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Estate Planning

Dedicated Michigan Lawyers Helping Clients in Grand Rapids, Traverse City, and Detroit Prepare Wills, Trusts and Other Important Documents

The probate process refers to the legal proceeding in which the court transfers a deceased person’s assets to the heirs and beneficiaries. While probate is necessary in most cases, it is often expensive and can significantly delay loved ones’ receipt of their inheritance. However, the Michigan probate process can often be avoided or at least minimized through careful estate planning.

If you want to make sure that your property ends up where you want it to without unnecessary delay, the Traverse City estate planning lawyers at the Neumann Law Group are here to help. We can make sure that you understand your options and, once you decide how to proceed, meticulously draft documents to reflect your wishes.

Michigan’s Simplified Probate Process for Small Estates

In Michigan, the Uniform Probate Code simplifies probate for small estates. What is considered a small estate changes each year to reflect the effect of inflation. However, as an example, in 2023, any estate with a value of less than $27,000 qualified as a small estate. If your estate is considered a small estate, you may use this simplified process, which is not as expensive or time-consuming as the traditional probate process.

The Importance of Wills and Trusts

If your estate does not qualify as a small estate, you should strongly consider creating a will and a living trust. The will provides a plan for any property that is not transferred into the trust, such as property you acquired after you made the trust or property you intentionally or inadvertently left out of the trust. Without a will as a backup, any non-trust property transfers through the laws of intestacy. Intestacy refers to the order in which relatives inherit property when a decedent dies without a will.

Using a Living Trust to Avoid Probate

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.

Other Probate Avoidance Options

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 as tenants in the entirety.

For some property types, such as bank accounts, 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.

Are You Considering a Michigan Estate Plan?

If you own property and want to ensure that it is distributed according to your wishes, it is important to speak with an experienced Traverse City estate planning attorney at the Neumann Law Group. At the Neumann Law Group, we have over a century of experience helping individuals and families plan for their future and the futures of coming generations. Our firm represents people in Flint, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Wyoming, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Midland, Muskegon, Holland, Ann Arbor, Warren, Dearborn, and Petoskey, as well as throughout the Upper Peninsula. Contact us toll-free at 800-525-NEUMANN or via our online form to set up a free consultation.

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