In Michigan, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone decides what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you actually want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for actually implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these objectives.
In addition to decisions concerning the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For example, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your preference on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such decisions for you, if you are unable.
A qualified estate planner in Michigan may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Furthermore, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in Michigan
Estate plans in Michigan almost always have these features:
Will: If you've decided who you want to leave your property and money to after you die, you should make these wishes official, by writing a will. When writing a will, it's always a good idea to have the help of an attorney, since many problems can come up which might make the will much more difficult to implement, or they might even void it entirely. Common problems include ambiguities in the terms of the will (a term which is not clearly written, so it can be interpreted differently by reasonable people), as well as failure to follow the required formalities.
Power of Attorney: Sometimes, people fear that they may become incapacitated (because of injury, illness, or mental deterioration), and that they won't be able to make their own decisions. Thankfully, if you want, you can grant a family member or close friend (or someone else you absolutely trust) legal authority to make important decisions for you, if you are ever incapacitated. This is known as "power of attorney."
Funeral Arrangements: Your wishes on this matter should be made clear to whoever is in a position to implement them early on in the estate planning process, and should not be included in a will. Because a will is often read days or weeks after the person dies, it may be too late by then to carry your wishes out.
Do I Need a Michigan Estate Planning Attorney?
Because these decisions are so important in Michigan, it's almost never a bad idea to seek the counsel of an experienced wills, trusts, and estates attorney.
Interesting Facts About Michigan
Michigan has a population of over 9 million people and is the 8th most populated state in the U.S. The name "Michigan" means "large lake". In the year 1837, Michigan became the 26th state to officially join the Union. The Michigan State Capitol is located in the city of Lansing in Ingham County.
Michigan's court system is comprised of three levels, each serving a different purpose. At the lowest level are the District Courts, Municipal Courts, and Probate Courts. Appeals and higher matters are heard at the intermediate level through the Circuit Court system. Michigan also operates a Court of Claims at the intermediate level, which hears administrative agency appeals involving claims against the state. Michigan's highest court is the Michigan Supreme Court.
Aside from hearing advanced legal claims, the Supreme Court also operates the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, dedicated to the preservation of Michigan's rich legal history. A famous Michigan court case is Workman v. Detroit Board of Education (1869), one of the first cases dealing with segregation in education. Another famous Michigan case is the Dr. Kevorkian trial involving assisted death and euthanasia. In 1846, Michigan was the first U.S. state to abolish the death penalty.
Lawyers in Michigan file most of their claims at the District or Municipal Court level. Michigan lawyers are experienced in a broad range of legal topics, allowing them to address the unique legal needs of the community. Michigan continues to promote its rich tradition of legal excellence and service.