There are changes to Michigan law in 2016 that have the potential to be very important as far as estate planning goes.
Two in particular should grab the attention of almost anybody who is thinking ahead about ways to make things easier on their loved ones:
1. You can now give your representative access to your digital assets.
How much of what you could potentially leave behind to your heirs is locked up digitally?
This is something that a lot of wills and estate plans made prior to the last decade or so probably don’t consider. Digital assets are anything online that’s remotely associated with you, from your online bank accounts to the books on your Amazon Kindle.
Maybe more important than things with a monetary value, the new law also gives your representative the right to access your social media accounts. That could become a priceless asset to those that love you if you die or become incapacitated.
If you’ve spent the last decade like most people uploading hundreds of digital photos from your phone to your online Photobucket account or Google cloud, all of those could be lost forever to your heirs without this provision in your estate plan. Your email accounts could also potentially be a treasure-trove of personal memories for your heirs that could otherwise be wiped out.
2. You can now specifically designate someone to be in charge over your funeral arrangements.
Called the Funeral Representative Act of 2016, you can designate someone to be in charge of the handling and disposition of your body. This includes the right to decide if you should be cremated and what to do with the cremains afterwards.
This is a significant change in the law. Prior to now, you had no choice in the matter: Your next of kin was in charge and could do as he or she saw fit, regardless of your wishes.
Given the emotional nature of the decisions that have to be made, having this in place could not only make sure that your specific wishes are followed but stop a lot of potential battling among your heirs about what you may or may not have “really” wanted.
For more information on other important changes in the law and how they could affect your estate plans, consider making an appointment with an attorney as soon as possible.
Source: The Times Herald, “Wallace: 2016 law changes may trigger estate plan updates,” Matthew Wallace, Feb. 12, 2017