A “trust” is something you might associate with wealthy socialite families. But trusts are actually a common Michigan estate planning device used by individuals from all social and economic backgrounds. There are, in fact, many different kinds of trusts that may be helpful to your own estate planning depending on the needs of you and your family.

Revocable Trusts

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The most common type of estate planning trust is an “inter vivos” or revocable living trust. This is a trust created by a person—known as a grantor—who conveys property to a trustee. In most revocable living trusts, the grantor and the trustee are initially the same person. This allows the grantor to retain full control over the trust’s assets while legal ownership remains with the trustee.

You might wonder what the point is of transferring an asset to yourself. The real benefit of a trust comes after the grantor passes away. Normally, a deceased person’s assets pass through their estate. This requires a special legal process known as probate, which can take several months (or even years) to complete. Probate estate records may also be available to the public.

A trust, in contrast, is a private act. When the grantor-trustee dies, a successor trustee named in the trust document simply assumes control and administers or distributes the trust property as directed by the grantor. Assets in the trust are not considered part of the grantor’s probate estate.

This inter vivos trust is also quite flexible. The trust is “revocable,” which means the grantor can amend or revoke it any point during his or her lifetime. Once the grantor dies, however, the trust generally becomes irrevocable.

Irrevocable Trusts

There are also some cases where a person might want to create an irrevocable trust. As you might expect, an irrevocable trust is one that cannot be altered or revoked by the grantor once made.

Why would anyone create an irrevocable trust? With a revocable trust, the grantor is still considered the beneficial owner of the trust’s assets. This means the settlor’s creditors can go after those assets, say to collect a court judgment. However, if the settlor places the assets in an irrevocable trust, he or she is no longer considered the beneficial owner, and those assets are beyond the creditor’s reach.

Need Trust Advice From a Michigan Estate Planning Attorney?

Besides revocable and irrevocable trusts, there are other kinds of specialized trusts. For example, a Special Needs Trust allows a grantor to provide for a beneficiary receiving government benefits. Many public assistance programs are means-tested, so the beneficiary could lose benefits if they received a large gift or inheritance directly.

Another kind of indirect benefit trust is known as a Spendthrift Trust. Here, the grantor makes financial provisions for a beneficiary but restricts the beneficiary’s access to the trust principal. Similar to an irrevocable trust, this will prevent the beneficiary’s creditors from going after the principal.
This is only a brief overview of some of the types of trusts available to Michigan residents. If you are considering creating any type of trust, you should work with an experienced Norton Shores estate planning attorney. Contact the Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C., to speak with someone right away.

Benjamin Franklin is often credited with coining the expression that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Indeed, the former does not necessarily end the latter. Even after death, the federal government may assess certain taxes against a deceased individual’s property—but proper estate planning can reduce or eliminate many of these obligations.

What Is the Estate Tax?

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You have probably heard the phrase “estate tax” (or the more politically charged “death tax”) mentioned in the news without understanding its precise meaning. Basically, the estate tax is a federal levy “on your right to transfer property at your death,” according to the Internal Revenue Service. The estate tax is calculated as a percentage of a deceased taxpayer’s “gross estate,” i.e. their assets less certain deductions.

The gross estate is normally based on the date of death value of the decedent’s assets. For example, if the decedent purchased a house for $200,000 in 2006, and that same property had an appraised market value of $350,000 when the decedent died in 2016, the latter value is the basis for calculating the gross estate.

The federal estate tax itself can be quite steep. The maximum rate is 40 percent. Fortunately, few estates every pay that much. In fact, the overwhelming majority of estates—approximately 998 out of every 1,000, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities—will ever owe any estate tax at all.

In addition to the federal tax, some states also assess their own estate or inheritance taxes. Michigan does not. The state abolished its own estate tax as of January 1, 2005.

Estate Tax Exemptions

The reason for this is that federal law exempts a certain amount of the gross estate from tax. For individuals who pass away in 2016, this exemption is $5.45 million. That means every person in the United States is free to pass along $5.45 million in assets without paying a cent in estate tax.

The exemption is even more generous for married couples. All property left to one spouse by the other is tax-free. Additionally, a surviving spouse may take advantage of any unused portion of a deceased spouse’s exemption. In plain terms, if Spouse A dies and leaves his entire estate to Spouse B, when she dies her estate can claim not only her $5.45 million exemption, but also Spouse A’s unused $5.45 million exemption, for a total exemption of $10.9 million.

