Grand Traverse County Michigan Divorce and Estate Planning Blog

Estate planning consists of multiple documents

The language of estate planning can be a little bit confusing. For example, there is a living will and a living trust, and there seems to be some confusion as to what the difference is between the two. In addition, if there is a living will, does there need to be a will? Part of the confusion comes from the wording of the different document names. Successful estate planning in Michigan consists of multiple documents.

A living will is a medical directive document that specifies the testator's wishes regarding medical care if he or she becomes physically or mentally unable to express those wishes for him or herself. A living trust enables one to simplify the transfer of assets following one's death. It can be more specific than a will by itself and has the added benefit of being private. It also allows the grantor the ability to maintain some control over the assets while he or she is still alive.

Real estate market appears to be healthy

The residential real estate market in Grand Traverse County continues to be healthy. According to the online real estate site, Zillow, the median price for homes in the area has increased 9% in the last year and 32% since 2013. Number of days on the market has increased slightly in the last year, from 97 to 104. Data shows that April has been the busiest month so far, which is not unusual.

Zillow projects a continued increase in area home values over the next 12 months. The site projects values in the nation to rise about 2.8%. The site's prediction for the Traverse City area has values increasing by 3.4%.

What determines if estate planning is needed?

Young adults frequently embark on the journey of adulthood with plans to build their fortune. The term estate planning conjures up images of considerable assets to be bequeathed to one's heirs at the time of one's death. However, anyone who has a family can probably benefit from establishing an estate plan in Michigan. While facing one's own mortality is not easy, the reality is that no one knows the length of his or her time on earth. In particular where children are concerned, parents may wish to designate guardians in the event that they pass away before children reach adulthood.

Guardianship is only one aspect of an estate plan. Preparing a plan can help one address other questions that may arise in regards to one's future. A plan can address issues ranging from health care decisions if one becomes incapacitated to how one will be cared for in the event of serious illness or injury. Appointing a medical power of attorney can alleviate concerns regarding these issues and provide a trusted individual who will have the authority to make those decisions.

Estate planning can aid in treatment of chronic illness

It is no secret that the population in Michigan and around the country is aging. The fastest growing age group is that of people 65 and over. As people age, their health can deteriorate, and the fear of living with a chronic disease becomes a reality for many. Estate planning can not only help with the distribution of one's assets but can also provide needed information and guidance to a person's loved ones as the individual deals with a chronic illness.

There are many documents that should be considered if a loved one or oneself is diagnosed with a serious and debilitating illness. If a person has an estate plan in place, some changes might be considered. One of the most important documents is a HIPAA release. This authorizes medical professionals to communicate with a person or persons regarding one's medical condition. Without such a release, people assisting with one's care may not be able to get access to vital information or communicate with medical professional regarding one's condition.

Hidden assets can change the outcome of high-asset divorces

Financially secure couples in Michigan facing divorce have to consider a variety of unique concerns. Anyone going through a divorce will need to take careful steps to protect themselves and their interests, but those with more significant assets will have much more to lose if they aren't careful about how they approach the situation.

Simple mistakes could have lasting financial consequences that affect your future for years or even decades to come. One of the potential issues you may have to deal with is the risk of hidden assets.

Digital asset protection is critical in estate planning

Anyone with an estate plan is aware of the importance of protecting financial and physical assets. A new category requiring protection that people need to be aware is that of digital assets. Technology has become an increasingly important part of people's day-to-day lives in Michigan, and the protection of the assets associated with that needs to be a priority when contemplating estate planning.

What are considered digital assets? These assets typically fall into four categories. First is all of one's financial information and the account numbers and passwords associated with the accounts. Other digital assets include ones that solely exist virtually, such as cryptocurrency. Cloud storage of photos, files and social media accounts comprise a third area, and finally, there are the passwords and account information associated with electronic communications such as email, texts and other electronic messages.

Real estate continues to thrive in Northern Michigan

Northern Michigan has been enjoying a surge in corporate and residential real estate and that trend is continuing. There has been a significant amount of corporate real estate growth. As so often happens, the health of the residential market has followed suit.

While corporate growth has been on the upswing for some time now, it has taken the residential sector a little longer to catch up. Residential sales had been down in recent months when compared to the same period in previous years. The residential numbers for May showed a significant increase.

Estate planning need not be complex

"No one gets out of here alive" is often a good-natured statement that people may make regarding their mortality. The truth is, no one lives forever and planning for one's legacy is not something to be taken lightly. When people in Michigan consider estate planning they may give little consideration to what actually can go into an estate plan. It is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

There are many components that can comprise a plan and not all of the components are right for all people. In addition, each component can be constructed differently and should be tailored to meet the client's specific needs. A popular item is the revocable living trust but it is not necessarily right for all situations. A living trust can be time-consuming and expensive. It is typically considered as a means to avoid probate but there are other options.

Estate planning as part of elder care

The fastest growing age group in Michigan and elsewhere in the country consists of those 55 years of age and older. They are known as the baby-boom generation, those who were born in the years after World War II. As they near retirement age, or are already retired, there are special issues regarding retirement planning and estate planning that they and their loved ones should be aware of.

Elder law retirement plans should address particular issues such as end-of-life care, including medical directives, power of attorney documents in the event one becomes incapacitated, and documents that can help protect one's assets. These can all be incorporated into trust documents that can help to protect one's assets while one is still living. A will only applies following one's death.

Is your retirement plan ready for your Michigan divorce?

Planning for retirement is important to your security as you grow older. If you are like many couples in Michigan, you and your spouse probably created a retirement plan. Whether you opened your own savings account, used an employer-sponsored 401k or have a pension coming to you when you retire, it's important that the amount you have set aside reflects the age at which you intend to retire and the standard of living you hope to maintain.

Unfortunately, a divorce can throw all of that planning completely out of whack. Your plans no doubt involved you and your spouse maintaining the same home and sharing expenses. In other words, you might need to start thinking carefully about your retirement finances if you are close to that age and headed for divorce.