Estate planning includes being prepared for the care of our affairs, not only when we are gone, but while we are living. One way to accomplish this without court involvement may be through the use of Powers of Attorney for our finances and healthcare. However, many of us become incapacitated or otherwise ineligible to execute such a document. In these instances, caring family or loved ones can petition the court to appoint a guardianship and/or conservatorship to protect an individual's health and assets, respectively. It is important to know when these options may be necessary.
Many of us are concerned that a loved one, e.g., a parent, grandparent, or disabled child reaching the age of 18, may need help making decisions for them. However, many of us do not always know what to look for in determining whether someone requires a guardian/conservator.
For example, some individuals may have a medical condition affecting them mentally or otherwise, which may require medical or financial assistance. In some of these cases however, these same individuals possess the cognitive ability and willingness to seek professional help in maintaining their health, as well as their assets; despite coping with their condition. Unless these individuals request it, they may not need a guardianship or conservatorship; or, if they require one, it may only be on a limited basis.
Where there lies greater concern is when an individual's condition compromises their ability to make or communicate informed decisions for their well-being and cannot reach for help on their own. This condition may also pose concern that assets will be wasted or dissipated unless protection of a court-ordered fiduciary is made available.
Families and loved ones should discuss these options to care for one another when health concerns arise. Contact Gee Law for a consultation on what to look for and possible courses of action based on your circumstances.
Estate Planning documents are not just for the deceased. If there are investments or surplus funds that you would like to earmark for your family or perhaps those members with special needs, a trust can allocate assets to them during your lifetime, while also providing for your own needs. Creating joint ownership of assets such as bank accounts, titles and deeds are other ways to accomplish these goals, depending on your circumstances.
As life brings unexpected contingencies, such as divorce, disputes involving creditors, and other legal concerns, these planning vehicles are excellent ways to protect your hard earned assets from being taken or seized. They may also assist during times when you are in a condition compromising your ability to make decisions. Finally, this planning can also ensure the destination for your assets even after you are gone, which helps to eliminate the need for probate court costs.
When we do eventually pass on, the use of a will can add to a trust and further devise assets that will not only ensure your intentions are met, but also minimize probate court involvement.
Your child is finally off to college! But with all of the concerns about adjusting to a new life away from home, families often forget that once a child turns 18, he or she is considered an adult under the law. For example, once 18 years of age, hospitals and medical facilities may limit what information they can provide to the family without consent of the patient. The concern due to this requisite confidentiality is that parents or family members may not be able to make life decisions for their loved ones at crucial moments when the young adults (as patients) are unable to voice their wishes themselves. Hence, young adults can take advantage of caring parents or family members by assigning them to be his or her Medical Power of Attorney to make such vital decisions concerning their health.
The same holds true for scholastic information when children attend college. When students reach the age of 18, colleges and other higher learning institutions may not allow parents to inquire about or view their child's grades without the student's express consent; regardless of who may be paying the student's tuition. As such, the child's records are confidential even to their parents. Therefore, students may also consider making their parents their power of attorney so that they can monitor his or her performance and help guide the student through their education; besides merely paying for it.
Attorney General Bill Schuette Issues Consumer Alert To Beware of "One Size Fits All" and "Free Lunch Seminar" Estate Planning
We here at Gee Law PLLC agree with Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who recently issued a Consumer Alert warning folks to beware of estate plans that are "One Size Fits All" or from a "Free Lunch Seminar." We realize that nothing is more important than safeguarding your life, your family and your assets, which are unique to YOU. As our attorney general stated, "Misinformation about the cost and complexity of probate provides a golden opportunity for sales pitches exploiting fears that life savings may be lost to taxes, predatory probate attorneys, or distributed years after death because of court delays. With laws curbing telemarketing sales calls, use of free lunch seminars to pitch estate planning products have surged. Promoted as "educational" programs, these seminars are commonly a sales job in disguise. Be alert to seminars pushing "one size fits all" estate planning products, including living trusts. A decision as important as estate planning should be made with reliable, professional counsel who can help you decide what estate plan is best for your own individual situation, rather than someone whose primary interest is making a sale." For more information, check out: http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,4534,7-164-18156-44727--,00.html.
For questions about this or any estate or business planning matter, contact us today!
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Kevin Gee is an experienced Michigan attorney ready to assist you with your business and estate planning needs.