on lady bird deeds in Michigan:

Michigan Notary Acknowledgment Form

To make an estate planning document legally-binding in Michigan, you must follow certain steps, including signing it in front of two or more witnesses. While notarization is not required in Michigan, you can choose to have a notary public complete a Notary Acknowledgement Form. This form acknowledges that your document is valid and can be useful for verifying that you signed with the proper authority.

A notary acknowledgement form alongside your will or other estate planning documents can support their legitimacy and prevent future debates from arising.

For more information on notary acknowledgement forms in Michigan, see the following:

Michigan Estate Planning FAQs

What Happens to My Estate Plan if I Remarry?

Your estate planning documents will likely need to be reviewed and amended if you are in your second, third, or subsequent marriage. You might wish to remove an ex-spouse from your revocable living trust or name your current partner as a health care surrogate, for example.

Think of your estate plan as a fluid thing, changing with you and your surroundings. Major life events like marriage should signal that it’s time to look over your estate plan again. You should regularly review your documents regardless of any updates in your personal life just to ensure they accurately reflect your present desires, values, and best interests.

How Does Estate Planning Work for Singles?

It’s a common misconception that single people and those without close relatives don’t need estate plans. The truth is, anyone can benefit from having an estate plan in place regardless of their marital status.

You do not need to name a spouse – or any family member for that matter – in your will, power of attorney, or other documents. You could donate your assets instead through a charitable trust, or give property to friends and other people in your life.

What Should Young Parents Do for Estate Planning?

New parents should consider who should care for their minor children and how to distribute any assets in their Michigan estate plan. This formally identifies who you want to become your child’s legal guardian if you pass or become incapacitated.

Additionally, young parents should consider naming their child as a beneficiary in their life insurance policies and retirement accounts. However, the child will not be able to access these assets until they are an adult, so you might also wish to also appoint a trustee to distribute those assets to your child. That way, if something happens to you before your child is 18, your trust still allows them to access these financial accounts.

What are Special Needs Trusts?

If you have a child or other loved one who is disabled, you should consider setting up a special needs trust to ensure their future care is covered. Funds within a special needs trust can pay for your loved one’s home modifications, health care, and more after your death. Additionally, a special needs trust will not disqualify your loved one from benefits like Medicaid.

What are Pet Trusts?

In Michigan, a domesticated animal can be a valid beneficiary of your estate. Pet trusts are like other trusts, only they provide support for your pets if you pass away before them. Pet trusts can designate a caretaker for your pet and even set aside assets to cover your pet’s care and other needs.

Read Michigan’s laws on trusts for pets.

Contact a Berrien County Estate Planning Lawyer

No matter where you are in your estate planning journey, you may find yourself asking a lot of questions. The Internet can be a helpful reference, but it won’t provide the personalized guidance that a lawyer can, and some websites contain outdated or uncredible information.

Based in St. Joseph, Legacy Counsel PLC is a boutique estate planning firm serving Southwest Michigan, including Berrien County, Cass County, Van Buren County, and more.

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Call 269-932-4017.