Contemplating end-of-life issues, medical contingencies, and wealth transfers can be difficult. A comprehensive estate plan gives you peace of mind and provides clear instructions to your loved ones and heirs throughout your life and upon your death.
The attorneys at the Shimek Law Firm have the experience and compassion to help you make decisions about transferring your wealth, protecting your assets, and establishing your wishes for medical care and treatment if you cannot express them yourself. An estate plan directs your family what to do if you become incapacitated and spares them from a lengthy, complicated, and potentially divisive journey through Michigan’s probate court system.
Preserving Your Wealth, No Matter the Amount
An estate plan identifies your assets and how they will be distributed when you pass. We use various estate planning tools to help you accomplish this, such as:
- Wills: A will lets you allocate your real and personal property to the people and organizations you choose. It also authorizes a personal representative to distribute your assets and close your estate. Even if you don’t have significant wealth, a will enables your personal representative to easily wrap up your affairs, including closing your bank accounts, terminating your utility bills, and paying off obligations. Without a will, you leave it to the probate court and your heirs to distribute your wealth, often in ways you may not have intended.
- Trusts: Unlike a will, a trust can direct the management and distribution of assets during and after your death. There are different kinds of trusts, including revocable and irrevocable living trusts, insurance trusts, and even trusts to care for your pets. In each instance, a designated trustee administers the trust in your place. A trust is a great way to avoid probate and ensure your wishes are followed.
- Quitclaim and “Lady Bird” Deeds: With a quitclaim deed, you can convey an interest in real estate to a close relative or a trust. A Lady Bird deed is a form of quitclaim deed that allows you to transfer legal ownership of your real property to your chosen heirs but retain the right to use, sell, give away, or mortgage the property during your lifetime. Besides avoiding probate, a Lady Bird deed may reduce capital gains and other estate taxes and protect your Medicare/Medicaid entitlements.
- Charitable Giving and Planning: You may choose to gift some or all of your estate to an eligible charity or make that organization a beneficiary on an insurance policy, 401k plan, donor-advised fund, or other investment. We can help you ensure assets go to the causes you care about without probate court oversight or interference from other heirs and beneficiaries.
Advanced Directives During Your Lifetime
Besides asset protection and wealth transfers, your estate plan should also include instructions for handling financial affairs and medical care and treatment if you lack the legal capacity to decide for yourself. These advanced directives include:
- Patient Advocate Designations: Also known as a healthcare power of attorney or durable healthcare power of attorney, this document allows you to appoint someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot do so, either temporarily or permanently. It also lets you make your wishes known on critical life-sustaining treatment and organ donation decisions.
- Durable Power of Attorney: With this document, you can designate someone to pay your bills, manage bank and investment accounts, and assist with your finances if you become unable to do so. You can also appoint multiple representatives for different purposes.
Knowing your options and putting a plan in place lets you enjoy your golden years with the assurance that your end-of-life wishes will be honored. A well-constructed estate plan also offers tax advantages and reduces tax consequences for your loved ones, beneficiaries, and heirs so that more of your wealth passes without going to the government.
With so many laws and legal nuances to navigate, you cannot rely on do-it-yourself, fill-in-the-blank forms for your estate planning needs. Instead, count on the attorneys at the Shimek Law Firm to guide you and prepare a proper estate plan. We can help you address sensitive issues with your family or other beneficiaries to minimize potential emotional conflicts and stress. Contact us today to set up a consultation.