Do you need an Estate Planning Attorney in Rochester Hills?
Our estate planning attorneys in Rochester Hills have over 40 years of experience in creating estate plans. We have successfully assisted hundreds of clients with estate plans. Now may be the time to contact our Michigan Estate Planning lawyer if you’re looking to update your estate plan, will or trust.
If you have questions about estate planning or an existing will or trust, contact our Rochester Hills estate planning office. Unlike some law firms, we pride ourselves on personalized service and estate planning solutions. And we’ll make sure you fully understand your options.
At Sumner & Associates, P.C., our estate and wills attorneys handle a wide variety of issues, including:
- Comprehensive estate planning,
- Drafting wills and trust documents,
- Estate and trust administration,
- Guardianships and conservatorships,
- Powers of Attorney,
- Probate proceedings, and
- Special needs planning (if you or a loved one have serious disabilities).
Frequently Asked Questions for Estate Planning Attorney Rochester Hills
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is the practice of managing the assets that you’ve accumulated over your lifetime in the event of your incapacity or death. It often requires the input of an estate planning attorney in Rochester Hills to secure your assets and wishes according to your directives.
Examples of assets subject to estate planning can include:
- Real (immovable) property
- Personal (movable) property
- Retirement benefits
- Business interests and holdings
At its core, estate planning ensures that your assets pass on to your loved ones in accordance with your wishes. It also gives you more control over what happens to your assets if you become incapacitated.
Estate planning can take several forms, with the two most common being will-based planning and trust-based planning.
Will-Based Estate Planning
Will-based planning involves you drawing up a legal document that outlines how to distribute your assets, who will care for any minors, and who will handle your final affairs. The main drawback of will-based estate planning is that your assets will have to go through a Michigan Probate Court, which is a time-consuming and costly process.
Trust-Based Estate Planning
Trust-based planning involves establishing a living trust that outlines who will handle your financial affairs or distribute your assets after your death. Trusts offer several advantages over wills in that they avoid the Probate Court and help minimize or eliminate federal estate taxes. While more complex and expensive to set up, having a living trust is rapidly becoming the go-to estate planning method due to its many advantages.
Every person’s situation is different, which is why we recommend speaking to an estate planning lawyer about what solution works best for your current needs.
How Do I Prepare for an Estate Planning Meeting in Rochester Hills?
Estate planning can be very emotionally fraught. Your first step should always be to find the right real estate law firm in Rochester Hills, MI, that is compassionate, knowledgeable, and determined to help you achieve your goals.
The first meeting with your estate planning attorney in Rochester Hills will involve the attorney becoming familiar with your situation. The more information you bring to this meeting, the easier it will be for the lawyer to develop the right plan for you and your loved ones.
Your estate planning lawyer will send you a list of documents to bring along for the initial estate planning meeting. These will include:
- At least the last three months of your financial statements, including checking and savings accounts, money market accounts, brokerages, pensions, and IRA statements
- The deeds to any properties you own
- Any previous estate planning documents, including wills and trusts
- Any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements
- Business agreements
- A copy of your retirement plan
- A copy of your life insurance policy
- Any divorce agreements
- Contact information for your family members
- Contact information for your doctors
Take the time before your initial meeting to draw up a list of potential candidates for trustees, health care agents, or executors of your will. You’re putting a lot of trust into these individuals, so make sure you carefully consider all your options.
It’s also a good idea to go into the meeting with a sense of your estate planning goals. The needs of a young individual are very different from those of a married couple with grandchildren, and your estate plan must reflect that.
The most common estate planning goals include:
- Providing for loved ones after your death
- Minimizing taxes
- Avoiding probate administration
- Ensuring the proper administration and stewardship of your assets
- Planning for incapacity
Your estate planning lawyer will often start by identifying your goals and developing an estate plan to achieve them. By coming into the meeting prepared, you can decide your most important objective and hone in on it from the very start of your journey.
You will eventually develop a long-lasting relationship with your estate planning lawyer. Making the right choice from the outset will ensure the best results for you and your loved ones.
A good way to decide whether a firm is the best option for your situation is during the first estate planning meeting. Use this meeting as a test to evaluate your potential working relationship with the estate planning lawyer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and raise any concerns during this session.
Be honest with your attorney about what you want and your current situation. The better the lawyer’s understanding of your needs, goals, and current outlook, the more reliable and useful their estate planning advice will be. Remember, estate planning is an evolving process where you will constantly make adjustments to achieve your ideal estate planning goals, and the initial meeting is just the first step of a decades-long relationship.
What Questions Should I Ask a Rochester Hills Estate Planning Attorney?
There are two reasons you should ask plenty of questions during your meeting with your estate planning lawyers. The first is to understand better real estate law and how it directly affects you and your loved ones. The second is to evaluate whether the law firm is the right fit for you.
A good estate plan will protect and provide for your family after your death, keep your assets out of probate court and ensure that your wishes are met. You should work with a law firm that has the knowledge and experience to help you achieve those goals. Estate planning mistakes are expensive and will only often come to light during the stressful months after your passing.
