Estate Planning

Wills and Trusts Attorneys Serving Grand Rapids, Traverse City, and Detroit

The process of probate, during which a decedent's property is transferred to survivors, is often expensive, confusing, and lengthy. Each state has its own rules with regard to probate and estate planning, including its own laws regarding intestacy, which is the order in which close relatives can inherit property when a decedent dies without a will. In Michigan, probate can be avoided or minimized through careful estate planning. If you want to make sure that your property goes to the specific people whom you choose, the Detroit, Traverse City, and Grand Rapids estate planning lawyers at the Neumann Law Group can make sure that you understand your options and meticulously draft documents to reflect your wishes.

Devising an Estate Planning Instrument

In Michigan, the Uniform Probate Code simplifies probate for small estates—those worth less than $15,000. If your estate is considered a small estate, you may use this simplified process, which is not as expensive or time-consuming. However, if your estate is larger, you may need to make a will and a living trust. The will provides a plan for any property that is not in the trust, such as property you acquired after you made the trust or omitted from the trust. Without a will as a backup, the property not in your trust transfers through the laws of intestacy.

As noted above, probate can be avoided in Michigan by making a living trust. This is a trust that can cover almost any asset, from real estate to bank accounts. The trust is created with a trust document that names beneficiaries and someone to act as a "trustee," administering the property after your death. Once you have created the trust document, you will need to transfer asset ownership to yourself as a trustee of the trust you created. The property is then governed by the trust terms. When you pass away, the trustee you named to succeed you can transfer and distribute the property to beneficiaries without going through probate.

If you simply want to pass ownership of your property to a spouse or one child, taking the property as a joint owner with a right of survivorship with the spouse or child will allow the property to pass directly to the survivor when the other owner dies. No probate will be needed. However, each of you will need to own an equal share of the property. If you have a joint tenancy with your spouse, you will own the property in a tenancy by the entirety.

For some property, such as a bank account, you can add a "payable on death" designation to your bank account. The beneficiary will claim the money directly when you die without going through probate, and the beneficiary will have no right to the money while you are still alive.

Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer in Traverse City, Grand Rapids, or Detroit

If you own property and care about how it is distributed, you should retain an experienced Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Traverse City estate planning attorney at the Neumann Law Group. Kelly Neumann is both an award-winning trial lawyer and a careful estate planner. Our firm represents people in Flint, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Wyoming, Saginaw, Midland, Muskegon, Holland, Ann Arbor, Warren, Dearborn, Petoskey, and communities throughout the Upper Peninsula. Contact us toll-free at 800-525-NEUMANN or via our online form to set up a free consultation. We also can represent people in California and Massachusetts, as well as those who need an injury attorney or guidance in a criminal defense, real estate, family law, collections, or mediation matter.

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