Need Advice From a Michigan Estate Planning Lawyer?

In addition to spousal gifts and exemptions, there are other methods individuals can use to reduce potential estate tax liability. One common technique is to leave money to charity, either through a structured gift to an existing organization or by establishing a tax-exempt charitable foundation. Gifts to IRS-recognized charities are excluded from a decedent’s gross estate for tax purposes.

While the estate tax will only affect a handful of Michigan families, you may still have questions or concerns. If you need to speak with a qualified Grand Rapids estate planning attorney, contact the Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C., today.

It is not unusual for an elderly parent or other relative to experience an occasional memory lapse. But frequent or prolonged memory lapses may indicate the existence of a more serious problem. Memory loss is often the first sign of dementia, which can affect an individual to the point where they can no longer take care of themselves or manage their own affairs.

What Causes Memory Loss?

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Memory loss is not simply a function of getting older. There are numerous factors that may contribute to memory loss. For example, a person may be taking prescription medication, such as sleeping pills or antidepressants, that interferes with memory. There also non-medicinal drugs—i.e., alcohol and controlled substances like marijuana—where extended usage can alter brain chemistry and thus affect memory.

In terms of physical causes, a head or brain injury, such as a concussion, may result in memory loss. Nutritional deficiencies and certain types of infections, including HIV and herpes, may also lead to memory problems. Thyroid disorders—having either an overactive or underactive thyroid—can also prevent a person from recalling recent events.

Then there is memory loss tied to some other mental disorder. Depression, which is common among older persons, especially those who live alone, can manifest itself in the form of memory problems. Stress and sleep deprivation can also have a negative effect on a person’s memory.

Diagnosing and Monitoring Memory Loss

Health care professionals use the phrase “mild cognitive impairment” (MCI) to describe memory loss that is above the norm for a person based on their age. MCI means a person has memory problems but is otherwise capable of carrying out the daily activities of living. Unfortunately, MCI is often a temporary, transitional state.

MCI is often the first step towards dementia, where a person’s memory and thinking ability is impaired to the point where it does affect their day-to-day activities. Dementia is often associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, which is a progressive loss of brain cells and cognitive function. But dementia is not Alzheimer’s-specific. Other disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease, can lead to serious memory loss.

How Family Members Can Help

If you are living with someone suffering from MCI, dementia, or who is otherwise experiencing memory loss, it can be stressful for you as well as the other person. Perhaps the best advice is to be supportive but not belligerent. You should help the person try to remember things—such as doctors’ appointments or mealtimes—without putting them on the spot or calling attention to their memory loss.

Since dementia can also affect a person’s legal capacity, it is important to speak with an experienced Muskegon elder law attorney who can assist you with making long-term plans to care for the person’s health and property. An elder law attorney can help draft powers of attorney and other documents allowing a person suffering from dementia or memory loss to designate agents to act on their behalf when they are no longer able to. If you need to speak with someone right away, either on behalf of yourself or a family member, contact the Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C.

Estate planning is important for everyone in Michigan, regardless of your annual income or the amount of property you own. There are many different kinds of assets that exist, and through estate planning, you can help to minimize the financial burdens associated with certain assets, and you can also help to protect certain assets for your beneficiaries.

Before you begin the estate planning process, you should compile a list of all of your assets. What assets should be on this list? A pamphlet from Fidelity Investments lists some of the following common assets for people who want to begin the estate planning process:

  • Your financial accounts;
  • Real estate;
  • Businesses; and
  • Other valuable personal possessions.

Depending on the type and amount of assets you own, you may want to treat some of these assets differently for the purposes of estate planning. An estate planning attorney in Grand Rapids can help you determine which of your assets may be exempt from probate, which assets will be subject to estate tax, and the expected total tax burden of your estate.

Financial Accounts

There are many different types of financial accounts, including but not limited to:

  • Checking accounts;
  • Investment accounts; and
  • Retirement accounts.

It is important to recognize up front that a significant amount of money held in a checking or investment account can be subject to significant taxes, and you may want to consider a trust to minimize estate taxes.

As an article in Forbes Magazine points out, one key to ensuring that the contents of accounts are distributed according to your wishes is properly titling your assets and reviewing your beneficiary designations. Many investment accounts such as IRAs or 401(k)s, according to the Forbes Magazine article, permit a designation of a beneficiary. Why would you want to have beneficiary designated property? As a pamphlet from the State Bar of Michigan underscores, this type of property does not have to go through the probate process. In addition, many accounts that are owned jointly—for instance, an account titled in the name of more than just the decedent—may also be exempt from probate.

