Estate Planning As An Expression Of Love
Many people approach the subject of estate planning with dread. It forces them to face their mortality and make important decisions.
At DeMent & Marquardt, PLC, our lawyers view estate planning as an expression of love – for yourself, your loved ones and the causes you care about. We are a Kalamazoo firm that has been focused solely on estate planning and related areas since our founding in 1994. Our attorneys are passionate about helping clients translate their wishes, goals and legacies into legally enforceable documents. Our lawyers also provide legal protections to address the unexpected. In doing so, they provide our clients with peace of mind and security for the future.
Who Needs An Estate Plan? Everyone.
What is estate planning? Here is one definition:
Estate planning is the arranging and documenting of the most effective disposition of not only one’s principal but also the income that such principal is capable of producing to those persons and/or institutions that one wishes to benefit – all in the most flexible, best protected and most economical way.
The need for an estate plan is so crucial that every state, including Michigan, has provided for the distribution of its decedents’ estates in the event that a decedent failed to take care of their own estate plan.
However, if you are willing to make a short-term commitment to the estate planning process, then you may leave a legacy of caring that will spare your loved ones the complications, time and money that can be posed by the failure to plan.
The advantages of estate planning include:
- Privacy regarding sensitive personal and financial matters
- Avoidance of probate
- Tax planning and tax savings
- Personal tailoring, which can result in the control of assets for children and grandchildren
- Remarkable savings in costs and fees in both the elimination of a court process and the minimization of attorney involvement
The first task is to identify your goals and desires in light of total assets and liabilities.
At this level, you must reckon with “people-related” concerns, just as you do during life. This is by far the most important level of concern in estate planning and must be done within the framework of all the variables to which everyone, including the potential beneficiaries of your estate, are exposed during life, incapacity or incompetency, and death.
The second consideration includes the choices of an estate planning professional and an estate fiduciary who will maximize efficiency, assure availability and continuity, minimize total expenses, and maximize available knowledge, experience and protection.
The third task is the consideration of allowable tax savings within a personal framework.
A good estate planning professional can explain the advantages and disadvantages of many estate planning mechanisms, including wills, self-trusteed revocable living trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts, and several variations on lifetime gift trusts that may provide tax advantages to both the donor and donee. The appropriate use of any of these documents depends on the size of your estate and the complexities of your plan for distribution. However, completing an adequate estate planning program – which will take care of you and your loved ones while minimizing the taxes and expenses caused by disability or death – may produce in you a feeling of relief and a real sense of satisfaction.
Key Components Of A Thorough Estate Plan
Good estate planning always includes making thoughtful arrangements in advance, should illness or physical or mental incapacitation occur. Every adult in Michigan should have at least a basic estate plan in place. A solid estate plan is all the more important if you have children, own property or are nearing retirement.
Estate planning encompasses more than just a will. It may also include legal documents such as:
- A trust, which can be tailored to accomplish a wide range of objectives
- Powers of attorney to designate trusted decision-makers and advocates for you and avoid the possibility of guardianship and conservatorship proceedings, should you become incapacitated
- An advance directive, also known as a living will, to document your wishes regarding medical care
- HIPAA authorizations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which gives your loved ones and decision-makers access to your medical records under specified circumstances
- Beneficiary designations for assets such as retirement accounts, life insurance and payable-on-death accounts
- Tax and gift planning to avoid unnecessary tax burdens
- Long-term care planning, which may include preparing for Medicaid eligibility
A strategic estate plan may also include retitling real property to put it into a trust or change the type of ownership. Our lawyers handle deed work in-house.
Our Team Will Craft An Estate Plan To Meet Your Needs
When you work with us, our lawyers will develop a thorough estate plan appropriate to your situation, which will increase and maintain your and your family’s financial security by arranging for the conservation and transfer of wealth while minimizing taxes such as gift, estate, generation-skipping transfer and income taxes.
As a component of your estate plan, our attorneys will also establish a process for administering the trust and settling your estate, including marshalling assets, paying final expenses and distributing wealth according to your wishes after you have passed away.
Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning
Below are some common questions our lawyers hear about estate planning. Please note that this information is provided for general purposes only and is no substitute for individualized legal advice.
How many assets do I need before I consider estate planning?
Estate planning is about your life, family, friends and charities. Whether you have $1 or $1 million, estate planning helps you save time, money and taxes. There is no estate too small.
How much time does the process take?
Timing is largely up to you, but your plan could easily be completed within 60 days. When life requires faster turnaround, our team can almost always accommodate.
How much does estate planning cost?
The range is generally from $200 to $3,500. But, there is no fee for the initial meeting, and your lawyer will explain the differences in options and pricing. You decide what you need.
Do I have to make a personal visit in order to do estate planning? Can it be done by phone or email?
Our attorneys can do work by phone or email, but they generally prefer at least one meeting in person. If you have mobility issues, they also make house calls.
I’m not sure what I want to do with my estate. Shouldn’t I wait until I know what I want before I consider estate planning?
That isn’t necessary. One of the biggest parts of our lawyers’ job is to help you understand the process and make decisions.
I don’t own much, I am not married and I have no children. Is estate planning important for me?
Yes, for a multitude of reasons. Who will speak for you if you are unconscious? Who will help you pay your bills? If you are single, then you need to plan for life as well as death, perhaps even more so than a married person.
Work With Us For Your Estate Planning Needs | Transparent Flat Fees
Our lawyers would be happy to discuss your estate planning needs and how they can best meet them. We offer flat fees, including review meetings and the opportunity to ask questions related to your estate plan anytime.