For residents of Grand Rapids, Michigan who are thinking about estate planning and, in particular, are thinking about options concerning their pensions, it is important to understand how estate planning is connection to decisions about your pension. First, what is a pension? Is this something you need to add into your will? And can you have more than one beneficiary for your pension? These are some of the common questions we receive, and we will discuss these and more as we explain how pensions can figure into your estate planning.

What is a Pension?

Estate Planning with Pensions in Michigan | Law Offices of David L Carrier

In order to understand how your pension will play a role in your estate planning, you will first need to know what a pension is and how it functions. As CNN Money explains, a pension is simply a “retirement account that an employer maintains to give you a fixed payout when you retire.” A pension is what is known as a defined benefit plan. A defined benefit plan is simply one in which the benefit you received is based on how long you have worked for your employer and your salary. This is also a plan into which your employer pays the money (and makes decisions about where it will be invested).

How much is a pension worth and how does a pension get paid? The answers to those questions will depend upon a number of factors, including the length of time you worked for your employer, as well as your salary during your period of employment. A pension pays out when you decide to retire, and it will typically be paid either in a monthly payment over a period of time, or it can be paid in a lump-sum payment.

Learning More About Your Pension and Estate Planning

Now that you understand more about pensions (and, perhaps, how they are distinct from other types of retirement accounts such as IRAs, for example), it is important to learn more about designating beneficiaries and ensuring that your retirement benefits can help to provide for your loved ones.

A trusts and estates resource sheet from the American Bar Association helps to explain how you name beneficiaries on a pension plan, and other issues to consider. First, it is important to know that you do not name beneficiaries of your pension plan account in your will. While items that you bequeath in your will must go through the probate process, retirement benefits and other insurance payouts will not automatically have to go through the probate process. Now, how do you name a beneficiary on your pension plan if not through your will?

Pension plan accounts are a bit different than other retirement accounts when it comes to naming beneficiaries. While certain retirement accounts allow you to choose your beneficiary and to name that specific beneficiary in writing, pension plans require your spouse to be the named beneficiary—if you are married—unless the spouse expressly waives this benefit in writing. While in most cases your spouse will be the person you would choose as the beneficiary regardless, pension plans to assume that the spouse will benefit from this account in the event of your death. If you are not married, you can name anyone you choose as the beneficiary of your pension plan, and that person then may be able to receive lifetime payments through your pension.

A West Michigan Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

Whether you are married or not, it is important to discuss any estate-planning questions, including naming beneficiaries on your retirement accounts, with an experienced Grand Rapids estate planning attorney. An advocate at our firm can answer your questions today. Contact the Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C. to learn more about our services.

Many people create a will or a trust prior to their death, both of which can be used to leave assets and property to beneficiaries upon the creator’s death. While most people have the foresight to include all of their property within a trust or a will, it is not uncommon for certain assets to be left out, either intentionally or accidentally. The following considers what happens to assets that are not included in your trust–

Assets Not Held Within a Trust Must Go Through Probate


Assets that are not held within a trust must go through probate. This is the process of identifying and inventorying a person’s assets (that are not held within a trust), and proving that a will is valid (if a will exists). If the will is found to be valid, then all assets found in the will be be distributed to beneficiaries per the terms of the will. In some cases, a will may stipulate that any assets not expressly stated should go to a certain beneficiary. In other cases, there is no such provision as this, and any assets not held in a trust or addressed in a will must be divided per state law.

Michigan Intestacy Laws

The laws in Michigan that govern how assets are to be distributed if they are not otherwise accounted for are called intestacy laws. If a person died without assets in a trust, or without a will, their assets (or the assets not named in a will) will go to their children and their spouse, and in some cases parents or siblings.

Contesting a Will or Distribution of Assets

The descendants of a person who has died without placing all of their assets in a trust may take issue with the validity of the decedent’s will, or with distribution of assets per the state’s intestacy laws. If you have questions about contesting a will or distribution of assets, or want to learn more about what happens to assets that are not placed in a trust prior to death, it is beneficial to work with an experienced Michigan wills and trusts attorney.

