Learn more about Estate Planning.

Michigan Estate Planning
at The Law Office of Jerry Reif


There are many legal strategies involved in estate planning, including wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, durable powers of attorney, and health care documents. New clients often say that they do not have an estate plan. Most people are surprised to learn that they actually do have a plan. In the absence of legal planning otherwise, their estate will be distributed after death according to Michigan's laws of intestacy. Of course, this may not be the plan they would have chosen. A properly drafted estate plan will replace the terms of the Michigan estate plan with your own.

More About Estate Planning Services:

  • Michigan Last Will and Testament
    Your last will and testament is just one part of a comprehensive estate plan. If a person dies without a Will they are said to have died “intestate” and state laws will determine how and to whom the person’s assets will be distributed. Some things you should know about wills:
    • A will has no legal authority until after death. So, a will does not help manage a person's affairs when they are incapacitated, whether by illness or injury.
    • A will does not help an estate avoid probate. A will is the legal document submitted to the probate court, so it is basically an "admission ticket" to probate.
    • A will is the only legal document through which parents can name the guardians (or back-up parents) for minor children should those children become orphaned. All parents of minor children should have a legal will naming guardians for those children.

  • Trusts: Revocable Living Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Testamentary Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, etc.
    Trusts come in many "flavors," they can be simple or complex, and serve a variety of legal, personal, investment or tax planning purposes. At the most basic level, a trust is a legal entity with at least three parties involved: the trust maker, the trust manager, and the trust beneficiary. Oftentimes, all three parties are represented by one person or a married couple. In the case of a revocable living trust, for example, a person may create a trust (the trust maker) and name themselves the current trustees (trust managers) who manage the trust assets for their own benefit (trust beneficiary).

    Depending on the situation, there may be many advantages to establishing a trust, including avoiding probate court. In most cases, assets owned in a revocable living trust will pass to the trust beneficiaries (or heirs) immediately upon the death of the trust maker(s) with no probate required. Certain trusts also may result in tax advantages both for the donor and the beneficiary. Or they may be used to protect property from creditors, or simply to provide for someone else to manage and invest property for the trust maker(s) and the named beneficiaries. If well drafted, another advantage of trusts is their continuing effectiveness even if the trust maker dies or becomes incapacitated.

  • Powers of Attorney
    A Power of Attorney is a legal document giving another person (the attorney-in-fact) the legal right to do certain things (powers) for another. What those powers are depends on the terms of the document. A Power of Attorney may be very broad or very limited and specific. Normal Powers of Attorney terminate at death and in the event the maker (principal) becomes incapacitated (unable to make or communicate their own decisions). When the intent is to designate a back-up decision-maker in the event of incapacity, then a Durable Power of Attorney should be used. Durable Powers of Attorney should be frequently updated as banks and other financial institutions may hesitate to honor a document that more than a few years old.

  • Michigan Health Care Documents (or Advance Directives)
    Advance directives are written documents that specify the type of medical care a person would want should they lose the ability to make (and communicate) their own decisions. There are two types of advance directives: a durable power of attorney for health care and a living will. A durable power of attorney for health care, also known as a health care proxy, is a document in which the maker gives another person (known as the patient advocate) power to make medical treatment and related personal care decisions.

    Anyone over the age of 18 may execute a durable power of attorney for health care, and this document is legally binding in Michigan. Some people confuse this with a "living will," which is a written statement informing doctors and family members what type of medical care should be given (or withheld) in the event of terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness, and the patient is no longer able to make or communicate decisions about their continued care.

    Two key differences between these documents are that 1.) the durable power of attorney for health care designates who makes decisions while the living will provides guidance on what those decisions should be; and 2.) a durable power of attorney for health care is legally binding in the state of Michigan, while a living will is not. Doctors and hospitals may comply with a living will, but are not legally compelled to do so.

Every situation is different, and each unique situation presents its own estate planning challenges. We encourage you to explore these topics, beginning (below) with an overview of fundamental estate planning and some (all too common) mistakes. Then delve more deeply into specific challenges that may affect you and your family such as planning for minor children, blending families, estate planning challenges unique to women, and taking care of our beloved pets in the event that we can no longer do so ourselves. Each link leads to an easy-to-understand presentation on the topic. Feel free to use the integrated functions to print any page, bookmark it to return later, or forward a copy to your friends, family members or financial advisor.

Estate Planning 101

What is estate planning? If you were to ask 10 adult Americans this question, you would likely get 10 different answers. Most erroneously think estate planning is limited to arranging for the ultimate distribution of their assets at life’s end. Due partly to this confusion and partly to  procrastination, it is little wonder that six out of 10 adult Americans have no estate plan at all. Learn more about the lifetime process of Estate Planning.

Common Estate Blunders

When you hear the words estate planning, what images come to mind? Do you see beautiful, tanned people with incredible wealth, living in enormous mansions, riding in shiny limousines and boarding private jets? If so, then you are only partially correct. In reality, everyone has an estate worth planning. Some are just more complex than others. Here are some basic estate blunders common to princes and paupers alike.

Planning for Minor Children

Planning for Minor Children

It is an unfortunate fact of life: airplanes plummet, trains derail, ships sink and automobiles crash. What happens when a tragedy claims both parents of minor children? While every parent expects to rear their minor children to adulthood, life may throw any of us an unexpected curve ball in the form of a fatal injury or illness. Are you, and your children, prepared? Learn how to protect your children in the event of the unthinkable.

Estate Planning Challenges for Blended (or Step) Families

Are you re-married (or planning to re-marry) and attempting to blend families? Unfortunately, too little attention has been paid to the critical Life & Estate Planning challenges of blended families. These challenges include disinheriting your ex-spouse, protecting your own children, providing for your new spouse and minimizing your estate taxes. Learn more about the estate planning challenges of blended (or step) families.

Women & the Law

Traditionally, women have been the nurturers in our society. Depending on how family is defined for her, a woman may care for a husband, children, pets, parents or even in-laws. While she is busy meeting the needs of others, a woman may forget to take care of her own needs ... even needs as fundamental as her own Life & Estate Planning. Learn the Life & Estate Planning steps every woman should take to protect herself (and her loved ones).

Pet Trusts

An estimated 500,000 pets are euthanized each year by shelters and veterinarians when their owners predecease them. Do any of your closest friends have feathers, fins or fur? Consider this: If something untoward were to happen to you today, what would happen to your feathered, finned or furred friends tomorrow? Learn how your estate plan can ensure the ongoing care of these beloved family members.

Your first estate planning consultation is complimentary. Some people find scheduling their initial consultation is a bit intimidating, as they wonder what documents they will need to locate and bring along. At The Law Office of Jerry Reif, we try to make the process as simple and convenient as possible. When you are ready to schedule your initial consultation, please visit our Estate Planning Consultation page for tips on how to prepare for your Estate Planning Consultation.

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