Grand Traverse County Michigan Divorce and Estate Planning Blog

Estate planning crucial for terminally ill Michigan residents

When a loved one is facing a terminal illness, it can affect all family members and the way in which life is lived day to day. Michigan residents who are in ill health need to think about estate planning and getting the proper documents in order as soon as possible. It will not only give them peace of mind but will also help their family members to focus on their loved one in the moment without having to think about the future.

There are a couple documents that are necessary to have in place for everyone, but especially for those who are going through a serious illness. An advanced care directive allows a trusted individual to make health care decisions for those who are unable to do so. It can contain specific instructions regarding end of life situations like managing pain or resuscitation. 

Potential mediation downfalls for high asset divorces

Couples with significant assets considering a divorce in northern Michigan may do so for a number of different reasons. There could be concerns about privacy issues, as divorce court could become a source of unsavory gossip that affects your personal or professional life in a small town.

You might also want to minimize the conflict involved in your divorce in order to shield your children from the worst aspects of the end of your marriage. You could just want to have more control over the outcome of your divorce than you have when a judge sets terms.

Divorce and finances

Many changes and adjustments must be made following a divorce in Michigan. Talk to a person who has been divorced, or who is going through a divorce, and ask what the biggest adjustment involved, and one may hear a response that involves finances. How well the adjustment went, or how badly, may be partly reflected in how good financial communication was during the marriage.

A recent study revealed that almost 56 percent of people who have been divorced claimed that they seldom, if ever, discussed finances with family members versus 27 percent of the study respondents from the general population. Financial stress can lead to anxiety and depression, which can permeate one's entire being and make daily living a challenge. Life following a divorce can be hard enough without the added stress.

Real estate development potential in underused building

Traverse City continues to enjoy a surge in development as projects in the downtown area are undertaken and new opportunities still exist. There is a large building downtown that is unused and could present an interesting real estate investment opportunity. This part of Michigan is continuing to be a healthy market for potential investors.

A former telephone company building sits largely idle in the midst of an area that is being redeveloped. The building's location is ideal as it is near two ongoing development projects. One project is along the river that the building overlooks and the other is for a civic square that is under development and is planned for completion in 2020.

Estate planning is not without risks

Planning for one's estate is becoming recognized more and more as an essential tool for protecting wealth in Michigan in order to pass it on to the next generation. This may be particularly true of the baby boomer generation as they enter retirement. They may wish to reap the benefits of their wealth in retirement but also leave some behind for family or favored charities. Without good, well-thought-out estate planning in place, this is a risky proposition.

Without a plan, there are more risks involved. How a plan is structured and maintained can help reduce, but not necessarily eliminate, the risks. One wouldn't buy a new car, drive it for 50,000 miles and never get an oil change or have the tires checked and expect it to run perfectly. The risks of doing so are considerable. Likewise, one wouldn't necessarily trust one's doctor to perform that check up and oil change on a car and certainly wouldn't trust the doctor to guarantee the work.

Spring is a good time to consider a real estate purchase

Real estate has for a long time been considered a sound investment. When a young couple marry one of their first goals may to be to buy a house. This desire to own real estate appears to be alive and well in northern Michigan.

While sales had been on a bit of a decline over recent months, sales in February were up slightly over the same period a year ago. This can be seen as perhaps the beginning of a strong spring market. Indeed, spring is often one of the busiest seasons for home sales as families begin to consider relocation in time for children to start the following year in a new school.

Estate planning can be an emotionally fraught issue

What happens to one's wealth and property after death can be a difficult subject to broach in Michigan. People are seldom comfortable confronting their own mortality, and family dynamics can play a part as well as people may be fearful of causing family conflict when estate planning is discussed. Perhaps people should consider that the conflict can happen now, while they can exercise some control, or after they have passed when they will have no control.

A study recently conducted by a wealth management firm asked its advisors about the issues facing their clients who held estates with a minimum value of $2 million. The number one issue cited was that of dealing with family relationships and emotions. They also indicated that many clients felt they were too young to have an estate plan.

How will your later-in-life divorce impact your retirement?

Going through a divorce at any point in your life is bound to have an impact on your financial circumstances. After all, you will have to split the assets and debts acquired during your marriage with your ex. Then there is the consideration of the cost of the divorce itself.

Depending on how contentious your divorce is, you could spend thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars before the courts finalize the end of your marriage. Many people stay in unhappy marriages simply because they worry about the financial consequences of securing a divorce.

Estate planning and the revocable trust

The need to have a will and other estate documents is widely accepted and practiced in Michigan. As with so many other aspects of modern society, estate planning is full of terms that can almost sound like a foreign language to those trying to make sense of all of the different components. One aspect of estate planning that may create confusion is the use of a revocable trust.

A revocable trust is a document that allows the grantor to continue to control the assets throughout his or her life. This means that one can make changes to the trust as circumstances dictate. Assets can be divided up in whatever way the grantor sees fit. If a beneficiary named in the trust is very young, trustee instructions can be included to control the asset until the child reaches a certain age and if the trust is set up to provide for a person with a disability, the trust management can be set up in such a way that the trustee maintains control but the disabled person's needs are met.

Estate planning should be reviewed when starting a second family

An estate plan should be an ongoing process in Michigan and around the country. Many factors can prompt the review of existing estate planning documents. Some of these include marriage, the birth of a child, a new job or a second marriage. When starting a new family, the needs of the previous spouse and particularly minor children should be considered.

In the event of the death of a divorced parent who has remarried the issues surrounding inheritance could become contentious. Children of the prior marriage may be more concerned about their rights than the rights of a surviving spouse and minor children from the subsequent marriage. To avoid the conflict and heartache that this could cause, an estate plan can be modified to provide for the second family while not ignoring the first.