At The Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C., our talented Holland family trust attorneys will answer all of your questions, can help you to form a will or a trust, and can advise you of your rights and options after the death of a loved one. If you need to contest the distribution of certain assets, we can help.

Schedule your free case consultation by calling our law offices today or contacting us online.

For business owners in Michigan, planning for their business’ future after their death is an important consideration. This article will consider what happens to a Michigan business after its owner’s death, the process of transferring a business, what happens when a business is not transferred to someone, and how an experienced estate planning attorney can aid throughout the process.

Transferring Ownership of a Business Upon Death


It is possible to transfer the ownership of a business to your heirs, or a trusted person or set of people, upon your death. One of the best ways to do this is to put your business in a trust. Transferring your business property to your living trust is a great idea, and is very simple to do (especially if your business is a sole proprietorship). If there are multiple owners, such as an LLC, you will need consent from other owners prior to putting your business interests into a trust.

You can also leave your business in a will, although items in a will do need to pass through probate, the process of which can be tedious and could tie up business operations.

What Happens When a Business is Not Planned for

When a business and its property and assets are not planned for and are not placed in a trust or named in a will, what will happen to the business depends upon the type of business structure. For example, a business that is formed as a sole proprietorship will simply become part of the owner’s (decedent’s) estate, and will be distributed to beneficiaries per the terms of a will or per state law. If a business is not solely owned, such as a corporation, the business will not die when the business owner dies. Instead, the owner’s estate becomes the owner of the decedent’s shares.

How an Experienced Grand Rapids Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

Each state has its own laws regarding property distribution upon death, and each type of business must be planned for differently. If you have any business interests in Michigan, it is best that you plan for what will become of these interests now while you are healthy and well; waiting too long could be catastrophic, and if you fail to create a plan at all, your business may be dissolved, and your heirs may be left with nothing.

At The Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C., we understand what it takes to protect your business and your loved ones. To schedule a free case consultation to learn about our business and estate planning legal services in Michigan, contact us online today. You can also call our offices directly.

Asset protection is an important consideration for many individuals, particularly high net worth individuals and owners of businesses. However, asset protection is not limited to the wealthy alone; asset protection can be used for myriad things, including protecting your assets from any future lawsuits, ensuring that your assets are distributed quickly to your loved ones and beneficiaries upon your death, avoiding taxes and probate, planning for long-term care to reduce asset expenditures, and more. If you live in Michigan, here are some ways that you can protect your assets. Before moving forward with any of the following suggestions, be sure to consult with an experienced attorney:

Create a Separate Business Entity


If you are the owner of the business or are considering the formation of a business, you want to be sure that your business structure is one that separates your personal liability from your business’ liability. If liability is not separated, then a mistake on the part of your business could cost you everything, including money in separate accounts, your house, your vehicle, and more.

Take Advantage of Retirement Accounts

One of the best things about retirement accounts is that they offer asset protection, including up to one million dollars in assets in an IRA in the event of bankruptcy, and unlimited asset protection in ERISA-qualified retirement plans.

Create an Estate Plan

Having an estate plan does more than just protect your assets from intestate succession laws upon your death; it can also help to mitigate estate taxes, saving your estate money. Having an estate plan also gives you peace of mind when it comes to ensuring that your loved ones are cared for after you’re gone.

Use Insurance

Owning insurance may not be the only way to protect your assets, but it is one of the wisest. Consider the following types of insurance, and seek those which are applicable to you:

  • Car insurance;
  • Homeowners’ insurance;
  • Workers’ compensation;
  • Business liability insurance;
  • Life insurance; and
  • Long-term care insurance.

Understand Homestead Exemptions

A homestead exemption protects the equity in your home, meaning that creditors cannot claim the equity if you need to declare bankruptcy. The exemption applies to all real property. You can read more about the homestead exemption in Michigan statute section 600.6023.

Protect Your Assets – Work with an Experienced Norton Shores Elder Law Attorney

Taking action as soon as possible to put in place an asset protection plan is smart, and may have a huge impact on your future or the future of your loved ones. For help forming an estate plan that protects your assets and provides for those you care about the most, contact The Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C. You can reach our talented Michigan estate planning attorneys online or by phone today.