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Ensuring your estate planning is more than just a bunch of forms

If you've got a will, a power of attorney and a trust in place, you've probably done more than most people have in Michigan. Even getting that far can take a bit of time. That's one reason many people put off estate planning. Another reason is because they don't like to think about their own demise.

However, when you simply have a few forms in place, you could be opening yourself -- and your heirs -- to a real mess if you become incapacitated or pass away. Here's an example: If you have a life insurance policy, your agent probably had you name your spouse or child as beneficiary. Your bank account may have your children listed as joint owners. This is what the banker said you should do. Your home could have a quit claim deed ready for your home that puts your kids in as joint owners. This could be because your attorney said to do this.

These advisers will usually your best interests in mind; however, they likely don't realize that when you have joint owners or beneficiaries listed, your will and trust is bypassed. These joint owners and beneficiaries will be honored over what you have listed in your will in trust.

These advisers aren't estate planners, and most likely, they aren't aware of what is in your estate plan. They might tell you that you that naming a beneficiary or joint owner will help you avoid probate. You will have to decide if you want your wishes carried out that are listed in your will or trust or if you want the beneficiaries and joint owners to get the proceeds.

An estate planning attorney can provide you with more information about your options to help ensure that wishes are followed, whatever they may be.

Source: The Times Herald, "Do you have an estate plan or just documents?," Matt Wallace, accessed Jan. 11, 2016

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