Real Estate, Real Property, and Other Valuable Property

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When you own a home or another piece of property, it is important to think carefully about how your property is titled. As we mentioned above, property owned by two persons as “joint tenants with right of survivorship” will allow that property, upon the death of one of those persons, to pass to the survivor without going through probate.

Real estate and real property can include a family home, a vacation house, a condominium, and even rental property. In the estate planning process, you should keep in mind that the value of any real property will need to be assessed, and that value will be added to your estate (which is taxable).

Other personal property, not unlike real property, will also need to have the value assessed. There may be ways to avoid probate on valuable items such as automobiles, jewelry, or art, but this can be more complicated than simply co-owning a family or a vacation home.

Business Property

Business property will need to be accounted for in a way that is different from your personal real property or other individual assets. Indeed, business property has its own complicated factors, and it is important to speak with an experienced Michigan estate planning lawyer to determine the best business succession plan.

Seeking Assistance from a Michigan Asset Protection Attorney

When it comes to estate planning and including particular assets, most people want to make sure their property is distributed to the right beneficiary, and most people also want to make sure that they minimize taxes and costs associated with distribution of that property. A dedicated Michigan estate planning attorney can discuss your options for setting up a trust, as well as other ways in which you may be able to ensure that certain assets are exempt from the probate process. Contact the Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C. today to get started.

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If you have recently experienced the death of a loved one, you may have questions about the probate process. For many residents of the Grand Rapids area, the term “probate” is not one with which most of us are familiar. Yet when you are dealing with the estate of a family member, it is important to understand precisely what probate is, how probate works and when it is used, and what the process entails. Generally speaking, the probate process falls within the broader category of trust and estate law, and it is an issue that tends to arise during estate planning and in administering the estate of a deceased person.

What is the Probate Process?

First, and most importantly, you are likely wondering: what is probate? As an article from the American Bar Association explains, probate is the legal word for the process of administering the estate of the deceased when that administration is supervised by the court. What do we mean when we say administering the estate? A pamphlet from the State Bar of Michigan helps to explain what estate administration requires in our state. In short, during the probate process, a personal representative will administer the property of the deceased by doing the following:

  • “Marshalling” the assets of the deceased, which includes sorting through the property of the decedent, assembling and securing assets, and having those assets valued;
  • Paying charges owed by the deceased, such as final medical bills or funeral expenses, taxes, any money owed to creditors, and expenses associated with administering the estate; and
  • Distributing the remaining assets of the estate to the decedent’s beneficiaries.

Distribution of assets will happen in one of two ways. If the decedent had a will, then the assets will be distributed according to the will. If there was no will, however, then the assets will be distributed according to the law of intestate succession in Michigan.

When is the Probate Process Necessary?

When is the probate process necessary? Typically, whenever a decedent has property in his or her name, or has rights to receive property in his or her name (such as a debt owed), then the property must go through the probate process. In Michigan, there are some exceptions, and an experienced Michigan estate planning lawyer can examine the specifics of your case.

Understanding the Process of Probate

Now that you know what the probate process is and when it is required, it is important to understand the general steps in the probate process:

  • Family of the decedent will make funeral arrangements, locate the decedent’s will, compile a list of decedent’s property, and determine whether probate will be necessary;
  • Nomination of a personal representative will occur, and the court will appoint a personal representative of the estate;
  • Personal representative will assemble the deceased’s assets;
  • Personal representative will handle a wide variety of financial issues concerning the deceased’s property, including paying any charges owed by the deceased, distributing exempt property, and planning for taxes;
  • Personal representative will distribute the assets of the deceased to the beneficiaries; and
  • Personal representative will close the estate once all requirements of the probate process have been satisfied.
  • Generally speaking, after the appointment of the personal representative and prior to closing the estate, the personal representative has a duty to property manage the estate, including investments and other assets.

    Contact a Michigan Probate Attorney

    If you have questions about the probate process and how it works, an experienced probate lawyer in Michigan can assist you today. Contact the Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C. for more information about our services.

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    Deciding where a loved one will reside after they are no longer able to care for themselves can be a difficult and emotional process. However, making plans for the future is often the best way to ensure an elderly relative will receive the best medical care and support possible. There are a variety of different types of assisted living facilities that can offer this care, including homes that accept insurance and those that do not. These decisions demand the greatest care and attention, so if you have questions or concerns about how to choose the best type of care facility for your loved one, it is critical to obtain the advice of an experienced elder law attorney who can help explain your options.

