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Grand Traverse County Michigan Divorce and Estate Planning Blog

Things to consider when considering divorce

Divorce in Michigan is still a reality for many marriages. It is seldom entered into without thought and consideration. Divorce is never something for which one wants to plan. But if the possibility of a divorce presents itself, there are certain steps a person can take to simplify the process and protect himself or herself.

One wants to give careful consideration to the situation before making the decision to divorce. A divorce can be stressful, prolonged and costly. If children are involved, their best interests must be taken into consideration. What will be the best custody arrangement for the family, and who will be the custodial parent? How will assets, including the family home, be divided?

Nesting: A unique custody arrangement that focuses on the kids

Divorce challenges children. Child custody arrangements never feel the same as living with two married parents. Children often feel uprooted and question where they belong.

Rather than having one bedroom, they have two. Rather than having one set of toys, they have two. Rather than having one peer group in one neighborhood, they have two.

Estate planning is for younger people too

Young people entering the workforce in Michigan and just beginning their professional and family life may see estate planning as something to worry about further down the road. The reality is that, like planning for retirement, it is better to start estate planning sooner rather than later. There are some common misconceptions around this.

One such common misconception is that it can better be done when a person is older. A sad truth is that sudden death can befall anyone at any age at any time. With no estate plan in place it could make a difficult time for loved ones even more difficult.

Estate planning considerations for home owners

When many Americans consider their assets, they consider "stuff" like cars, art and money in accounts. Many people across Michigan neglect estate planning when they feel their assets are too limited to require a will. However, these people often forget about one of the most crucial and complex assets: their homes.

If a house is not considered in an estate plan, descendants may have serious conflict over the property. If multiple people are inheriting the home, there could be issues over maintenance, when to sell the home or whether to sell it at all. The most important question to consider is whether children want to hold onto the property or whether they would prefer to liquidate it.

Estate planning can mean more than writing a will

Estate planning is a term that keeps appearing in Michigan. If a person has a will is that a sufficient estate plan? A will helps to determine who will inherit one's belongings after one's death. It does not make any provisions for what can happen if a person becomes mentally or physically unable to make decisions regarding finances, health care or other issues. Careful estate planning can cover these contingencies.

In addition to a will, components of an estate plan can include powers of attorney, trusts and health care directives as well as a letter of intent and instruction. Powers of attorney enable authorized persons to act on behalf of another person should that person not be able to act on his or her own behalf. A trust can protect assets from lengthy probate procedures. Health care directives can be used to state a person's wishes regarding continued health care should one become unable to communicate his or her wishes to medical personnel. A letter of intent can clarify not only who is receiving an asset but why.

Divorce petitions may initiate unexpected restrictions

The decision to divorce is seldom arrived at easily. When children are involved it may be considered even more carefully. Once a couple makes the decision to divorce in Michigan, they may want to proceed quickly with separation and unwinding their previously shared life. They may come up against some unexpected obstacles. There are certain restrictions put in place once a divorce petition is filed in order to protect the rights of all concerned.

One of these restrictions is traveling with children. Particularly now that summer is here this restriction may be an onerous one as in the example of a famous divorce currently in progress. Angelina Jolie is about to begin filming a new movie in England but due to her impending divorce she is unable to take her children with her. This restriction does not apply only to international travel but can also apply to interstate travel.

Courts typically split retirement accounts in Michigan divorces

People spend their entire working lives developing nest eggs for retirement. In some families, both spouses contribute to the same account. In others, one spouse may have a pension or a retirement fund through work. Regardless of how you've been saving those funds, you're probably worried about what will happen to them in a divorce.

Due to the unique nature of every marriage, there's no way to predict with absolute certainty how the courts will rule in a divorce. You can, however, familiarize yourself with the standard practices of Michigan family law courts and how Michigan law structures asset division.

To include or exclude: Financial accounts and estate planning

Estate plans are becoming a little more sophisticated in Michigan as more people become familiar with the multitude of options and tools that are available. For example, having a trust is a way to avoid the lengthy process of probate. In addition to the tools for estate planning, there are also multiple tools available for building wealth and establishing an estate. Included in these are items such as CDs and money markets. How should they be accounted for when considering estate planning?

One advantage to a trust is that it enables a trustee to manage a person's accounts in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated. A CD or money market account can have a beneficiary, but that person only gains control in the event of the death of the account holder. Another benefit to including CDs and money market accounts in a trust is that those accounts can then be used to help fund the trust.

Estate planning considerations for a special needs child

Parenting a special needs child is challenging.  While there are many more opportunities for special needs individuals to live independently as adults in Michigan, many in the special needs community may never achieve complete financial independence. This can be a source of worry for parents raising a child who may be disabled physically or intellectually. Prudent estate planning can help to ease the parents' concerns.

Estate planning in such a situation involves additional priorities to those found in standard estate plans. The plan needs to account not only for the parents plans for retirement but also to provide some financial stability for the special needs child. This can be accomplished with careful planning and consideration of what those needs might be.

When terminal illness precedes estate planning

Having an estate plan has become more prevalent as more people have become aware of the need to ensure that their wishes will be carried out after their death. In Michigan and elsewhere, such planning can lead to peace of mind. But what if a terminal illness is diagnosed before estate planning has been put in place?

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness can be a very unsettling and stressful experience. A person can easily be overwhelmed by the need to quickly put all of his or her affairs in order. Haste in such a situation could lead to costly mistakes, particularly where finances and property are involved.


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