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Let Our Livingston County Lawyers Help You Avoid Estate Planning Errors

Creating an estate plan is the ideal way to be certain that your wishes will be honored when you die and that your family members are taken care of. Unfortunately, people often unintentionally make common mistakes when making an estate plan that can cause their family problems down the road.

The experienced Livingston County estate planning lawyers at Estate Planning & Elder Care Firm of Michigan can help you avoid these pitfalls and work with you to develop and maintain an estate plan that meets your needs and provides for your family when you no longer can.

8 Common Michigan Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

Without a well-designed estate plan, your loved ones could face unnecessary stress when they’re also coping with the grief of losing you. It’s not only important to have an estate plan, but also to make sure that it’s set up properly.

If you make estate planning mistakes, your assets may not be distributed as you intended, and the probate process can be unnecessarily complex and costly. Individuals often make estate planning errors when they do not work with an estate planning lawyer to help them create their estate plans. Common estate planning errors our attorneys can help you avoid include:

1. Not Making an Estate Plan

Many individuals mistakenly think that only wealthy people need an estate plan. However, regardless of the size of your estate, it’s important to have an estate plan so you can specify how your assets are to be distributed after your death. Without an estate plan, your assets would be divided according to Michigan intestate succession laws, which may be very different from what you would prefer.

2. Not Including Contingent Beneficiaries

It is crucial to name contingent beneficiaries in your estate plan. A contingent beneficiary is a backup to a primary beneficiary. If your estate plan names alternative beneficiaries, then you may not need to create a new one if your primary beneficiary predeceases you. If you don’t name contingent beneficiaries, your estate would be distributed in the same manner as if you never made an estate plan.

3. Writing Your Own Estate Planning Documents

While it might be tempting to save money by writing your own will and other estate planning documents, doing so may create unnecessary and potentially costly problems that your family will have to deal with after your death. DIY estate plans often fail to meet legal requirements, which can make them invalid.

In addition, the language included in DIY estate documents can be confusing and lead to fights among your family members and, potentially, costly litigation when your estate is probated. Our experienced estate planning attorneys will prepare documents for you that comply with Michigan law and accurately reflect your wishes.

4. Not Planning for a Blended Family

If you are part of a blended family, you have unique considerations that need to be dealt with in your estate plan. Without proper planning, disputes can arise between your biological children and stepchildren, as well as other members of your blended family. Our Livingston County lawyers can assist you in developing a plan for your Michigan estate that specifies exactly how you wish your assets to be distributed to your loved ones.

5. Not Having a Plan for Minor Children

If you have minor children, it is vital to have an estate plan that specifies who will be their guardian in the event of your death. In addition, your estate plan also needs to designate who will oversee their assets until they are old enough to handle them on their own.

If you do not name a guardian or conservator in your will or trust, the court will decide who will care for your children after you die. You might not want this person to take care of your kids or trust them to handle the assets you leave for your children.

6. Not Including a Durable Power of Attorney or Medical Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney, also referred to as a springing power of attorney, allows a family member, partner, or friend you select to handle your financial affairs if you become incapacitated. In a living will, you designate someone to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them. Without these documents, someone in your family would need to go through a lengthy and expensive court process to be appointed as your guardian and conservator.

7. Not Funding Your Trust

You may decide to leave your assets to a family member through a living trust to avoid probate or for other reasons. However, if you create a trust but fail to transfer your assets into it, the trust is essentially useless. Once you create a living trust, you must fund it throughout your life by owning your assets in the trust's name. Our lawyers can guide you through this process.

8. Not Updating Your Estate Plan

After you create your estate plan, you may experience major life changes, like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a spouse or beneficiary. You may want to change who you leave your property to or make other changes to your estate plan. It’s important to regularly review and update your estate plan as your life and circumstances change.

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