Making an estate plan is not a one-time affair. Changes in your life may prompt you to revise your will, trust, power of attorney, or advance directives for health care. Even if you do not think any changes are necessary, it may still be a good idea to periodically speak with a Grand Rapids estate planning attorney about your situation.

Avoiding Confusion Over Out-of-State Documents


If you have just moved to Michigan from another state, you might want to know if your existing estate planning documents are still valid here. The short answer is yes, your old documents will probably be recognized in Michigan. But longer, more complicated answer is that is still probably a good idea to prepare new estate planning documents that specifically conform to Michigan law.

Estate planning is very state-specific. While Michigan handles subjects like wills and powers of attorney similarly to other states, there are subtle differences. This may be important, especially in an emergency.
For example, let’s say a few months after moving to Grand Rapids, your spouse is in a serious acc
ident and unable to make financial or health care decisions for himself. He previously signed powers of attorney and an advance healthcare directive when you were living in another state. But since these out-of-state forms are unfamiliar to your bank and hospital here, there is a delay in establishing your authority to act on your spouse’s behalf.

Naming Local Agents

Even if your move was not from another state–maybe you moved to a new city within Michigan–it may be prudent to reconsider some of your earlier estate planning decisions. Five years ago when you made your will, you were living in Ann Arbor, and you named your sister (who lived down the street) to serve as guardian of your children if you and you wife passed away. But now that you moved to Holland, on the other side of the state, you want your wife’s brother, who lives closer in Portage, to be the guardian.

Similarly, if you made a will while living in another state, you probably named someone who lived there as executor. While Michigan law does not forbid non-residents from serving as executors, it is not ideal. It makes more sense to sign a new will naming someone in Michigan to oversee your affairs.

Revising and updating your estate plan is not complicated. Indeed, you should review your documents every few years even if you have not moved. The Grand Rapids estate planning lawyers at the Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C., are happy to assist. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

Medicaid is designed to help seniors with limited means afford medical care, including long-term nursing home care. Since Michigan’s Medicaid program imposes strict limits on an applicant’s income and assets, some planning may be necessary to help ensure eligibility. Medicaid estate planning generally falls into two categories: pre-planning and crisis planning.

Crisis Planning


Crisis planning is the more common occurrence. A crisis in this context means any sudden or catastrophic healthcare event. For example, an elderly man suffers a stroke. He is no longer able to care for himself and must be moved into a nursing home.

Full-time nursing care is a major financial responsibility. According to a 2015 survey by Genworth Financial, the median annual rate for a nursing home in Grand Rapids-Wyoming is over $93,000 per year. Medicare and private insurance may not fully cover these costs.

Medicaid crisis planning may be necessary to ensure a low-income person has immediate access to care. Medicaid is known for its rules and complexity, and when time is of the essence, immediate action may be necessary. If a person has too many assets to qualify for Medicaid–but not enough to pay for long-term care–an experienced Grand Rapids Medicaid crisis lawyer can present you with options.


Ideally, you can avoid the need for crisis planning altogether with pre-planning. If you have some assets and do not face an immediate medical crisis–but fear you will in the years to come–pre-planning can help bring peace of mind. For example, you can establish a special kind of irrevocable trust to protect your assets without affecting your future Medicaid eligibility. You may also be able to purchase long-term care insurance if you are still concerned you may not qualify for Medicaid.

Whether you need crisis planning or pre-planning, Medicaid is not something you should try and figure out on your own. Any slight mistake in a Medicaid application may lead to a denial of benefits–and leave a family member facing a choice between poverty and foregoing necessary medical care.

Do not let this happen. Our qualified Michigan Medicaid crisis attorneys know how to deal with Michigan’s Medicaid system. Let us help you and your family. Contact the Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C., to schedule a consultation right away.

A revocable living trust is an estate planning tool that lets you transfer assets to a trustee. You can serve as your own trustee, allowing you to keep control over the assets during your lifetime. Upon your death, a successor trustee (that you previously named) assumes control of the trust and distributes its assets according to your instructions.

Many married couples in Michigan find it useful to create a joint revocable living trust. These are informally called “sweetheart trusts,” because they are designed to maximize the surviving spouse’s control over the trust’s assets after the other spouse passes away. But sweetheart trusts may not be appropriate for every estate planning situation.

How Sweetheart Trusts Work


Sweetheart trusts are a type of revocable trust. The spouses typically serve as co-trustees. Either spouse can contribute assets to the trust during their lifetimes. Since the trust is revocable, each spouse can also remove some or all of their assets from the trust.

When the first spouse dies, the surviving spouse continues as sole trustee. The trust remains revocable, so the survivor is free to change the terms of the trust or even revoke it. The deceased spouse has, in effect, made an unconditional legal gift of his or her share of the trust assets to the survivor.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Sweetheart Trust

Once it is established, a sweetheart trust is relatively easy to administer. Assets placed in a trust do not pass through probate. So the surviving spouse can continue to use and enjoy the trust assets without disruption.

On the other hand, the first spouse to die loses control over the ultimate disposition of the trust’s assets. For example, let’s say a husband and wife each have adult children from prior marriages. The wife dies first. She wanted to leave part of the trust to her children. But after her death, the husband amends the trust to leave everything to his children. The wife’s children have no recourse, because under a sweetheart trust, the husband is free to alter the trust as he wishes.

Need Help Making a Michigan Trust?

There are other legal and tax considerations you should consider before making a sweetheart trust. A qualified family trust attorney can help explain your options and figure out the best approach for you and your family. Contact Carrier Law to schedule an appointment with one of our family trust lawyers today.

If you have minor children your first estate planning question is probably, “Who will take care of them if I die?” Naming a guardian for your child is a major decision. There are a number of things you need to consider before making your choice.

Guardianships and Wills


A guardian is someone appointed to care for an unmarried child under the age of 18. Under Michigan law, a custodial parent has the right to appoint a guardian through a last will and testament or any similar writing signed by the parent in the presence of two or more witnesses. It is generally a good idea to include a guardianship appointment in your will, since that document has to be filed with a Michigan probate court upon your death.

Considerations in Naming a Guardian

You do not have to name a relative as your child’s guardian. Indeed, there may be cases where that is impractical or inadvisable. For example, if your only living relative is your 85-year-old mother, you may not want her to care for your 5-year-old son.

You also do not need to name someone who currently lives in Michigan as the guardian. However, naming an out-of-state guardian may involve additional legal proceedings in that person’s home state. Your estate planning attorney can advise you on this subject.

It is also a good idea to name an alternate or backup guardian in your will. Remember, a will may be signed years before your death. In the interim, the person you named as guardian may not longer be available. Or your nominee may simply refuse the assignment– a person is not legally obligated to accept a guardianship.

Finally, make sure your child and the potential guardian get along. In Michigan, a child age 14 or older has the legal right to object the appointment of a guardian. The court may overrule the objection, but it will still be necessary to hold a hearing.

What If I Do Not Name a Guardian?

If you fail to make a valid guardianship appointment before you die, a relative or interested person–including the child, if he or she is at least 14–may petition the court to appoint a guardian. That means a judge will make a final decision based on your child’s “best interests.” Of course, the person the judge selects may not be who you would have named.