By asking the right questions, you can avoid these mistakes and get peace of mind that you’re working with the right lawyers in Rochester Hills, MI. Here are some of the most important questions to raise to determine whether you’ve chosen the right estate planning attorney in Rochester Hills.
How Will You Tailor My Plan to My Needs?
Your situation is unique and needs a custom will, trust, or comprehensive estate plan. If you work with a law firm that uses pre-drafted plans or template contracts, you can expect poor results in the future.
Often, law firms that use templates don’t have the right expertise to develop an estate plan that works for you. They’ll give you a “good enough” solution without taking your needs into consideration, which in many cases isn’t enough to accommodate your situation thoroughly.
Not only do templates and pre-drafted plans reflect poor knowledge, but they also show a lack of respect for you and your family. Deciding on how to manage your assets after your death is an extremely serious and emotional decision that needs to be treated with respect and empathy.
A good estate planning attorney in Rochester Hills has the expertise to draw up a plan that works for you. Developing an estate plan takes time, and your circumstances may change during the process. It’s vital to have a law firm that keeps you involved in all steps of the process, from the initial in-depth consultation to the final signing.
Does Your Office Handle the Signing Ceremony?
Formalizing your will, trust, or estate plan isn’t as simple as just sitting down and signing some documents. Many rules, regulations, and formalities guide the signing process, and any mistakes can render the entire plan void.
Good estate planning law firms will handle this aspect of the plan in addition to everything that comes before. They will ensure you sign everything correctly and provide the correct witnessing and notarization to implement your plan formally.
Do You Offer Flat-Fee Pricing?
Most lawyers in Rochester work on per-hour billing, which can lead to unpredictable billing cycles and potential overinflation of the actual costs of drawing up an estate plan.
In general, after the initial consultation, the lawyer should have a good idea of how long it will take to draw up the will, trust, or estate plan. Flat-free pricing suggests that the firm knows what they’re doing and is confident enough to bill you in advance for their services.
What Should Be Included in Estate Planning?
Each estate plan will be different, but the general considerations remain the same. The plan should consider both your death and disability and address the distribution of your assets while minimizing tax liability and avoiding probate administration as much as possible.
Your estate planning attorney in Rochester Hills will go over every one of these aspects with you, letting you choose which ones are most applicable to you.
Insurance can address any debts and provide for loved ones in the event of your death or disability. It’s especially important if you have minors or dependents who rely on you for financial support. Life insurance is the most important consideration, as it can protect your family from your debts while also providing a modicum of stability in the time directly after your death.
Updated List of Beneficiary Names
It may seem small, but getting your beneficiary names or contact details wrong can be a substantial mistake. This issue is especially true in contentious families, where an unclear beneficiary can result in months in court and thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees.
Provisions for Minors or Disabled Children
A large part of estate planning is deciding how to best care for your successors. This information ranges from assigning guardians to minors and disabled children to establishing a living trust. Living trusts are an excellent long-term solution that helps children manage their finances and ensures that disabled heirs receive the care they need for the future.
Disposal of Remains
It may sound macabre, but funerals are one of the most stressful parts of saying goodbye to a loved one. Having a prepared funeral plan can take away much of that stress by having a prepaid funeral. You can also include provisions for burial or cremation, as well as any instructions on organ or body donation.
Compilation of Digital Profiles
You probably have a host of digital profiles, including your bank accounts, email, and investment portfolios, that are essential to disbursing your assets in the event of your death. To minimize the hassle of accessing these accounts, make sure to keep an up-to-date list of logins and passwords to these accounts in a safe location and nominate someone to have access to these assets in the event of your death.
Having a storage plan can significantly expedite the execution of your will. Make sure to store all documentation safely and your appointed representative has access to these documents in the event of your death or disability.
In addition to the will, trust, or estate planning documentation, keep any insurance policy documentation, investment documentation, recent bank statements, and credit card statements in the same place.
Doing so will ensure that your representative has quick access to your money and assets when necessary to execute your will in accordance with your wishes.
What Are the Four Important Estate Planning Factors?
No matter what your wishes are after your death, there are four main factors that a good estate plan will include. These ensure that your assets go to your loved ones and also make provisions for disability and incapacity.
1. Last Will and Testament
If you die without a will, the state will disburse your assets in accordance with the law, which may not align with your wishes. A will doesn’t avoid probate court, but it ensures that it goes through probation according to your instructions that are significantly more pertinent to your situation.
2. Living Trust
Trusts are an excellent method to avoid probate administration and can also protect your assets from tax liability. With a trust, your assets pass directly onto the successor trustee, who will disburse the assets to the trust beneficiaries following your instructions.
3. Financial Power of Attorney
Granting someone financial power of attorney means that they can make financial decisions in the event that you can’t make them yourself, either through disability or incapacity.
4. Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney empowers someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf. You can explicitly outline your wishes for end-of-life care in your will, which will empower the representative to act per your plan.