Carrier Law has been serving families in West Michigan for over 30 years. We’re focused on helping our clients preserve what they own to protect what they value.

Our relationship manager can visit you to discuss how to:

  • Guide your clients in selecting legal tools to protect their kids and family
  • Protect your clients’ financial portfolio
  • Know when & how to update estate documents
  • Plan for long-term (and comfortable) care

Contact us today!

Amanda Hathaway, Carrier Law Relationship Manager

Call (616) 361-8400 or contact

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Carrier Law has been serving families in West Michigan for over 30 years. We’re focused on helping our clients preserve what they own to protect what they value.

In this one-hour workshop, your employees will learn how to:

  • Understand the various legal tools available, and how to effectively use them to protect their life savings
  • Protect their kids and family by developing a sound will & trust
  • Know when & how to update estate documents

Schedule your on-site workshop today!

Presented by Mark Baugh, Carrier Law LifePlan™ Advocate

Call (616) 361-8400 or contact

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by Bill Bereza, Associate Attorney

“Where there’s a will there’s a way.” – George Herbert, Jacula Prudentusm (1640).

Most people believe estate planning is important, but less than half have made any plans.[i] In my experience with myself, and with friends and family, the road to good estate planning follows similar paths, which I like to think of as the six stages of estate planning.

Stage 1: Denial. I’m not going to die soon.

“I intend to live forever, or die trying,” – Groucho Marx.

This is the myth that estate planning is only for people who know when they’re going to die. So far, I haven’t met anyone who knows the day or the hour when their time is coming.[ii] And estate planning is also about more than just where your stuff goes when you die. It’s about how you get taken care of when you’re alive. A Patient Advocate Designation makes sure someone can make medical decisions for you when you’re unable. A Durable Power of Attorney ensures that your finances and your stuff are protected. A Trust will simplify the job for someone to manage your income, investments, and expenses.

Stage 2: Defeatism. I don’t care what happens after I’m dead.

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved on stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” – Pericles.

An estate plan isn’t just about you and your stuff. It’s about providing comfort and assistance for the loved ones you’ve left behind. Most people go through life wanting to make things easier for the people they love, want to help them through life. Your lack of planning will just add to the pain and grief they’ll already feel when you die. The families left behind often face a lot of uncertainty about the right thing to do. Why not try to eliminate some of that doubt for them?

Stage 3: Delusion. My kids will divide up things among themselves.

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows…”

If you sat in Probate Court and watched the painful legal fights between kids over their parents estates, and if you asked the opposing sides why they’re in court, each of them would most likely say it’s because they’re trying to fulfill their parents’ wishes. Your kids probably are the best and closest group of people you know, and your relationship with each of them is probably close, and open, and sincere. You know what you’ve told your kids, and you may think each child understands what you want, but like the child’s game of telephone, each of your kids will have their own idea of what you want and what’s right and fair. If you’re lucky, all your kids will be on the same page. That’s only a guarantee if you only have one child.

Stage 4: Overconfidence. I have named my kids as beneficiaries and joint owners on everything.

“If anything can go wrong, it will.” – Capt. Edward A. Murphy, U.S. Air Force.

You’re a do-it-yourself kind of person, who doesn’t believe in Murphy’s Law. Your plan is to share everything equally with your kids, so you’ve named them equally on all your accounts and properties. If nothing ever goes wrong, if no kid ever gets sued, if they never face divorce, if they never have a mental illness or physical disability, if they never change, then maybe your stuff can get to your kids. And this is if you haven’t missed any accounts, and never get any new property, and give every kid a copy of all your keys and passwords every time they change.

A good estate plan takes care of all the “what if” unexpected outcomes of life.

Stage 5: Fossilization. I’ve made an estate plan, so I don’t need to think about it again.

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” ― Dwight D. Eisenhower, former U.S. President

If your life never changes, you never need to change your plans. The most common mistake made by people who have planned, is to throw that plan in a closet and never speak of it again. Not only does a plan need to change, because you and your life change, but the plan needs to be shared with others. Your family, your beneficiaries, your helpers, all should know what you’ve done, what you want, and what you expect.

