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Grand Traverse County Michigan Divorce and Estate Planning Blog

Beware of a data trail in your divorce

Some couples are quite open with one another about their email and social media accounts, going so far as sharing the same account. Others are more circumspect, maintaining their separate accounts, but perhaps being a bit lax about password security.

Whatever works for the specific couples is fine — until it's not, such as when divorce looms.

Pets and estate planning in Michigan

When establishing estates and trusts, people normally take into consideration who will care for minor children in the event of the parent's passing. Michigan families may be overlooking important family members. Pets are often considered part of the family, and as such, they should also be accounted for in any estate planning or family trusts.

A woman married into a family who owned an African Gray parrot. African Grays can live to be 75 – 100 years old. The family was working on a will where the daughter would take over care of the bird if the bird outlived the parents. Other animals in the family were not going to be given the same consideration. The woman's sister said she would take the family's dogs and cats in the event that her sister and her husband both died, but this arrangement was not going to be formalized in their estate planning as was the case for the parrot.

Estate planning and common mistakes with living trusts

Avoiding probate and providing privacy for loved ones is often the catalyst behind the Michigan resident's decision to establish a living trust. Yet, in many instances, the individual creates the living trust but, through a series of errors and omissions, does not realize the intended goal. Although the living trust has been established as a part of the estate planning process, the individual still has steps that must be taken in order to make it effective.

The first step to be taken once the trust has been created is to fund the trust.  This means that assets must actually be transferred into the trust. In other words, titles to real property need to changed and properly filed. Additionally, if vehicles are involved, the titles to the vehicles need to show the trust as the owner. These new titles will also need to be properly filed with the state.

Drafting wills -- a task that is all too easy to put off

Developing an estate plan often does not reach the top of the typical Michigan resident's "to do" list. In its most basic form, estate planning involves drafting a will. Regardless, drafting wills may make the "to do" list; however, far too often this important task does not make its way to the top of the list.

A will actually does not become effective until the death of the individual. Soon after this point in time, an individual is appointed to act as executor of the estate; usually, this individual is identified within the will. After the will goes through the probate process, the executor is the individual responsible for itemizing all of the individual's assets and debts. He or she then makes sure the debts are paid. Once this occurs, remaining assets can be distributed to beneficiaries under the supervision of the probate court.

Estate planning and the special needs child

As the Michigan family plans for the future, there are a number of decisions that must be made. In addition to the traditional estate planning decisions, the family with a special needs child must also make arrangements for this loved one's future care. Yet, research indicates that less than half of such families have completed this important task.

In the majority of families, one individual, usually the mother, is the primary caregiver for the special needs child. This is often a long-term arrangement as the child most likely requires care even as he or she reaches the age of maturity. In fact, it is common for the special needs child to remain at home in order to receive the necessary care.

Divorce and the golden years

There are some things in life that simply cannot be avoided. For some Michigan couples, one of these things is divorce. In fact, the number of couples over the age of 50 deciding to divorce is an increasing number that is now almost twice what it was just 25 years ago.

Most couples spend their 30s and 40s raising their families, building their retirement accounts and looking forward to their retirement years. However, for one reason or another, as these golden years approach, some couples are finding that they no longer wish to spend them together. Couples in this situation are generally looking forward to retiring in the foreseeable future and must also take this into consideration as they strategize and develop their divorce agreement.

Divorces take time to finalize, be prepared

Ending a marriage in Michigan isn't as fast as just deciding that the relationship has ended. There are several factors that determine how long it will take to legally end the union in this state.

Some of the factors that will affect how long your divorce takes from filing to the finalization are out of your control. Others you can try to speed along, but you must do so carefully so you keep your rights protected throughout the process. Here are some points to know about moving your divorce along.

Durable power of attorney important part of estate planning

Who will take care of mom or dad? This is a question that many Michigan families must come to terms with as their parents age. In some families, the adult children work together to take care of the necessary tasks.  In other families, there appears to be one individual who retains responsibility for the parents. In either case, addressing this issue and assigning a durable power of attorney is often a necessary part of estate planning.

A durable power of attorney is a document that gives another individual the authority to act on behalf of the individual. As one ages, it is possible that the individual will no longer be able to make his or her own decisions. When this time comes, it is also too late to name another individual to be responsible for such matters. Thus, it is often prudent to create a durable power of attorney prior to it becoming a necessity.

The cost of not estate planning

In some instances, when one doesn't know what to do, doing nothing is the appropriate choice. Rather than make a wrong decision, the Michigan resident chooses to make no decision. However, when it comes to estate planning, this decision to not make a decision can be costly.

In many cases, these individuals do not have a spouse or children; therefore, there are no apparent heirs. Thus, the estate planning decisions regarding who should handle their estates and who should inherit their assets can be difficult ones to make. Yet, if the individual dies without a will, it will be necessary for the courts to step in and transfer assets per state guidelines. In addition to the costs involved with this process, it is possible that assets may be inherited by those the individual did not wish them to go to. If the individual does not wish to leave assets to estranged relatives, other options -- including charitable organizations -- are possible with a will.

Gray divorce: 3 things to know about divorce later in life

Gray divorces, or divorces between individuals who are 50 years of age or older, have their own specific set of issues. When older couples divorce, there are usually more assets to consider as well as a decreased ability to bring in an income in the future.

Statistics show that the number of people divorcing ages 50 and older is increasing. In 2015, the number was 10 out of every 1,000, whereas in 1990, it was five out of every 1,000, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Why are gray divorces growing in number?


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