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Your Estate And Probate

Estate planning and probate are two of the most important — and often most neglected — matters people should tend to during their lives. Drafting a last will and testament, planning your estate and preparing for the probate process can be stressful and daunting tasks.

The Ann Arbor attorneys at Collis & Griffor, PC, can help you through this process — you are not alone, and we can help make sure your estate is set up properly so your family and loved ones are provided for after your death. From setting up your estate to avoid unnecessary tax consequences, to using a trust to put property into a line of succession so it's separate from business lineage, we have the know-how and experience to help you create a plan that reflects the wishes and desires for your estate.

Estate and probate law is complicated — but we can guide you through it. Let's take a high-level look at some basic information about each area of law. Contact our offices today. We advise and represent clients in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and throughout southern Michigan.

Estate Planning

At Collis & Griffor, PC, our lawyers can assist you in the consideration and completion of a variety of estate documents that can help you plan for the worst as you hope for the best.

This kind of advance planning can help make a difficult time more bearable for your loved ones. These documents include:

  • Last will and testament — This document is essential for planning how your assets will be distributed upon your death. Without a will, your assets will pass through intestacy — in other words, by the rules of the state rather than by the decedent's desires. An individual should have a will even if they have a trust because the will acts as a backup for any assets that do not get into the trust. A will should name a personal representative (executor) who will administer a will, a guardian (a person who determines how to take care of minors) and a conservator (the person who will handle the minors' finances). It must be signed before two witnesses in order to be valid.
  • Power of attorney — A power of attorney is used to give an adult the power to act on behalf of another adult. There are a variety of types of powers of attorney, which can be tailored to fit the needs of a particular situation. Among these are: the durable power of attorney (which remains effective after the principal becomes disabled or mentally incompetent); the healthcare power of attorney; and a power of attorney for tax matters.
  • Healthcare advocate (medical power of attorney) — Although Michigan does not recognize living wills, it does authorizes medical powers of attorney which give another person the ability to make health care decisions when the person who signed the document is unable to do so. The person that has the power to make the health care decisions, known as the patient advocate, only has the authority to act while the person who gave it is unable to communicate. The patient advocate does not have the authority to end medical treatment if it is likely to cause death unless that power is specifically given in writing to the patient advocate.
  • Trust documents — There can be many reasons for a trust. Many individuals desire a trust to avoid probate. Where an individual will have less than $600,000 in assets at death, a trust is not likely needed as there is no inheritance tax in Michigan. However, it still may be needed to protect from spendthrift beneficiaries, disabled beneficiaries or to control funds long after one's death. Guidance from an experienced attorney is required when exploring the necessity of this document.
  • Special needs trust — Also known as a supplemental needs trust, a special needs trust allows individuals to hold an unlimited amount of assets in trust for an individual with special needs precipitated by certain illnesses or physical or mental disabilities. The benefit of such a trust is that these assets generally do not count against a beneficiary's eligibility for government benefits.

Probate — Estate And Mental Health

At Collis & Griffor, PC, our Michigan probate attorneys are skilled at handling all facets of probate law. In setting up your estate, we can take steps to ensure that probate is minimized, or avoided all together. We can also help with the mental health side of probate if we determine during the estate planning process that someone in the family may need assistance with mental health issues.

As with estate planning, probate is a complicated area of law that can be overwhelming to those unfamiliar with the process. Our lawyers have over 30 years of collective experience helping people navigate probate matters in Michigan, and we are here to help you too.

  • In the context of a decedent's estate, the term probate refers to the manner of administering the property of a decedent by a personal representative (PR), who is appointed by the court. If the PR is not named in the will, the court will appoint its own PR to administer the estate. The administration of a decedent's estate essentially involves three steps: marshalling of assets (the assembly, securing, valuation and sorting of the decedent's property); payment of charges (last illness and funeral expenses, amounts owed to creditors, taxes, family allowances and general expenses of administration); distribution of the remaining assets to the estate beneficiaries (either according to the terms of the decedent's will or, if there is no will, in accordance with Michigan's law of intestate succession).
  • In the context of mental health matters, the probate court presides over a proceeding that determines whether an individual requires court ordered mental health care. The Michigan Mental Health Code defines mental illness as "a substantial disorder of thought or mood that significantly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life." Mental illness alone, however, is not sufficient to justify involuntary hospitalization.

If you are looking for a probate or estate planning attorney, contact Collis & Griffor, PC, today at 734-707-9408 or contact us online to set up an appointment for a free consultation.

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