Though most people understand why an estate plan is important, getting one is often something they put off. They may be nervous about dealing with end-of-life choices or even want to avoid potential family conflict, but not doing anything could have a significant impact on their loved ones. The process of probate is often necessary, but it can take a great deal of time and effort. Fortunately for families here in Michigan, there are ways to set up an estate plan that will help avoid probate or make the process easier when it is time to handle the finances of someone who recently died.
One choice people may make is by designating that their assets be given to a named beneficiary upon the owner’s passing. This is known as a transfer-upon-death account. It differs from joint ownership, which names more than one person as the owner of an account, since the account still belongs to the sole owner while he or she is alive. However, joint ownership may be a better choice for some, as the asset will simply transfer to the other person automatically when one dies.
Another option is creating a revocable living trust. This is a document that outlines exactly who will receive certain property or assets when the owner dies and names a trustee who will complete this process. Since it is revocable, it can be changed if need be.
Some people decide that giving certain assets as a gift is the best available option. There are certain limits to the amount that can be considered a gift; otherwise the assets may be taxed. However, it can reduce probate costs and may be a worthwhile option for some.
Even so, the best course of action may be to utilize an estate planning attorney. An attorney here in Michigan who is well-versed in the process of probate can help families with different types of estates. It can offer peace of mind that one’s wishes will be honored.