Not everyone in Michigan likes to discuss matters of mortality. In fact, some people try to avoid such topics at all cost. You might count yourself among that group or with those who understand the importance of discussing estate planning issues. Executing a solid plan could help protect one’s assets and provide for loved ones after one has passed on or has become incapacitated and unable to act on his or her own behalf.
An estate plan can be basic and simple, or complex. There are no rules regarding which documents you must include in a plan or which ones you may choose to omit. Before executing an estate plan, it is helpful to learn more about the basic types of documents available in order to determine which ones best fit a particular need or goal.
Basic documents can help form a solid estate plan
Perhaps the most basic estate planning document is a last will and testament. Included in your will, you would list your assets and designate beneficiaries to whom such assets should be distributed at the time of your passing. The following list includes several more documents that are basic, integral components of a solid estate plan:
- Powers of attorney
- Letter of intent
- Designation of legal guardians
There are sub-types within most of these categories. For instance, there are revocable or irrevocable trusts, as well as trusts set up to provide for loved ones with special needs. Regarding power of attorney, you might wish to grant authority to a specific person (or people) to make healthcare or financial decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to do so on your own due to mental or physical incapacitation.
A word about guardianships
If you have minor children, you might wish to designate a legal guardian to care for them if something happens to you. If you have a special needs child, you might want a specific person to care for him or her when you are no longer here or able to do so. It is not required that every child in your household must have the same legal guardian.
Aside from irrevocable trusts, estate plans can be changed
Especially if you execute an estate plan early on in life, any number of issues may arise that necessitate updating or changing your plan. You cannot change an irrevocable trust. However, you can change most other estate planning documents. It’s helpful to periodically review your estate plan to determine if any additions or deletions are necessary. For instance, a birth in the family, a marriage, divorce, remarriage or death may prompt you to make changes in your existing plan.
When designating someone for a certain duty as part of your estate plan, it’s always best to discuss the matter with the person before you sign any documents, in order to ensure the person understands what you are asking of him or her and is willing to carry out the duty when the time comes. It’s also a good idea to ask someone who is well-versed in Michigan estate planning laws to review your proposed plan and to be on-hand as time passes, in case any updates or changes are necessary.