    Types of Long-Term Care

    Long-term care for the elderly is usually provided by one of the following:

    • A nurse or home care aide;
    • An unpaid caregiver;
    • Local adult day services; and
    • Residential care facilities.

    Assisted Living Facilities

    Often, the best course of action for many families is to reserve a space for a loved one in long-term assisted living facilities. These facilities can provide aid for seniors who do not need full-time care, but still require assistance with certain tasks, including:

    • Dressing;
    • Preparing meals;
    • Housekeeping;
    • Bathing;
    • Providing transportation to and from medical appointments; and
    • Administering medication.

    In these types of assisted living facilities, residents are often permitted to live in their own room or apartment and can participate in social and recreational activities with other residents. Rent is usually paid on a monthly basis, with families paying additional fees for particular services. Most also provide licensed nursing services for those with more serious medical concerns.

    Nursing Homes

    Nursing homes provide twenty-four hour nursing care for the elderly who require a high degree of medical care and assistance. Residents usually share a room and are served meals in a central dining area. Many such residences require private funding, although some accept Medicare and Medicaid.

    Residential Care Homes

    These are private homes that serve residents who live together, but also receive assistance and medical care from live-in caretakers. Residential care homes offer assisted living for seniors who desire a more community-based living arrangement, but who still require help with daily activities such as bathing and dressing. Residents can pay rent through private funds or Medicaid.

    Independent Living Communities

    Seniors with less serious or few medical conditions may be able to join an independent living community. In these living situations, elderly family members are able to live more independently in an apartment of their own, while still receiving assistance as needed.

    Providing for an elderly family member is an extremely important responsibility, so if your elderly relative has recently been diagnosed with a medical condition or needs assistance on a daily basis, please contact The Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C. by calling 616-361-8400 and we will help you set-up a consultation with an experienced Michigan elder law attorney who can provide guidance.

    How Do I Make An Estate Plan? | Law Offices of David L Carrier
    Deciding what will happen to your estate after your death can be an emotional and difficult process, but it can also save a decedent’s loved ones a significant amount of stress and worry. Fortunately, in Michigan, there are a variety of ways to plan for the disposal of an estate. Many residents choose to create a will specifically designating who will gain ownership of certain assets upon his or her death. Others choose to create a living trust or a testamentary trust, which are agreements under which assets are held and managed by an individual for the financial benefit of another. Whether you choose to establish a trust or write a will, it is important to have the advice of an < experienced estate planning attorney who can help you create a legally binding agreement that will protect both you and your loved ones.

    Planning An Estate

    Before planning an estate, it is important to take a few preliminary steps, including:

    • Identifying all living relatives who are to receive assets under the terms of the will or trust, including their addresses and relationship to the testator;
    • Listing all real estate property, financial assets, and personal possessions, including their values and their locations;
    • Estimating expected estate taxes, legal fees, and funeral expenses; and
    • Creating a rough plan for how the assets will be divided.

    What to Include in an Estate Plan

    It is critical to include certain information when drafting a will or trust, including:

    • Who will receive the testator’s property, including real estate, personal items, stocks, bank accounts, and retirement funds;
    • The names of alternate beneficiaries who will inherit the assets in the event that the original beneficiaries predecease the testator;
    • Who will act as an executor and administer the estate after the testator’s death;
    • The identity of a back-up executor;
    • The name of the person who will act as a trustee and manage assets in the trust until they are distributed;
    • The name of the person who will act as a guardian to any minor children;
    • A provision conferring power of attorney on someone to manage the testator’s financial affairs in the event of illness or mental incompetence;
    • If establishing a trust, a provision stating when the beneficiaries will receive the assets contained in the trust;
    • Any bequests intended for charity;
    • Instructions for how the testator’s business should be operated; and
    • The testator’s signature and the signatures of two witnesses.

    Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Today

    Although contemplating death is emotional and often painful, it is in the best interest of all parties to make plans for that eventuality. For instance, knowing that his or her family will be financially provided for can put both a testator and his or her family member’s minds at ease. Organizing and dividing up assets and property can be a complex process, so if you or a loved one have not written a will or established a trust, please contact The Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C. by calling 616-361-8400 and a member of our dedicated legal team will help you schedule an initial consultation with an experienced Michigan estate planning attorney.

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