This May Be The Time To Plan

COVID has exposed or reminded us of a number of difficult truths and one of them is the fragility of our health. We don’t know when we’ll have serious health issues or pass away. You can proactively help your family or loved ones by setting up an estate plan that gives them a legal roadmap with your wishes and helps them avoid navigating a stressful legal experience in the probate court.

These are the key issues to consider in an estate plan:

1. Designate your financial and healthcare decision-makers. Your estate planning documents will name the people who you trust to step in and make your financial and healthcare decisions. While it’s not necessary, choosing people who live close to you is an important factor in these decisions. It’s also very helpful if they have expertise in the area that they’re chosen. For example, if you have a child or someone close to you whose in the business world, that person could be a great fit to make your financial decisions. Also, if you have a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional in the family, he or she may be well suited to navigate the healthcare system and make healthcare decisions for you.

2. Provide instructions about your health care wishes and arrangements upon your passing. These decisions are critical if you become hospitalized or are unable to make your own medical decisions. They’ll allow your family to avoid having to petition the probate court to become a guardian. They’ll also give them instructions about the type of medical care you’d like and in particular, at the end of your life. Finally, these documents will include your wishes about whether you’d like to be buried or cremated.

3. Determine how your assets will be left to your beneficiaries. If you don’t have this designated in your estate plan, Michigan’s intestacy law will determine how and who your assets are left to. You can avoid this by creating either a last will and testament or a trust as part of your estate plan. In doing this, you may choose to leave your assets directly to your beneficiaries (i.e. children or charities). Or, you can have the assets held back for a certain amount of time and then distributed to those beneficiaries as the need arises or over a particular number of years. This may be very helpful for beneficiaries who have more complicated needs or are not mature enough to receive the assets at that time. This can also be used for the charities you’d like to benefit so that the resources left to them can be used over a certain number of years.

If you have any questions about estate planning, feel free to contact me at phmulder@cunninghamdalman.com.

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