Stage 6: Acceptance. Life is a process, not a destination. Planning to Plan.

“Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved.” — Winnie the Pooh

You’ve made a plan for yourself and your family for today and for when you’re gone. You understand that a plan is worthless if it doesn’t represent what matters to you in your life today.

You will review and update your estate plan regularly. You’ve planned and have a plan to keep planning. Because life always changes, you will keep looking, learning, and thinking.



Carrier Law has offered estate planning services to West Michigan for over 30 years. We are proud to help our families protect their valued assets and ensure their wishes are met. We are passionate about informing our communities about the importance of estate planning every day of the year, but we’re excited to bring special attention to it during National Estate Planning Awareness Week.

National Estate Planning Awareness Week takes place the third full week of October every year to help Americans understand what estate planning is and why it is a vital part of financial and medical security. For this year’s awareness week, Carrier Law focused on sharing the “What Ifs” that can occur in life, and how they are exacerbated without estate planning.What if I die without a will estate planning graphic

1. What If…I Die Without a Will?

Dying without a will in place is called “dying intestate”. This means that your assets will be distributed according to Michigan’s Intestacy laws instead of honoring any wishes you may have had – including wishes for your minor children.

If you have minor children, having a will that indicates your wishes for guardianship is a must. A guardian is the person or people you want to take care of your children if you and their other parent were to die. If a guardian is not named, the Probate Court will appoint someone, all without the Judge knowing who you think shares your values in raising your children.

What if my adult child is in an accident estate planning graphic2. What If…My Adult Child is in an Accident?

Once your child turns 18, your parental rights as their Natural Guardian end. This means that you no longer have the legal rights to access their medical records, make health care and financial decisions, or access their school records.

An example of the importance of medical planning for your adult children is the Virginia Tech school shooting. Frantic parents called hospitals to locate their children, but hospitals were unable to tell them anything because the parents did not have the proper legal forms to receive information on their adult child.

Similarly, if your adult child was in an accident and incapacitated in the hospital, you would need the proper legal forms to make medical decisions on their behalf.

There are several legal documents you will want to consider: HIPPA form, a Health Care and Financial Power of Attorney, and a Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) waiver. A HIPAA form will allow access their medical information, a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Financial Power of Attorney to make medical and financial decisions on behalf of your child if they are unable to make them on their own. Finally, a FERPA waiver will allow access to your child’s student records.

What if I don't have a healthcare power of attorney estate planning graphic3. What If…I Don’t Have a Healthcare Power of Attorney?

If you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make your own healthcare decisions, you likely have a loved one you’d prefer to make decisions on your behalf. It could be your spouse, a child, parent, or sibling. However, without a power of attorney document, this loved one will be unable to make those decisions for you, and will have to go through probate court to be appointed to make those decisions.

In the event of a crisis the last thing your loved one needs is any red tape to care for you.

What if I die and my assets are not in a trust estate planning graphic4. What If…I Die, and My Assets are Not in a Trust?

A will provides certain important guidelines, like guardianship of minor children and your wishes for your assets, but it does not protect your assets from Probate court. If your assets are not in a trust, they will go through Probate court where a judge decides how they will be distributed.

Probate court is public knowledge, so anyone can try to stake a claim on your estate. It is extremely important to not only create a will, but to put that will and its assets in a trust.

What if I need long-term care graphic5. What If…I Need Long-Term Care?

A month in an assisted living facility costs over $4,000 and a semi-private room in a nursing home costs over $9,000. Without a plan for how you or a loved one will pay for long-term care, you may be faced with limited options, and often, extreme debt. It is also important to consider the development of Alzheimer’s or dementia as you age, and the corresponding care required

There are options to plan for long-term care and how to avoid draining your savings to pay for it. The time is now! You need to plan at least five years ahead to protect your assets properly, and we can help.

Our team at Carrier Law is equipped to help you face each of these “What If” scenarios and turn them into “I Am Prepared” peace of mind. Our unique approach to estate planning ensures that the people and things you love most will be protected.

Don’t let uncertainty rule your life, set up an appointment or attend one of our free LifePlan™ Workshops to learn how you can take control of your financial future.