Losing a close friend or family member is already devastating enough without having to deal with the stress of battling over their belongings. If you find yourself stuck in the middle of a dispute over an estate, immediately reach out to Michael E. Thomas and Associates. Our attorneys can help you settle your probate matter and ensure the wishes of the deceased are carried out accordingly. During the probate settlement process, our team will examine any estate planning documents left behind and make sure the assets of the estate are distributed to the proper beneficiaries.
From inventorying the deceased’s assets to paying the burial costs, you can count on our legal team to advise you on all probate issues you come across. Contact Michael E. Thomas and Associates to get started.
Michael E. Thomas and Associates has extensive experience handling probate matters and can guide you through the probate process. Our attorneys can tackle all kinds of probate issues and can prepare petitions to:
Appoint an administrator
Annex letters of administration
Provide a year’s support for the surviving spouse or minor child
Appoint a substitute executor
We can do all of the above and more. Learn more about the probate process by reaching out to Michael E. Thomas and Associates today.
At the Law Offices of Michael E. Thomas & Associates, our focus is on devising the best estate plan to fit the client's wishes and their lifestyle. During our initial interview we will spend time discussing how your family is structured, how children and siblings get along and how everyone in the family interacts. Only then are we able to protect your assets and distribute your estate effectively.
Our firm has prepared over 8,000 estate plans, most of which have been Living Trusts.
A Will is an instrument that can be used to appoint a guardian for minor children, a trustee and a personal representative to handle the estate of a deceased person. However, once a decedent has died, the Will still needs to be probated. The Will becomes a public record and the filing of the Will starts a lengthy, and sometimes costly (anywhere from 4-8% of the total estate), process of distributing the estate.
A Revocable Living Trust can do all of the appointments that a will can do, but it also provides quick distribution of assets to beneficiaries, or asset protection for them (i.e., in the case of a child who may not handle money effectively, the trust will pay their bills and disburse money periodically). The trust remains private and never becomes a public record and there are no probate costs associated with the distribution of the assets. The Trust provides asset protection for the surviving spouse who may choose to remarry and can protect for dependents with special needs.
When a trust is created for you it is not effective until you change the title of your assets to the name of the trust. Once the assets are transferred, you can serve as trustee and pay bills and spend money as you normally do. When you die, these assets do not have to be probated and the successor trustee takes over, distributing your assets according to your wishes. Your estate does not go through probate court (which is a public record) and therefore your affairs remain private. Remember, only assets that are in the name of the trust will be distributed according to the trust terms. You retain the right to revoke the trust and to appoint or remove trustees.
Under Michigan law, a spouse has a statutory (or legal) right to make a claim against their spouse’s estate. A living trust avoids that statutory claim. This may become important in second marriages where the deceased spouse wants to protect his or her assets for the benefit of children from a prior marriage.
Two things in life are certain: Death and Taxes. With proper estate planning, we can assist you with both so that the assets you have worked so hard to achieve are distributed according to your wishes, whether that is protecting a surviving spouse and family, or leaving money to charitable organizations for the benefit of assisting your community.
Included in your estate plan should be a Power of Attorney – we prepare Powers of Attorney as a general practice with every estate plan we prepare. A power of attorney, with proper HIPAA authorizations, allows someone (your attorney-in-fact) to take care of financial affairs should you become incapacitated. Without this document, no one can represent your interests unless and until the court appoints someone.
In addition to a general Power of Attorney, we prepare Medical Powers of Attorney with HIPAA authorizations. Without these documents, if you are disabled no one has the authority to make medical decisions for you, including your spouse and children. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was amended in 2003 to make all medical records private. Doctors, nurses and all medical personnel are forbidden by law to discuss any medical information about you without these HIPAA authorizations.
Avoiding Probate – all clients wish to avoid probate, but many are unsure why. If a client executes a will and then dies, the will needs to be probated. In addition to the costs of probate, the will and distribution of assets is a public record. That means on the day your children and loved ones receive assets, their names and addresses and amounts of distribution becomes a public record. A Revocable Living Trust avoids that. A trust can also provide protection for children who may have drug or alcohol problems, bad spending habits or troubled marriages.
Advance planning can prepare your family for your death (expected or unexpected), but the key is to start your planning now.