In our last post we discussed the importance of making plans for the end of your life -- both death itself and the years leading up to it. As we grow elderly, we become much more vulnerable. Our bodies don't work as well and we may have a difficult time keeping track of personal and business affairs. Choosing a trustworthy power of attorney, conservator or estate administrator can provide some extra peace of mind as the ability to make complex health care or estate decisions gradually diminishes.
An estate plan involves the use of legal instruments such as wills and trusts to distribute the assets of an estate. Many families are blended from more than one biological family, so estate planning often involves stepchildren. Readers in Oakland and Mccomb counties will want to learn more about planning an estate for stepchildren.
High-value assets can be good investments. However, passing along such assets to family members or beneficiaries is not always simple. When a person dies, an inventory must be made of both debts and assets. Any debts must be paid before the intended recipients can inherit from an estate. Proper estate administration can help to handle the details of transferring ownership.
Working hard, saving and investing are good ways to prepare for the future. If those preparations include estate planning, someone will have to be in charge of handling the estate owner's assets after that person passes away. Estate administration can clear up any possible confusion over a deceased person's debts, tax responsibilities and asset distribution.
The determination of heirs is not always a cut-and-dried process. When disputes arise, probate courts oversee estate administration and are often called in to determine how wills, estates and benefits will be divided amongst heirs. Those who are attempting to unravel the will of a deceased loved one should seek to understand how current laws and rulings may affect their cases.
An estate plan provides guidance to families going through a difficult time. Sometimes, serious illnesses or injuries can occur without warning, leaving once-healthy people unable to state their final wishes. An effective estate plan will save grieving loved ones the added stress of figuring out the wishes of the deceased, dividing assets amicably, and avoiding overpayment of taxes.
When the death of a loved one occurs and there are no clear instructions left for estate administration or burial, loved ones can be left unsure of what the deceased's wishes were. Sometimes, even when a will is in place before the death, the family of the deceased can contest it. This can leave the estate in legal limbo while a judge decides the case. Estate administration can be quite tricky under certain circumstances.
The estate of former Michigan resident Jack Kevorkian recently settled with a museum over the ownership of artwork painted by notorious doctor. Having a trustworthy executor who can solve legal disputes such as these during estate administration is important.
As we discussed a few weeks back, online or digital assets can be problematic for some Michigan residents as people increase their online presence, the amount of information they access and store online grows. The growing use of email and paperless bill paying has created a situation where vital records are stored in online accounts only. Those involved in estate administration are having some difficulties in obtaining access to those records, as the laws regarding ownership of online accounts after death have failed to keep up with the popularity of those accounts.
As discussed in last week's post, there are a number of life events that should trigger a review of your estate planning goals and documentation, including a marriage, divorce or death in the family. Often certain aspects of an estate plan are missed in a divorce, such as changing the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or bank accounts. Durable powers of attorney should also be updated along with the names on any trusts. This step also includes children who turn 18-years of age, as discussed in a post a few weeks back.