Grand Traverse County Michigan Divorce and Estate Planning Blog

Estate planning can be a comforting winter task

February weather can be cold, snowy and cruel in northern Michigan. It can be a time to cuddle up in front of the fire with a good book or reflect on the resolutions one made for January that are still not begun. Maybe one of those resolutions was to look into estate planning in light of getting a new job or having a new baby. Both are good reasons to consider establishing a plan. Any adult can, and should, have an estate plan.

Creating a plan may seem like a daunting task. One thing to remember is that it is not a once-and-done task. It is meant to grow and change as one's life changes to possibly include a spouse, children, retirement assets, personal property and so on. The plan is also more than one document.

Is it time to review your estate plan for accuracy?

Creating an estate plan isn't something that you do once and then forget it. Instead, it is a process that requires ongoing attention and updates. Some people put off estate planning for far too long, leaving their loved ones and their assets at risk. Other people create an estate plan and then don't change or correct it ever. Both of those approaches are mistakes.

An outdated estate plan can result in your leaving assets or responsibilities to someone who is no longer part of your family. That situation could also open your estate plan to challenges from heirs and family members. The most legally sound estate plans are thorough and up-to-date. The best way to handle estate planning is to create a comprehensive estate plan as early in your life as possible and then to update it routinely.

Beneficiary designations: Important component of estate planning

More and more Michigan residents are becoming aware of the importance of creating and maintaining estate plans. Most people are aware that wills and trusts and other documents involved in estate planning should be periodically reviewed and updated, particularly in the event of a life change such as a marriage, divorce or birth of a child. There is one important issue that is frequently overlooked and can have negative ramifications down the road.

Employers frequently provide 401(k) plans. Many of these plans have hundreds of employees enrolled, and companies may make use of auto-enrollment to include employees in the plan. While this is an efficient method of enrolling, it does mean that certain pieces of information, such as beneficiary designations, may not be captured. Missing beneficiary designations can be overlooked in initial applications and may not get flagged for updating later on. As a person gets older this can have serious ramifications.

Using estate planning to make charitable donations

Michigan residents have a lot to consider when they think about their estate plans. One of the biggest factors to look into is how they want their property distributed after their deaths. Certainly, family members and close friends come to mind, but some individuals may also be interested in using estate planning to leave some of their estate assets to charitable organizations.

Luckily, individuals interested in such giving have several options to consider for doing so. If people want a fairly easy way of bequeathing assets to charity, they can name the organizations and bequests in their wills. Wills are common places to leave details regarding who should obtain what property after a person's death. Even when using a will to do so, estates can still benefit from a reduction in estate taxes.

2019 shaping up to be another good year for real estate

The holidays are over, and people are turning their attention to hopes and plans for 2019. Some of these plans include real estate purchases. According to local experts, the 2019 market in real estate will probably resemble the 2018 market. In northern Michigan, that spells good news as the local market was very healthy in 2018.

The residential market did show a slow down from 2017 to 2018. This is looked at more as a leveling off followed by a bit of a cooling-off period. Inventory is a little bit down, but selling prices are up, and time-on-market has also decreased with the reduction in inventory.

Estate planning is a resolution that can be kept

A new year has arrived and along with it a multitude of resolutions made with the best of intentions. Many of those resolutions will be broken by February. There is one resolution that should be made and kept in Michigan. Resolve to review or establish estate planning in 2019.

Making such a move can help to protect one's assets and one's family as we head into a new year. No one knows the length of time one may have on this planet and preparing for the unknown is a wonderful thing to do for one's loved ones. There are a variety of steps that can be taken to solidify a person's plan or establish a new one.

Divorce with children can be difficult, plan ahead for challenges

When you have children, a good majority of your life revolves around the needs of your children. If you and your spouse are planning to divorce, this doesn't change. You want your children to have what they need to thrive throughout the process and beyond.

It isn't easy to think about what your children are going to need in the future. While you are making decisions related to your divorce, take the time to consider their needs. Try not to do anything rash.

Things to consider if filing for divorce in the New Year

January is a popular month for ending marriages. The number of people seeking divorce spikes significantly after the holidays are over. Some Michigan couples decide to wait until this busy time of year is over to move forward with this process, while others find that the holiday season brings to light and emphasizes the issues that often indicate one or both parties are ready to divorce.

Often, the Monday after New Year's Day is known as divorce day. People who have been considering this step are anxious to move forward, and divorce attorneys often see a spike in phone calls that first week back to work. However ready a person is to end his or her marriage, there are some important things to consider when moving forward with this process. One of the most beneficial things a person can do is to not rush things but take time to think through all decisions, weigh options and consider how these things will affect his or her future.

Divorce in 2019 presents tax challenges

As the new year begins, the change in alimony brought about by the tax law passed last year goes into full effect. The implications for couples considering divorce in Michigan are not inconsequential. Under the previous law, the person paying alimony was able to deduct the amount of alimony from his taxable income, and the recipient paid income tax on the amount received.

Under the prior law, the amount of alimony had the potential to reduce the tax liability for the payor. For example, if a person making $300,000 per year agreed to pay $70,000 in alimony in 2018, it would have reduced that person's taxable income to $218,000, including the standard deduction. Using those same numbers under the new law, the payor's taxable income would be $287,800 after the new standard deduction amount of $12,200. After the $70,000 in alimony is paid, the net income is $154,076.

The new year is a good time to consider estate planning

Another year is coming to a close in Michigan and the new year is looming. With the approach of New Year's Day, people frequently review the past and consider plans for the future. Among those plans may be thoughts of estate planning. But what exactly does that entail and who should be concerned about it?

Estate planning, simply put, involves making plans for one's family and belongings in the event of one's death or serious injury. However, there is more to it than creating a last will and testament. In addition, a living will can instruct loved ones on what is to be done in the event of a serious injury that leaves one unable to speak or communicate. If substantial assets are involved, a trust can be set up for the administration and disbursement of those assets and this can benefit family members, including young children.