Estate planning is necessary for many types of couples, if not most. For example, a couple with an adult child who is disabled probably wants to ensure the child is always taken care of. Someone entering into a second or third marriage might want to ensure children from the first marriage receive certain assets and so on.
In its lame duck session of 2016, the legislature passed a package of bills abolishing Michigan dower. Effective 90 days from the date the bills are signed by the governor and filed with the Secretary of State, transfers of real estate in Michigan will no longer be subject to a potential dower claim (with the exception of property owned by men who die before the effective date). These bills can be found on the Michigan Legislature's website (see SB 558, SB 560 and HB 5520). This package amends MCL 552.101, which required all Judgments of Divorce to address a wife's dower rights. For family lawyers, this means that Judgments of Divorce will no longer contain this language. As a note of interest, Michigan was only one of about 10 states that still had dower and the only state which had dower but not curtsy (a husband's right to an interest in a wife's property). It will be interesting to see how the Michigan probate code will change over the next year or so, given the recent decisions of Obergefell v. Hodges and DeBoer v. Snyder, which held that states must license marriage between two people of the same sex and recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex in another state.
Whether you are single, newly married, young or reaching your golden years, having an estate plan is important. But not just any plan will do; it is important to make sure you have a plan that works for your situation and avoids the common pitfalls of probate and estate administration.
Estate planning is not something anyone really wants to think about. After all, our own demise is not a topic of conversation anyone really wants to participate in. However, estate planning is not so much about you as it is the people who are left behind. It's up to them to sort out your affairs and the easier you can make it for them, the better.
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.
The state of Michigan has two types of advance directives. The first is the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. The second is a Do-Not-Resuscitate Declaration. Both can be vital components of your estate plans and your health care plans.
Last week we talked about the importance of understanding the legalities of alimony when you are planning to end a marriage. This week, we're looking at the importance of the prenuptial agreement when you plan on starting a new marriage, especially when you do so later in life.
Is your Michigan estate plan really complete? Many of our clients think that all they need is a will, and their estate planning is squared away. The truth is that estate planning can be a little -- or a lot -- more complicated than just a will, depending on your assets. One of the most important elements of a solid estate plan: a written power of attorney.
Some people in Michigan believe that it is best to avoid the probate process if possible, and they do this by using living trusts instead of standard wills. These trusts can distribute assets while a person is still alive so that less must be done when he or she passes away.